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What are some key considerations for VM data protection?

In physical environments data protection often means restoring an entire system, but using the same methodology for virtual servers is inefficient.

In the physical world, you can treat each whole machine as the primary unit of backup and recovery, knowing that if something goes wrong, you would likely roll back the entire system to a previous point. The requirements change when many virtual servers share a physical server. Unless there's a server hardware failure or corruption causes the entire system to become unavailable, it's unlikely that you would want to restore every virtual machine at once. That’s why there needs to be a difference between your approach to physical server and VM data protection.

What's much more likely is that one virtual machine (VM) needs to be rebuilt or fixed while the rest need to keep chugging along without disruption. Doing this requires visibility into the files or logical unit numbers that are associated with each virtual server as well as the ability to manipulate each individually. Specialized tools exist to give IT shops the visibility and granularity to control backups and restores at the individual VM level, but most are different from the standard list of physical server-centric backup tools. Virtual server management systems may give some ability to do this, as do specialized virtual backup tools such as Veeam.

In a physical server world, the assumption is that each machine chugs along until there's a problem, at which time you would initiate troubleshooting and repair. But with an increased requirement for always-available technology, and the ability to non-disruptively move a virtual server to a functioning platform in the event of an outage or failure, the potential for true high-availability failover becomes more realistic. Instead of periodic backups and a big fire drill to restore a backup, virtual server environments present the ability to simply shuffle machines around based on traffic and performance requirements, and to navigate around failures without user impact. To take maximum advantage of a virtual server environment, it makes sense to take a step back from the processes and procedures you're used to in the world of physical server protection and examine what the business really needs in terms of down time and data loss tolerance. Then take a look at what's possible to build, and what it costs for several scenarios.

Taking the time to understand the new normal required for VM data protection will give you the ability to exceed the capabilities of what you previously built, and evaluate whether it's worth it from a cost and complexity standpoint to go further. If you're not familiar with the tool and process options, you might be surprised at what you can accomplish when you dig deeper.

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