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5 Tips for Mastering Virtualization Backup

At too many companies today, getting reliable and 100 percent recoverable virtualization backup for the entire infrastructure is more art than science. You might get a daily message saying that backups have only partially completed, but you've come to accept it. Or maybe you get a message saying that backups have successfully completed, but you don't trust them. Backup and recovery should be a core function your IT department offers -- and one you can perform entirely. Unfortunately, there are too many companies where this isn't the case. Now is the time to master your virtualization backups.

To help you, I've compiled a list of my top five tips for mastering virtualization backup.

1. Select the Right Tool
So much of your success in backup and recovery is dependent on selecting the right tool for the job. If you have physical (non-virtualized) servers in your infrastructure, you need a tool that can back them up. If you're 100 percent virtualized, a virtualization-only backup tool might be the best answer. However, if you're like most companies out there -- which are, let's say, 90 percent virtual and 10 percent physical -- then you need a tool that's able to back up both your physical servers and your VMs. For the sake of simplicity (and licensing costs), I strongly believe that companies shouldn't have multiple backup tools. It just doesn't make sense.

2. Plan to Get Your Data Off-Site
You can't just stop at successfully backing up your data. You need to get that data off-site. Too many virtualization-specific backup tools stop at the point of backing up your data and offer few options to get data off-site. Not every company has the bandwidth to perform replication. You need a controlled and automated way to move data from your backup repository to a portable device (tape or disk) for off-site storage in the event of a disaster.

3. Utilize Advanced Features
The backup tool you select should offer advanced features. Examples include:

  • De-duplication and compression: Ensure that backup data doesn't consume excessive storage.
  • Application-consistent backups: Utilize the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), and backup tools to back up your data so that application data is quiesced and has integrity.
  • Verification and automated recovery testing: Ensure that VM OSes and applications will truly function, once restored, in an automated fashion.

Many of the backup tools today offer one or more of these features, but they're executed differently. My recommendation is to ensure that your backup tool offers all the features you can afford, and that they're as efficient as possible.

4. Make Sure It's Fast
Companies make claims about how fast and reliable their backup products are, but have you ever tested your backup product? How fast can it get your largest server running again if it's lost? How fast can it restore 20 servers at once? After all, speed is always relative to your servers, storage and data.

5. Future-Proof It
What if you want to move vSphere VMs to Hyper-V, recover your physical servers to vSphere or recover your vSphere VMs to a public infrastructure cloud? Will your backup tool support cross-hypervisor backup and recovery? What about off-site backup to a cloud? Ensure that your backup tool is innovative and has a history of launching new features that give you the greatest flexibility possible.

Bottom line: Look for a tool that covers all the bases for both physical server and virtual infrastructure backup, while offering numerous advanced features.

About the Author

David Davis is a well-known virtualization and cloud computing expert, author, speaker, and analyst. David’s library of popular video training courses can be found at To contact David about his speaking schedule and his latest project, go to


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