by Jim K. Thomas
According to a recently conducted survey of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) by Aberdeen Research, 69 percent of the respondents are reported to have implemented virtualization technology into their server environments. As virtualization becomes a normal element of a networked environment, more administrators are using virtual machines for instant recovery. The use of virtualized servers is increasing for several reasons; the most significant being budgetary. Virtual servers are a cost-effective alternative to purchasing new hardware.
But exactly how does virtualization fit in with a disaster recovery plan? Virtualizing tier-1 applications amplifies the critical nature of building in quick recovery of virtual machines (VMs). With little tolerance for application downtime, businesses need assurance that their data will be quickly available in the event of hardware failure.
Interestingly enough, in a 2010 data protection survey performed by VMware, IT Administrators report backing up only 68 percent of their virtual environments. The biggest reasons given for this gap were costs of hardware, software and complexity of the process. There is software available in the marketplace that simplifies the backup process for virtual environments. By implementing image-based backup software for servers, backups can be scheduled for different configurations: physical-to-virtual (P2V), V2V and V2P, and P2P. By scheduling operations to be performed on a regular basis, your data is protected at all times. The benefit is that you can restore a server instantly to a VM and there is no need for fail-over hardware to sit idle gathering dust.
If your existing backup solution fails to leverage the core attributes of virtualization, then you are not taking full advantage of your investment in virtualization technology. For example, by having a virtual copy of an existing system, whether that system is physical or virtual, you can convert it into a virtualized version of the source. If the source server goes down, you can easily import and boot up the virtualized server and get back up and running in a fraction of the time it would take to build a new system and restore its image from an existing archive. Because P2V migration is completely hardware independent, you can port it into your existing virtual environment.
For instant recovery, all an administrator has to do is import the new VM into the virtual environment and then power on the machine. If it's a scheduled process, such as when you're updating and overwriting the virtual disk file, the configuration is pre-existing (you're just updating the data), no import is needed. Just boot up the virtual machine in this situation.
According to Thomas Coughlin, founder of Coughlin and Associates, “By enabling physical-to-virtual migration and virtual system recovery, customers should experience faster recovery times and if managed properly, greater overall system reliability. This capability increases the total return and leverages the efficiency of a virtual environment to make a more resilient and self-healing system environment.”
Virtualization is becoming the standard rather than the exception when implementing or upgrading an existing disaster recovery strategy, saving hours of recovery time and significant storage space.
If you’re looking for the ability to recover servers instantly, look for backup software that offers the following:
- Sector-level hard disk and partition copy;
- Support for top-tier virtualization platforms: VMware, MS Hyper-V, Oracle VirtualBox, etc.;
- Migration support to dissimilar hardware; and
- Scheduling for convenient “set and forget” operation.
A Christian-based non-profit organization with 550 employees had limited finances to invest in disaster recovery software. When they consulted with their IT reseller, he could offer nothing within their price range that met their needs, so the organization decided to conduct a search for affordable backup and restore software on their own. They came across Paragon Software Group’s Drive Backup Server and Virtual Editions. While evaluating the software, they discovered a host of other features they had never considered in their original search. When they compared the software to the other solutions originally recommended by their consultant, nothing came close for the price. The software’s features and functionality helped them save capital by enabling backup and instant server restoration using virtual machines, rather than expensive hardware.
Jim K. Thomas is the director of technical services at Paragon Software Group (Irvine, CA). www.paragon-software.com