Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What options do I have when I need to backup my VMs?

Quite many, I would say.
It all depends of downtime, budget, infrastructure, storage, recovery flexibility, and what expertise it requires to maintain.

Personally for the enterprise, I would go for DPM 2010 (http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/en/us/data-protection-manager/dpm-2010-overview.aspx ). It simplifies your backup/restore routines and also supports CSV – which is one of the greatest inventions besides sliced bread.
But DPM could definite be overkill for some environments. So let`s take a look at some of the options I mention the most of the time.

Yes. P2V means Physical 2 Virtual. But as you may know already, the source do not need to be a physical machine. With that knowledge, you are able to figure out that you could run an Online P2V on a machine (please, do not consider Domain Controllers for this purpose) even if it is a virtual machine.
-          Pros: An easy method of backup if you have SCVMM, and the bandwith required for the transfer.
-          Cons: Requires bandwith, storage, some expertise, and it`s not free (though you could use the 180 days trial of SCVMM)

2)      Windows Server Backup
 WBS, which is included in 2008 and 2008 R2 – through GUI and cmdlets, is fully VSS-aware and can minimize the VM downtime during backup. I personally ignored WSB in 2008 and missed the good old NTBackup. But with 2008 R2, WBS is an approach to NTBackup and I find it very useful.
-          Pros: “No” software cost since Included in Windows Server
-          Requires expertise to manage

3)      DPM 2010 (or other Enterprise solutions)
DPM is the enterprise backup and recovery solution when it comes to Microsoft products.
It provides an optimized backup and recovery solution for Microsoft based technology that ensures supportability, reliability, and customer satisfaction with the core operating system or application. DOM is intended to ensure that customers are confident in their Hyper-V deployment because they are assured of reliable protection and recovery. One of the key benefin with DPM, is that DPM uses only thos constructs provided by Hyper-V in order to protect Hyper-V.
-          Pros: Designed by Microsoft for Microsoft products. The best protection for Windows Virtualization. Protection of servers running on CSV in Hyper-V R2
-          Cons: Not free

4)      Export/Import
This one is one of my favorites. An easy way to protect your VMs when you have the  possibility to have some downtime during the night. Using either Hyper-V Manager console or WMI APIs to export a VM is quite simple, cheap, and effective to create a backup. I wrote a post about Export/Import in Hyper-V on my blog: http://kristiannese.blogspot.com/2010/12/things-you-should-know-about-import-and.html and it should give you the basics about the procedure.
-          Pros: “No” software cost since included in Windows Server/Hyper-V, do not require bandwith if exporting to DAS, flexible recovery, easy to use. Can be scheduled automatic with scripts.
-          Cons: Requires storage (yes, it creates a copy of your VM, and includes snapshots as well), the VMs need to be powered off.
5)      Manual backup and restore
 Remember that VMs is nothing but a set of files on a disk. This means that you can copy, move, duplicate, and protect your VMs as they were – yes, files. You can move and recover a VM via an entirely manual process.
-          Pros: No software cost, easy to use, no bandwith if using DAS. Can be scheduled automatic with scripts.
-          Cons: Requires storage (same as export), expertise (know what you`re doing, since the VMs may have snapshots), the VMs need to be powered off.

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