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8/28/2012
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George Crump
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The State Of Virtual Data Protection And Recovery

Hybrid physical/virtual storage environments present their own challenges to data protection and backup. Start with a solid plan.

Protection of the virtualized data center is evolving. Legacy products that were around before the dawn of server virtualization are beginning to catch up, feature-wise, with products that came about as a result of virtualization, a category that we call VM-specific backup utilities. It's no longer easy to justify a dual-pronged approach to backup that involves one product for the virtualized environment and a different one for the physical environment.

Increasingly, virtual data protection is being done less by VM-specific backup utilities and more by enterprise backup applications. These applications offer support for multiple operating systems, tape support (which remains important), and improved support of the physical environment, while at the same time leveraging the virtual environments' abilities in backup and recovery.

At the same time, in order to stay relevant, VM-specific backup utilities are becoming more enterprise-oriented. As discussed in my article, "Advancing The State Of Virtualized Backup," at least two of these products have recently added support for physical server data protection, and several have expressed an intention to bring tape support to their software as well.

[ What should you expect from the storage system that supports your virtual infrastructure? Read VMWare And Storage: Start With Basics. ]

Essentially, IT vendors are starting to realize that the data centers of today and of the near future will be hybrid environments with large numbers of both stand-alone physical servers and virtual servers. Many of these stand-alone servers are stand alone because of the mission criticality or resource requirements of the applications they host.

This hybrid virtual/physical environment makes the disaster recovery process more complicated as well. As discussed in this recent video, the environments are often intertwined, but each one uses different data protection tools and storage hardware. That means special consideration must be made at the recovery site to ensure that the technology at the remote site can recover both the physical and virtual environments.

The net impact is this: data protection and recovery is still not as push-button simple as we would like it to be. While virtualization has helped by making servers more like moveable digital containers, it has also added layers of complexity to the disaster recovery process as we deal with the differences between physical and virtual environments.

In the end, virtual data protection and recovery comes down to making sure you have the right procedures in place, and that you can recover data, servers, hosts, or the entire environment if and when you need to. Virtualization may have brought some level of push-button simplicity to recovery, but a well-trained IT team armed with a solid plan remains the most important asset in any organization.

InformationWeek has published a report on backing up VM disk files and building a resilient infrastructure that can tolerate hardware and software failures. After all, what's the point of constructing a virtualized infrastructure without a plan to keep systems up and running in case of a glitch--or outright disaster? Download our Virtually Protected report now. (Free registration required.)

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