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Small Business

Virtual servers and storage environments need regular backups to protect them from downtime, data loss.

Smaller companies are adopting virtualization technologies more than ever, according to AMI-Partner’s “2010 SMB Virtualization Market Analysis and Assessment”. Small businesses are applying virtualization to their servers and storage infrastructure, which can drastically change how and where employees store data and access applications, quickly making virtual environments as important to a company’s day-to-day operations as its physical equipment.

Virtual server and storage environment need to be protected from data loss and downtime, just like physical servers and storage devices, so they too should be covered by your company’s backup policy and disaster recovery plan. You don’t want to be one of the more than 40 percent of U.S. small companies that don’t back up their virtual servers as often as their physical servers. Backing up your virtual environments isn’t much more complex than the rest of your disaster recovery strategy.

Protecting your virtual environments

To make sure your virtual environments are protected, apply these three best practices to your disaster recovery plan:

1. Each virtual machine should be backed up separately from other resources and refreshed frequently. The more often changes are made—or the more critical the virtual storage or server is to your business operations—the more frequently you should refresh your backups.

You can use existing backup software to backup your virtual environments. Just install and configure the backup software on each virtual machine and point the backup to the same storage device you already use. When scheduling backups, remember that they require a certain amount of processing power from the physical server, so it’s important to leave some server resources available for this purpose. Also, it’s best to back up only one virtual server at a time from any one physical server. Finally, this approach can be expensive as software licenses add up when you install backup software to several virtual machines. You may want to use this method for only your most critical virtual environments that need frequent back ups.

2. Choose a method that lets you make backups and take snapshots of your virtual machines without having to take them offline. This minimizes downtime of critical resources while also keeping backups as current as possible. Although snapshots shouldn’t be relied on for your complete disaster recovery plan, it’s smart to take snapshots of your virtual servers regularly. You can do a complete restore from a snapshot as well as use it to create new, identical virtual servers quickly and easily.

Something to keep in mind: Snapshots can create management issues; they tend to proliferate quickly and can consume a lot of storage space. Keep only the most recent snapshots.

3. Create backups of your virtual environments in an offsite location, such as with a cloud-based service, along with backups of your physical servers. For instance, if you’re using an all-in-one storage and backup solution like the Cisco NSS300 Series Smart Storage for local storage, you can add your virtual machines to its backup schedule as well as set automatic online backups for disaster recovery. Offsite backups, whether to a storage service in the cloud, such as Mozy, or to a remote office, are necessary to any disaster recovery plan. If your local network goes down, you can completely restore your applications and data with the most recent backup made to an offsite location.

Is your company using a virtual environment? Tell us about it!

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