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Virtualization increases backup and disaster recovery complexity, warns Acronis

Acronis is warning organizations about the potential concerns associated with the rapid adoption of virtualization, as the complexities of managing migration, backup and recovery between physical, virtual and cloud environments set in.

The warning stems from results from the recently released Acronis Global Disaster Recovery Index, which showed that 73 percent of small-to-medium-sized companies worldwide agree that virtualization has either completely or partially changed the way the business manages its backup and disaster recovery. While the introduction of virtualization was fuelled by server consolidation and cost efficiencies, this so-called next phase or second generation of virtualization adoption poses challenges to traditional backup and recovery processes as users struggle to implement known backup and disaster recovery practices in a new hybrid environment.

"The introduction of server and workstation virtualization was not about backup, it was largely driven by cost and consolidation. As we progress into widespread virtualization adoption, IT managers are learning that traditional physical server backup solutions are inadequate for virtual machine backup, and maintaining separate backup strategies for physical and virtual confuses the backup scenario even more," explains Seth Goodling, virtualization practice manager at Acronis.

"Many traditional back-ups are agent-based, which means that an application is required and consumes precious virtual machine processing resources. Simultaneous initiation of agent-based backups can cause serious virtual machine disruptions, including total failure of the underlying physical host. The next phase of virtualization has to include backup best practices leveraged for a hybrid environment, a central solution for all environments."

Agent-based software has been adapted to provide some of the functionality required for backup and recovery in a virtualized environment. However, experts warn that these work-arounds have proven to be hard to implement, ineffective and added costs to the virtualization programs. These issues combined with the complexity of managing data across physical, virtual and cloud environments are being noted as potential obstacles in the path to effective virtualization and creating a disaster recover strategy.

Five recommendations

To help realize the full benefits of virtualization, Acronis offers five tips:

1. To close the loop on virtualization efforts, a backup and disaster recovery strategy as robust as that deployed for physical servers is required for all virtual machines, especially if the virtual machine supports a production application.

2. To provide the lowest virtual machine recovery point objective (RPO) and the fastest recovery time objective (RTO), each virtual machine should be independently backed up and frequently refreshed. This is to ensure time difference between last backup and the current production server state is as small as possible.

3. Image-based backups provide quick recovery in a cloud environment. Image-based recovery restores the entire virtual machine (VM), including the guest operating system and configuration settings. File or block-based backups only restore data and require the entire VM to be configured and imported back to the cloud before the data can be restored. Avoid this by taking an entire VM system image and using it as a warm VM standby.

4. Use virtual server backup technology that was designed as agentless from the start. Instead of requiring that each virtual machine have a backup agent or that an expensive proxy server with snapshot space be provided for backup, some software only requires one agent per physical host that can support all of the virtual servers on the host.

5. The same rules apply to virtual as physical. If you back up your physical data to the cloud, why not back up your VMs to take advantage of offsite backup for less.


•Date: 1st March 2011 • Region: World •Type: Article •Topic: IT continuity

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