Backup against the wall?

Presenting Softchoice’s Top 6 backup challenges brought on by the virtualization revolution.

Few who’ve seen virtualization implemented in their organizations would debate its benefits. Reduced costs, fewer physical servers, less IT admin time – what’s not to love? But as users rely more on virtual machines, protecting the virtual environment is becoming more critical and complex – and there increasingly lies the struggle. Because the reality is, traditional backup applications haven’t kept up and organizations are struggling to find simple and cost-effective ways to not only protect the data in VMs but protect the VMs themselves.

With that challenge in mind, we thought we’d highlight the top six backup challenges arising from virtualization:

  1. ISV backup software simply isn’t cutting it. A lot of organizations have existing independent software vendor (ISV) applications that are fine for traditional disk or tape backups but much ISV software hasn’t kept pace or been optimized for VMware. VMs are complex enough without making managing and backing them up even more difficult with solutions that aren’t up to the challenge.
  2. Change agents. When software had to be backed up on one or a handful of physical servers that was one thing. But now organizations have dozens, hundreds, even thousands of VMs. That’s a lot of licenses, a lot of CPU power, a lot of I/O power, a lot of IT people painstakingly installing agents on each machine – in other words, it can be a very resource intensive process. The trend is moving to agentless backup software, which backs up systems without needing to install agents on each machine – it can even be done remotely (see #6).
  3. Virtual sprawl and slow backups. VMs, by their very nature, tend to be fat with lots of redundancy and unused capacity, often because they were over-provisioned at the start – someone thought they’d need a 100 Gb server for an HR application but it turned out 20 would have been enough. Now you’ve got a large machine (or two or two thousand of them) that will be slower to backup than they need to in part because most backup solutions read entire big disks and move entire VMs.
  4. RTO and the need for image level backups. Think about the reaction from your organization when your email server is down for 15 minutes – take 48 hours to back up or restore it and, well, you may not get out of there alive let alone meet your recovery time objectives. Longer RTOs might have been fine for tape or data backups but not anymore. That’s where a different approach – image level backups – are making a world of difference.
  5. Making sure disaster recovery isn’t a disaster. Backing up data in VMs – customer files, credit card information, PowerPoints – that’s all vital but hardly the only thing to worry about. There are installed applications and OS, for instance, config settings, a lot in there that isn’t simply data. Again image level backups come in handy here too because they can create images of everything and make faster restores a snap after things go wrong.
  6. Remote office backups. You’ve installed a couple of servers at a variety of remote offices, workgroups or other locations but cost, complexity and performance issues often make it hard to manage and perform backups outside your central site. How do you protect that data in a responsible and cost-effective manner?

The good news is, backup solutions providers are finally beginning to catch up, ensuring that these and other important VM backup challenges are addressed as easily and inexpensively as possible for the growing community of VM users. 

 Related Post: Software, hardware and storage team up for backup.

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About Ferrol Macon

Ferrol Macon’s career for more than 20 years has lived at the intersection of people and technology. He has been a part of designing storage and data management solutions for companies large and small in almost every industry.