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By Jeff Cato, VP of Sales at CoreVault
CoreVault Online Data Backup Expert Tips: Best Ways to Backup Virtual Machines
Server virtualization has emerged as one of the significant ways in which data is stored, protected and accessed. With increased use of multiple virtual machines (VM) on a single machine, the backup of these machines has become a major challenge. The VM backup process can consume excessive memory, CPU resources, create network pipe congestions, overrun backup windows and cause the backup to fail. Best practices for virtual machine backups aim to find workarounds for these problems.
A best practice is to treat guest VMs just like physical machines and manage both physical and virtual machines from a single console as it is done in cloud backup systems. All virtual machines running on a host operating system can be installed with compatible agents that facilitate the back of the physical server and the virtual machine simultaneously. In large virtual environments, organizations use Storage Area Networks (SAN) to support increased bandwidth and disk space requirements, and may backup entire contents of their virtual machines to avoid complications of identifying files to backup from a large number of VMs. iSCSI standards are implemented to make the VM appear like a physical drive to conduct block level operations on data.
Host VMs can be backed up using virtualization software for taking consistent snapshots. Logically, the machines are self-contained units that include the hardware configuration, operating system, application and service configurations. However, it is good practice to transfer files and settings of the host server configuration, virtual hard disk configuration, VM configuration file, virtual network configuration file and saved state files. This makes for simplicity in managing the VM backups.
VM backup best practices take into consideration the fact that virtual machines are constantly in operation. Open file backup agents and snapshot backup are used to generate reliable backups. Cold backups may be resorted if the machine is unavailable for the minimum time required for creating a backup of the drive. Hot backups may be performed for machines that are constantly running using virtualization aware tools. Warm backups may be used to pause the VM for a few seconds and copy the files.
Bandwidth conservation is a concern in virtual machine backup and is an important consideration while implementing best practices. Many cloud backup companies provide for bit-level or block-level replication that synchronizes the differences in binary files. Latencies are minimized by keeping files current in both the backup site and the disaster recovery site.
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About the Author: Jeff Cato is V.P. of Sales at CoreVault, an online data backup and cloud based data storage company located in Oklahoma.
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