5 Tips for Better Virtual Machine Backups
Did you adjust your backup strategy when you began using virtual machines (VMs)? The goal of backups is the same whether you’re running on VMs or physical servers, but the methods and strategies you use need to reflect the virtualized environment to be most efficient. Here are five tips for designing your VM strategy.
1. Snapshots are not the same as backups
Most VM software includes the capability of creating VM snapshots, but those shouldn’t be a replacement for full backups. Snapshots cause growth in the storage attached to the VM and can also impact the performance of the VM, even potentially bringing down a VM if space runs out. In addition, you can’t easily manage snapshots and apply retention policies. Snapshots are not always application aware, meaning applications may not recover properly when a VM is restored from a snapshot.
2. Be aware of the VM when you backup
That means you should change your backup method to reflect that you are running VMs, not simply install the same backup agent you would install on a physical server. Software optimized for VM backups makes use of its knowledge of the virtualized environment and completes backups more efficiently and without impacting other jobs. It’s also important to back up your VM configuration information—things like clusters and permissions—to make rebuilding the host easier if needed.
3. Use cloud backup as part of your disaster recovery plan
The cloud has become an important part of disaster recovery plans to day. It’s the ideal location to store backups of your VM and supports rapidly bringing the VM back online in case of a disaster at your primary processing site. Many backup software tools integrate with major cloud providers making this process even simpler.
4. Focus on backing up applications, not machines
Remember, the goal of your backups is to be able to recover applications and services, not just machines. Applications need to be in a consistent state before the backup begins, so it’s important to quiesce a VM to ensure data is written to disk and the applications are recoverable.
5. Understand the impact of the backup on your business and your data center
The time and storage requirements of your backup process need to be understood to minimize the impact on application downtime and on the disk storage capacity needed to ensure your backups complete successfully.
Bonus tip: Test your backup and recovery procedures.
The only way to know for sure that you can recover from your backups is to test out the process. Conduct a periodic test to make sure the recovery procedure is documented and up to date, and that all new machines and applications are included as part of the backup process. Make sure you have appropriate monitoring and alerting and know how to respond if a backup fails.
Prescient Solutions can design, implement, and test a backup and recovery process that rapidly and reliably enables your business to recover lost data and resume operations. Contact us to learn more about how using virtual machines should change your backup strategy.