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Virtual Machine Backup Automation Features and Best Practices

In the fast-paced world of IT today, Automation is the king of the hill when it comes to improving business productivity and service.

Why is Virtual Machine Backup Automation needed?

Most businesses today are hosting their critical servers and applications in virtualization environments for better resource utilization, easier manageability, minimal downtime, and cost savings.

Protecting these virtual machines in an automated way is key to ensuring business continuity.

Virtual Machine Backup Automation Features

When implementing a data protection solution, having automated processes, and utilizing automation are key requirements for efficient virtual machine backups.

Let's look at some of the important virtual machine backup automation features:

  • Automatic Scheduling for Backup, Replication, & Offsite Copy Jobs
  • Application-aware backup
  • Transaction log truncation
  • Retention Policy Settings
  • Network Mapping and Re-IPing for VM Replication
  • Automated Backup Verification

Automatic Scheduling for Backup, Replication, & Offsite Copy Jobs

Scheduling is a simple, yet powerful mechanism when looking at the important automation features for virtual machine backup.

Being able to schedule backup, replication, and offsite copy jobs, allows these processes to take place automatically on a regular interval without any manual intervention.

Additionally, scheduling of backup, replication, and offsite copy jobs allows choosing optimal schedules for your virtual machines. Each VM that you run has different levels of criticality. Based on that, you have to choose the schedule to minimize impact to any business-critical systems in production.

With modern data protection solutions, you will be able to flexibly configure the scheduling policies where the frequency starts from minutes and can be also scheduled on an hourly/daily/weekly basis. This ensures having the lowest RPOs that meet business SLAs.

Application-aware Backup

Application-aware processing is an important feature to look for in a data protection solution when it comes to automating backup for applications.

What is Application-aware processing? Why is it important?

Application-aware processing involves the process of creating a consistent state of the application running on your virtual machine to perform the backup.

VSS APIs are used to properly quiesce the application writers and write the application information that may exist in memory or any pending I/O writes to disk. This ensures that the application is in a "consistent state".

This is extremely critical when dealing with database applications such as Microsoft Exchange or SQL Server.

Performing an application-aware backup requires no additional steps to bring online after a restore.

Downtime of an application may sometimes cost businesses thousands of dollars each minute if not much more. An automated approach to perform the application-consistent backup of business-critical applications helps you meet the business SLAs while saving time. This potentially saves your business a tremendous amount of money.

Truncation of transaction logs

The ability to automatically truncate the transaction logs of the database application after a successful backup is another important feature to look for in the virtual machine backup automation.

A data protection solution that can automatically perform the log truncation for a database-driven application reduces the manual intervention needed for log maintenance and alleviates any potential disk space issues as a result.

The process to truncate logs works in tandem with the application-aware backup functionality. By properly backing up an application such as a Microsoft Exchange or SQL Server using the specific VSS writers for those applications, the logs can also be properly truncated in a safe way and the disk space is reclaimed.

Retention Policy Settings

Retention Policies settings allow you to set and retain the data as long as you need ranging from days to years. This will automatically purge the data that is no longer needed, as it takes up unnecessary storage space.

By automating retention, only the required number of versions of virtual machines, files, or applications that are needed for restoration or offsite copies can be easily maintained based on business SLAs.

Also, you can easily search and perform a point-in-time restore of the required data in the event of data loss and can meet the lowest Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs).

An automated approach to applying retention policies for virtual machine backup lets you store only the data required for business operations and meet compliance requirements while saving your disk space.

Network Mapping and Re-IPing for VM Replication

Most businesses use VM Replication to create a replica Virtual Machines in their DR site and ensure high availability.

Since the replicated virtual machine is an exact copy of the production virtual machine, it will have the same network settings including the configured vSwitch port group configuration.

When you have a DR network that operates with different network subnets than production networks, it is critically important to think about replicated virtual machine network configuration, especially during failover. You will need to match network configuration that exists in DR Site for your Replica VMs.

The ability to automate the reconfiguration of the network and vSwitch configuration to match the network configuration that exists in the secondary/DR site is an important feature for virtual machine backup/replication automation.

Changing IP addresses for the replica VM can also be a tedious job. You need to make sure your data protection solution allows for automating or creating IP rules for replicated VMs when virtual machines are performed failover. This can save an enormous amount of time.

Automated Backup Verification

The most important part of virtual machine backup is verifying the recoverability of backup data.

Let's assume the case that you have backed up your virtual machines successfully. But, how can you know if your backup data will recover without any last-minute consequence like Restore Failed?

This is why it is mandatory to check whether your backups are recoverable.

Verification of backup data needs to be performed on a regular basis. However, manually verifying your backups every time is not feasible. You need a data protection solution with which you can set up automated verification. With this, you can rest assured that your backups are in a recoverable state and you can data back in the way it was before.

Thoughts

By utilizing the above-mentioned virtual machine backup automation features, you can enable and ensure consistent, efficient, and error-free backup operations.

Using an automated and comprehensive Backup & DR solution such as Vembu BDR Suite, businesses can protect their data across virtual, physical, cloud workloads, and SaaS applications.

Here are the key features of Vembu BDR Suite for virtual machine backup:

  • Agentless Backup and Replication for VMware VMs
  • Host/Cluster level backup for Hyper-V VMs
  • RTO, RPO < 15 minutes
  • Application-Aware Backup with log Truncation
  • Flexible Scheduling and Retention Policies
  • Automated Backup Verification - Boot test, Mount test and Integrity test
  • Instantly restore backed up VMs within a few seconds
  • Granularly recover files/application items from the VM backup

Download the full-functionality 30-day free trial of Vembu BDR Suite here.

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About the Author

Bhavani Shanmugam is a Product Analyst at Vembu Technologies. As a part of the Product Management team, she strives to be the voice of the customer and helps in building better products. She holds a bachelor's degree in Electronics & Communication Engineering.

Published Monday, June 01, 2020 9:14 AM by David Marshall
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