Got a Virtualization Infrastructure backup strategy yet?

Ever since we deployed and migrated some of our IT infrastructure to Virtualization, backup of those resources, and virtual machines has been a top priority. Here is why backup of your VM is so important: Once that Virtual Machine (VM) is deleted from the database, there is no way to get it back unless you have another copy of it, cloned it, made a template from it or point in time backup of that VM somewhere other than the datastore it is running on. No sane person is going to delete a running or in-production server/Virtual Machine but you never know when that disgruntled administrator has had it with the company and he is going to make sure they pay… so watch out.

What software and hardware we use for Backup?
In this day and age, when backups and being able to recover from disasters is vital part of any organization’s business continuity plan, we use multiple mediums and resources to get the job done. I’ve seen clients use backup tape libraries with Backup exec/IBM Tivoli/HP Storageworks to off-site replication to their DR sites using 3rd party software or a tool which may come with their SAN deployment.

Backup Hardware

  • Dedicated Dell Poweredge 2950 III Server – This particular server runs about 25-30 jobs a day so having a dedicated server helps speed up the backup (and restore) process and SAS connections to the tape library does help as well.
  • This server also has extra RAID card (OS is on different raid/card) configured with 1.5 TB of space for disk2disk backups.
  • Dell TL-2000 Tape Library with LTO-4 Tapes.
  • And recently, we deployed a QNAP 809U-RP Turbo NAS unit with around 5TB of space (RAID-6) for additional Disk to Disk backup capacity. It could go up to 11 TB of usable space with additional 3x 2TB hard drives. The reason behind using RAID-6 is straight forward, as I’ve explained in Budget iSCSI NAS/SAN option for your Home Lab article.

Backup Software

  • Backup Exec 2010
  • VMware Data Recovery 1.2 (vDR)
  • Snapshots

We will discuss how to use these tool to deploy, configure and monitor backup jobs in another article from!

As the backup process and our organizational DR strategy evolves, we are currently doing daily, weekly and monthly backups. In my opinion, vCenter database backup on daily basis is a must. If your Virtual Machines are running applications that change rarely, it would be okay to do at least weekly backups on those instead of daily. If disk space or tape resources are not a limitation for you, then daily would give you the upper hand if things do go wrong.

The last thing to consider in any backup strategy is to test that you can successfully restore from backup to a production ready environment (Don’t restore over your running production machines!!!). Working with virtualization, it is rather easy to setup a test area, in a different subnet where you can restore backed up machines and see if 1). backup was done properly, and 2). you can recover successfully from a disaster.

Here is list of “Virtualization” aware backup software

  • Backup Exec 2010 / R2
  • Vizioncore vRanger
  • PHD Technologies esXpress
  • Veeam
  • COmmVaults Simpana Software
  • IBM Tivoli
  • …there maybe many more, submit your list.

I hope this article helps you come with a better strategy for your organization. Please share your thoughts and opinions in our Virtualization Forum.