Why recursive VSS is good for backing up virtualized Windows Servers


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Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) can back up Windows-based virtual servers while ensuring data is application-consistent.

In a world where server virtualization is a “when” and not an “if,” it’s important to understand how backup strategies might change when moving from OS-centric (guest-level) backups to host-based (hypervisor) protection. More importantly, not all host-based backup methods are the same, particularly when it comes to transactional apps such as Microsoft SQL Server or Exchange.

According to Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) Research, 46% of all IT environments are still running guest-based backups for their virtualized servers. And even with all the host-based and array-based approaches, it’s still the primary means of protection for 20% of them. Why?

I haven’t met too many folks who inherently want to deploy and manage backup agents within each virtual machine (VM), but they often feel forced to do so. For most, the reason appears to be application-specific issues. For instance, a database like SQL Server needs to be application-consistent during the backup, and it also needs to be notified when the backup is complete so it can do its log truncation and other database management tasks.

Most backup applications leverage the hypervisors’ ability to notify guest-based applications of an impending backup so it can put itself into a ready-to-be-backed-up state. We’ll use SQL Server as the example here, but this

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applies to many applications.

This was first published in June 2012

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