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Growing Up Fast: How Image-Based Backup is Maturing

More than half of enterprises now use image-based backup for their virtual environments, according to an annual survey of virtualization purchasing decision makers. The number of respondents using image-based virtual backup jumped 17 percent in just one year, while use of traditional agent-based backup fell. It's no surprise to me that agent-based backup is declining, as I've always advocated image as the future for virtual backup. What's interesting is how quickly this future has become reality.

I believe the growth in image-based virtual backup is a reflection of how strongly the category has matured. In the past 18 months or so, solutions have become more robust with more of the features that users want and need, and more product options have become available in the market. These developments have addressed key concerns that initially made enterprises reluctant to use image-based backup.

The biggest concern for any backup method is whether it will work reliably and consistently. If virtualization is used as part of a disaster recovery program, enterprises need assurance that both data and applications can be backed up and recovered reliably. Image-based backup passes these tests, but the earliest solutions left prospective users with other concerns. Transition issues account for a lot of the hesitancy to use image-based backup. Administrators don't want to lose any of the functionality that they're used to having, and are not always willing to trade the improved convenience of using image-based backup for a loss of granularity.

Making the transition is easier today than it used to be, and that is helping fuel the transition from agent- to image-based virtual backup. In many cases enterprises don't have to give up functionality or make other tradeoffs. If you looked at image-based backup more than a year ago and ruled it out, a second look is in order. New capabilities are now available, and are helping fuel the surge in adoption. For example, here are two specific ways that image-based backup is maturing:

  • Improved e-mail backup and recovery. Now you can recover user mailboxes – and even individual messages – from the backup image without having to restore the entire e-mail application. File-level restores for systems other than e-mail have been available even longer.
  • Cataloging features that let you easily search for a specific image, which is a must when backing up large environments. Cataloging is a great example of how image-based backup has matured to meet enterprise needs.

Granted, some transition issues remain. There are architecture and configuration considerations (scroll down to my previous posts for some details and tips). No backup and recovery method is best for all environments. In the past year many enterprises concluded image-based backup and recovery were best for them, and many more will come to the same conclusion as the category continues to mature.

Posted by Jason Mattox on 12/01/2010 at 12:49 PM


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