9 Considerations When Choosing Your Backup Solution for Virtual Infrastructures

David Chapa (Profile)
Tuesday, March 20th 2012

So after having a virtual environment in your lab, you have decided that it is time to put it into production. If you are like others who have had virtualization in the lab, chances are you used whatever method available to back up your VMs in the event you had a “lab mishap” – no real RTO or RPO required, just “good enough” to get the job done. Well, now that the VMs will be put into production, it is definitely time to consider how you will ensure the VM infrastructure is protected and meets your organization’s requirements for data protection. There are many considerations when selecting a VM data protection solution. Based on your own needs and objectives, you may find that the solution used in the lab completely meets your requirements and no change is required. If you find yourself in this position, ask yourself this one question: “Will this solution meet my needs long term?”

Budgets are not necessarily growing these days, and when you are given the opportunity to re-architect your backup solution for VM infrastructure, it’s smart to do your due diligence and take the budgeted money today to ensure you have a solid go-forward solution for the next 12-24 months. Here are some things to think about as you explore re-architecting backup for VM infrastructures:

1.  Agent or Agentless Backup?

Some backup applications today will still require a backup agent to be installed locally on each of the VMs in your environment. Nothing is wrong with this approach, especially when the environment is on a smaller scale, but when the ratio of virtual machines to physical hosts goes up, the impact to the host machine may be felt when backup begins on the virtual machines in your environment. An agentless approach is just that: no software is loaded on the VMs individually, but this type of backup uses an approach that more tightly integrates with the Hypervisor to collect the data for the virtual machines. This approach could also be considered an “off-host” backup. Some will do this on a full image level, requiring you to fully recover the virtual machines in the event of file loss, corruption or full-on disaster. The only problem with image-level backup solutions is that in most cases they don’t integrate with the Hypervisor, but just take a block-level snapshot of the VMs. This may be 100% acceptable for your IT organization, but many view the ability to get a single file back without having to go through several hoops as a priority. Still other solutions allow admins a flexible recovery approach, single file, multiple files or full virtual machine, something to consider when thinking about which virtual backup solution to select.

2.  Do I Need a Solution That Integrates With My Existing Backup Application?

Some customers like the idea of virtualization because it creates such significant change that it opens up the discussion around changing out the backup application entirely. You may not be completely ready for this type of change, but finding a solution that integrates with your backup application gives much more flexibility when you are ready to make a move. A word of caution if you plan on changing backup apps in the future: select a solution that really is agnostic when it comes to working with the backup app; that will ensure you have removed the perceived “vendor lock- in” and open the door to choose best-of-breed backup apps in the future.