Contributed Article by Joseph Hand, Senior Director of Product Strategy, AppAssure Software
Performing a backup is important
for any server room, but all backups are not created equal, even if they have
similar sounding names for their features. For instance, some "instant"
recoveries offered by one vendor may not measure as fast as another that offers
the same feature. Many claim continuous data protection, loosely applied to
products that don't actually offer true continuous protection?
Testing and verifying is a gray area. Here's
another gray area: verifying that your Hyper-V
backup and VMware
backup are working properly. If you really want to guarantee that a backup
is recoverable when the worst happens, it has
to be tested, preferably right after the backup is complete, especially when
you're talking about mission-critical applications. Most database engines are,
by their nature, transactional applications, so you need to be able to prove to
yourself that an application backup, especially Exchange or a SQL-based
application, is application aware, that it can see all files and transaction logs, and recover them
together as a workable whole. To get this, you need a complete copy of all the
data. To make sure you have that, you could shut down the application, but that
won't make your users happy. That's why most backup applications use Microsoft
Volume Shadow Service (VSS) as a basis, which requires that your operating
system, database application and backup application are designed to work with
Verifying backups can take time.
But even among the VSS-aware backup solutions, verifying VMware backup or Hyper-V backup can take time. It's not difficult
to check that individual files or directories can be recovered, but files and
folders represent only half of your recovery requirement. The other half is the
actual machine and its application. To test your backup completely, you need to
establish that an entire application is recoverable, especially if Exchange
backup are involved or if applications are SQL Server-based. The question is, how do you go about it? Just testing
to see if a server's pulse can be detected offers no assurance that the
application will run. You need application-aware
testing to be certain.
Does manual testing work? Well, sort
of, but it involves a commitment administrators may not have time to follow
through on. For example, one virtualization
company offers guaranteed recoveries for virtual machines, but it isn't a
utility that just runs. On the contrary, it requires an administrator to take about
10 discrete steps to ensure that a backup is recoverable that can take at least
a half hour to set up. They include organizing an isolated environment with a
proxy server, assigning significant disk and CPU resources, and writing custom
scripts that will be used to verify that the VM backup is recoverable. You'll also
have to check that the account within which the scripts are running has
permissions, and determine whether your Windows firewall permits remote
connections. While this labor-intensive approach does work, it requires what
one blog poster describes as a "deep dive" commitment to run through all the
steps for each application you're sworn to protect. To be fair, one can keep
each process running once it's set up, but the negative consequence is a
permanent resource commitment that could prove costly to maintain.
How about a more
automated option? If the previous scenario doesn't sound too appetizing,
you're not alone. Clearly, you're more
likely to carry out recoverability testing if the process happens without your
intervention. That's the thinking behind new administrator-friendly approaches
that effectively automate recoverability testing of VMware backup or Hyper-V
backup in VM environments and for testing physical server backups. These up-and
coming approaches are far less resource intensive, but best of all, they
require little more administrative intervention than a few check-off mouse
clicks to set up. After all, one is more likely to commit to - and stick to - a
testing regimen that doesn't require one to to lift a finger to make it happen.
article appeal to you? Share your comments below.
About the Author
Joseph Hand is the
Senior Director of Product Strategy at AppAssure Software, focusing on virtualization for AppAssure's VMware backup and Hyper-V backup platforms and how
they can work together to leverage technology to solve today's problems facing
the modern day enterprise.