What to Consider for Hypervisor Backup: The Configuration and the Data

As more companies invest in virtual machines, IT pros are presented with the need to integrate these virtualization environments into the data protection plan. The trouble is that while the data is usually backed up, often the hypervisor configuration is forgotten.

“It’s not enough to only back up the virtual machine, just like it’s not enough to only back up files or databases on a physical server,” says Sam Roguine, Asia-Pacific engineering director at Acronis. “Every piece of data must be backed up, and the hypervisor is no exception.”

Similar to how single-pass image backup records documents, photos, settings and preferences, the hypervisor system backup needs to save the settings, extensions and drivers for the hypervisor. Yet often times, IT pros get caught up in protecting the virtual machine data that the hypervisor configuration is not prioritized, says Tim Mackey, evangelist for Citrix's virtualization solution XenServer. In fact, nearly two-thirds of virtual machines are improperly backed up, according to a Symantec survey.

“If you fail to backup the configurations and the metadata, when you go to restore an environment without that information, it’s going to be very problematic to restore things,” Mackey says.

When a company implements virtualization, the IT team is often so caught up in rolling out the system that it doesn’t consider hypervisor backup as part of system management. One reason a solid backup and recovery system needs to be in place is because the employee that sets up the hypervisor likely won’t be the same one that manages it in the long term. In fact, one in three IT pros doesn’t know when new virtual machines were created or cloned, according to a VMWorld survey.

Data backup is important for companies to remain compliant with regulations and to reduce the amount of time IT spends on backing up a system.

Backing Up Hypervisor Data

Once the IT team prioritizes hypervisor configuration, it’s time to focus on the second aspect of hypervisor backup: the actual data. The traditional model of backing up an entire system in one fell swoop works, but Mackey suggests doing backup snapshots instead.

“One of the problems with [all-at-once backup] solution in such an environment is it’s hard on the storage solution,” Mackey says.

Another good idea is to automate the backup to happen when minimal work is demanded of the hypervisor since during backup, the system will be operating at a slower speed. For example, a company could create a backup strategy where different sections of the hypervisor back up at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and onward.

Regardless of the current data protection strategy, any company with virtual machines needs to create a cohesive plan to make sure all systems, settings and data is backed up so when a disaster happens, the company doesn’t crash.

[Image via Can Stock Photo]