Virtualization Changing Backup and Recovery Management: Report

The Acronis Global Disaster Recovery index results illustrate business concerns about hybrid environments.

Backup, recovery and security solutions specialist Acronis released data from its Global Disaster Recovery Index, which found that 73 percent of small and midsize businesses worldwide agreed that virtualization has either completely or partially changed the way the business manages its backup and disaster recovery.

Acronis issued a warning about the potential concerns associated with the rapid adoption of virtualization, as the complexities of managing migration, backup and recovery between physical, virtual and cloud environments set in.

The report concluded that while the introduction of virtualization was fuelled by server consolidation and cost efficiencies, this so-called next phase, or second generation, of virtualization adoption poses challenges to traditional backup and recovery processes as users struggle to implement known backup and disaster-recovery practices in a new hybrid environment.

"The introduction of server and workstation virtualization was not about backup, it was largely driven by cost and consolidation. As we progress into widespread virtualization adoption, IT managers are learning that traditional physical server backup solutions are inadequate for virtual-machine backup, and maintaining separate backup strategies for physical and virtual confuses the backup scenario even more," said Seth Goodling, virtualization practice manager at Acronis.

The index showed agent-based software has been adapted to provide some of the functionality required for backup and recovery in a virtualized environment. However, experts warn that these workarounds have proven to be hard to implement, ineffective and added costs to the virtualization programs. These issues, combined with the complexity of managing data across physical, virtual and cloud environments, are noted as potential obstacles in the path to effective virtualization and creating a disaster-recover strategy.

"As a cloud-service provider, we're often approached by IT directors who still have concerns about the process of safely backing up data in their virtualized environments," said Justin Giardina, CTO of Iland, a cloud-infrastructure specialist. "What businesses are looking for is help in protecting their data and minimizing the impact of unplanned downtime."

The Acronis report advised IT managers that the implementation of a backup and disaster-recovery strategy as robust as that deployed for physical servers is required for all virtual machines (especially if the virtual machine supports a production application). The report also recommended independent backup and frequent refreshes of virtual machines, as well as image-based recovery, which restores the entire virtual machine (including the guest operating system and configuration settings).

"File or block-based backups only restore data and require the entire VM to be configured and imported back to the cloud before the data can be restored," the report noted. "Avoid this by taking an entire VM system image and using it as a warm VM standby."

The company also recommends using virtual-server backup technology that was designed as agentless from the start. Instead of requiring that each virtual machine have a backup agent or that an expensive proxy server with snapshot space be provided for backup, some software only requires one agent per physical host that can support all of the virtual servers on the host, the report noted.