Top 5 Most Overlooked Factors in VM Backups
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that there are plenty of things that can go wrong in the datacenter. While virtualization as given us incredible availability technologies, quick provisioning capabilities and excellent management tools; problems still happen. In fact, one person told me, “Users will still be users.”
When it comes to the virtual machine backup (something I spend a lot of time dealing with); there are a number of things overlooked that I feel are worth noting. Here’s my top 5 list!
1. Unfamiliar Restore Scenarios
Do the work now when the pressure is off. If you have the complicated system running as a virtual machine, make sure you know how to restore what matters. Seeing a backup complete is one thing; making sure you know how to do all of the restore scenarios is another.
2. Not Having Enough Options
Everyone needs to be a little creative and every restore scenario is different. Specifically, restoring a whole virtual machine for a single small file feels a bit like overkill – that’s because it is. How many ways can you restore from your backup strategy?
3. Not Knowing How Much Storage is Needed
Virtualization has surely done one thing for all of us: increased the number of datacenter operating systems running. If you’ve also migrated to disk-based backups; this also may be another moving target where you don’t know how much storage you need now or in the future to fully protect the virtual environment.
4. Not Accounting for the Net New Virtual Machines
As pointed out in the tip above; everyone’s virtual environment grows. Nothing is worse than getting that request to restore a virtual machine that you didn’t know was production (and wasn’t backed up!). Or the situation that may occur when a virtual machine is deployed; but the finishing touches aren’t completed – like ensuring backups are taken.
Bonus Pro Tip: Ensure that your backups strategy leverages the constructs of the virtual platform; such as vSphere folders, resources pools, clusters or datastores. In that way, the VMs can be backed up as a container and any net new virtual machines are backed up automatically. Selecting the folder in the image below will account for new virtual machines added to the _Infrastructure-Core folder:
5. Not Knowing the Fully Supported Configuration
This is somewhat of a moving target as newer operating systems, hypervisors and other software components are always changing. Are you fully supporting Windows Server 2012? Both as a virtual machine and as a place to install components. What about the upcoming releases from VMware with vSphere 5.5?
Additionally, specific scenarios can cause backups or restores to fail. If the vSphere APIs for Data Protection (VADP) are used for the virtual machine backup, it likely will call and remove a VMware snapshot. Did you know that in vSphere 5.1 and earlier VMware snapshots are not supported on VMDKs equal to exactly 2 TB.
There many ways to meet a requirement, but are you sure that these approaches meet the expectation that your stakeholders have? Here are my few tips on things I’ve seen overlooked when backing up virtual machines. What have you seen? Share your comments below!