The Benefits of Virtualization for Data Backup

Virtualization Backup ServersVirtualization has changed the business world for the definite better in a number of key ways, but perhaps nowhere more so than in the area of backup and restoration.  IT support specialists used to claim that backing up data was a snap, while restoring it when needed could be a major headache.  Virtualization, however, has vastly changed that scenario, almost turning it on its head.  Once VMs (virtual machines) have been successfully backed up, it can be quite fast and simple to restore data as needed.

This huge advantage of virtualization has not been immediately apparent to all SMBs, for reasons that are quite easy to understand.  The parallel of warfare provides an excellent illustration of the problem.  Typically, in between major wars, new forms of military technology are developed, yet until these more advanced weapons are put into practice during actual warfare, it is difficult to know how to deploy them to their best tactical advantage; it can be even more difficult to understand appropriate responses to these new weapons.  Only after the new weapons have been used in war for a few months or years can the generals adjust their tactics to the new paradigm.

The same thing is true with backups in a virtualized environment.  Most SMBs started out by using their habitual backup programs and procedures, applying those to virtual instead of physical machines.  This required internal IT staff to load client programs into each VM.  This can work in theory, but as the efficiencies of virtualization caused VMs to proliferate, it tended to bog down I/O operations.  Even worse from a cost-efficiency standpoint was the need to purchase a backup software license for each of those VMs.

These problems can be solved with a backup system specifically designed for use in a virtualized computing environment.  One such system is ‘VM image backup’, which makes use of the hypervisor as a storage repository for images of each VM.  This creates an efficient way to handle backups, as image creation requires very little in the way of CPU resources.  Additionally, this centralized approach means resources needed for the backup can be balanced among the competing VMs, a critical factor in small and medium-sized businesses experiencing ‘VM sprawl’.

Virtualization can be accomplished in a number of ways, but one of the most powerful is to adopt it as part of an overall IT managed services approach.

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