Products that can make the grim work of performing a bare metal restoration easier are not only readily available -- they may soon be considered a necessity.
According to our SearchStorage.com definitions, "Bare metal restore is the process of reformatting a computer from scratch" after a failure, usually including reinstalling the operating system (OS) and software applications. It's an unpleasant and painstaking task that no one wants to perform, especially when users are counting the seconds until they are back up and running. Still, many organizations have left this aspect of backup to chance. But, according to Gartner analyst Carolyn DiCenzo, automating the process makes sense nowadays.
DiCenzo notes that despite improvements elsewhere, a key cause of server downtime is the increasing frequency of required software patches, especially those that are security related. "Companies reported that they can no longer afford the time to thoroughly test each software patch and then deploy those patches across the growing number of servers, especially Windows and Linux servers, in a timely manner," she says.
But the risk of waiting is often too great.
"Server administrators are increasingly turning to tools that allow them to repair or roll back to the last working state, without reinstalling or going to system backup tapes," DiCenzo says. These "bare metal restore" tools still work best when the recovery involves a similar server hardware configuration, "but the creation of recovery images can now be done with the server live -- and incremental imaging decreases the time and space required," she says.Also, backup and server-provisioning vendors offer tools to speed the process of recovery to different server hardware configurations.
Vendors offering products that provide variations on the bare metal backup theme include Unitrends, Veritas and Acronis. Targeting smaller businesses, Unitrends, for example, recently brought to market the DPU2000-1500 system protection appliance, which includes rack-mounted, disk-based storage totaling up to 2.5 terabytes along with the company's backup/restore and bare metal recovery software.
Veritas offers the NetBackup Bare Metal Restore option, which can automate the server recovery process, making it unnecessary to manually reinstall OSs. In fact, from the NetBackup interface, it is possible to execute multiple server restores in parallel to accomplish mass-recovery operations.
Acronis, for its part, offers its Enterprise Server software -- a suite of tools that includes the ability to perform a bare metal restore of critical systems. In a statement made at the release of the Acronis product, DiCenzo again pointed out that the need "for live disk imaging in corporate environments is a growing trend." DiCenzo said companies should review the new technologies now available to reduce the time to recover their downed servers.
"Disk-imaging solutions with live and incremental capabilities can now be used as a disk-based recovery solution for data as well as system software, complementing a tape-based disaster recovery plan," she added.
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About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.
This was first published in June 2005