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Backup Exec

Ten Backup Mistakes in a Virtual Environment - Part 1

Created: 30 Aug 2010 • Updated: 28 May 2014
Digital Dave's picture
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With VMworld this week, much of the news and attention is focused on all-things-virtualization.  Virtualization is truly a game-changing technology and one that most IT pros are already neck deep in.  The benefits are obvious: increased utilization rates, increased business flexibility, lower hardware costs, better utilization of computing resources, reduced space requirements, power and cooling requirements and improved IT staff productivity.
But, like any game-changer, virtualization can also bring new challenges to IT.  This is especially true when it comes to protecting data.  So I thought this week would be a good time to explore some of the common pitfalls IT often makes when attempting to back up data in virtual environments.  I’ve identified the ten most common mistakes, but as I discuss through a series of posts this week, I would appreciate your input on anything I missed. 
Mistake #1: Not Backing up Virtual Machines
Surprisingly, this is more common than you would think.  Last year Symantec conducted an extensive global survey of thousands of end users, which found that nearly two-thirds of virtual machines are not backed up.Failing to back up virtual machines is a risky endeavor and it is important to understand the reasons that many virtual machines have been left out of the backup strategy:

  • Virtual machine sprawl: Virtual machines spread like crazy.  Often, IT just doesn’t know about new virtual machines – or knows about them, but isn’t aware of the Recovery Point Objectives (RPO)/Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) requirements.   
  • Cost of backup agents: In the past, IT would have to buy individual backup agents for each new server. This could potentially cost thousands of dollars and quickly eliminate any real savings created with virtualization. 
  • Tools from virtualization vendors: Existing tools have contributed to the failure to backup by making backup too complicated or promoting the use of virtualization vendor tools as a primary backup tool. 
  •  I/O & bandwidth impact: One additional drawback has been the concern over dragging down the host machine and/or network by moving a lot of data for backup.  The whole idea of virtualization is to increase server utilization/CPU utilization/network utilization and if you are successful, there is less “slack in the system” to handle backup loads.

Backing up virtual machines is absolutely necessary.  Today there are tools and approaches that can help overcome the problem of failing to backup virtual machines.  We’ll walk through some of those tools in this series, but the first step is understanding that failing to protect virtual machines is a recipe for disaster.