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Update: Virtual server backup

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Replication

One of the key goals for any backup application is to facilitate the creation of an off-site copy of data. In legacy backup days, this was a matter of creating an extra copy to another set of tapes. Today, this often involves leveraging CBT to send changed blocks over a WAN connection for reassembly at a DR site. While many virtual server backup products have a replication module, it’s often a separate step in the backup process. Another option is to use a

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disk backup appliance that provides replication as part of its feature set, keeping in mind the recover-in-place concerns mentioned above.

Must have or nice to have?

There are also a number of backup app features that, in some cases, may be more “nice to have” than required. As always, their importance will largely depend on the data center in which they’re used.

VM-specific vs. legacy backup apps

While not exactly a feature discussion, one of the questions you’ll need to consider when reviewing virtual server backup apps is whether you should opt for one of the new breed of applications designed specifically for virtual environments or if a legacy enterprise backup app will suffice. VM-specific applications became popular because enterprise backup applications were slow in moving to full support of virtual server environments.

Other than the recover-in-place capabilities noted earlier, most legacy backup applications have filled in the gaps and now offer many of the capabilities of VM-specific products. In addition, legacy enterprise backup applications have the ability to support tape, advanced reporting and can back up the non-virtualized part of the environment. Any of those factors may make them more complete options.

Support for other hypervisors

While each vendor makes a big deal out of its recent support of Hyper-V, it’s still not heavily used in most environments. Still, with Windows Server prevalent in most data centers, Hyper-V is likely to be considered for server virtualization, so a backup application’s Hyper-V support is important. Hyper-V products may not be able to leverage the same kinds of hooks and APIs a VMware environment may offer, so backup vendors often have to be more creative. It’s a good idea to plan for extra testing of features such as CBT when they’re supported in Hyper-V environments.

This was first published in September 2012

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