Corral virtual server backup

This excerpt from W. Curtis Preston's new book Backup & Recovery describes the three different ways to back up a VMware server, and the pros and cons of each method.

There are several ways to back up VMware servers depending on whether the servers are running VMware Server or VMware ESX Server. In this excerpt from his new book Backup & Recovery: Inexpensive Backup Solutions for Open Systems, W. Curtis Preston writes about the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods. Preston also tells how to use bare-metal recovery to migrate to VMware, and how he turned 25 very old physical servers into "one very nice VMware server."

Backup & Recovery: Inexpensive Backup Solutions for Open Systems
by W. Curtis Preston

ISBN: 0-596-10246-1
Copyright 2007 O'Reilly Media Inc.
Used with the permission of O'Reilly Media Inc.

Available from booksellers or direct from O'Reilly Media at

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The popularity of VMware virtual servers has grown significantly in the last few years, prompting questions on how to back them up. First, we'll describe the architecture of VMware and follow that with a discussion of how to back it up.

VMware architecture
VMware currently comes in two basic flavors, VMware Server and VMware ESX Server. VMware Server is a free version of VMware that offers basic virtual server capabilities and runs inside Linux or Windows. Each virtual machine is represented as a series of files in a subdirectory of a standard filesystem that you specify; the subdirectory carries the name of the virtual machine. For example, if you've chosen to store your virtual machines in /vmachines, and you have a virtual host called Windows 2000, its files will be located in /vmachines/Windows 2000.

While VMware Server runs inside standard Linux or Windows, VMware ESX Server uses a custom Linux kernel and a custom filesystem, VMFS, to store virtual machine files. You can also store virtual machine files on raw disk partitions. Neither the raw disk partitions nor files in a VMFS filesystem can be accessed by all backup commands, so you probably need to back them up in a special way.

This was first published in June 2007

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