The virtualisation landscape has changed for the better for SMBs. No longer just a viable option for enterprises with ample budgets and vast resources, virtualisation is now available to companies of all sizes.
There are many reasons why an SMB may virtualise its servers, from reducing costs to increasing flexibility and agility.
However, there has also been an explosion of virtual machines (VMs) as more servers are consolidated. Protecting and managing the data against failure or loss becomes a priority but some vendors are still offering the same physical backup tools for their customers' virtual environments.
This is the wrong approach, in my view. The virtual environment has specific needs. More time must be spent backing up expanding volumes of data. More capacity is also needed.
VMs run as files on the host OS, so backing up online can be difficult. VM images can be large, unwieldy to manage, and can cause network bottlenecks. If a physical server fails, it will affect all VMs and dependent applications.
Office politics can further affect the landscape. The administrator of the virtual environment, the storage specialist and the database manager may all claim ownership. Collaboration must therefore be improved. If you make it everyone's job, it becomes no one's responsibility.
However, each may want to control the data. Over time, the responsibility is likely to shift back to the storage administrators, who centrally manage the data and backup. In the meantime, though, all digital data – whether in a physical or virtual environment – must be protected.
Determine who will manage and protect the data, then find out what needs to be backed up, how often it needs to be backed up, and establish a backup schedule.
Customers must take their virtual backup and disaster recovery strategies seriously, planning effectively from the start. The best way is to work with a third party who can advise the customer and work with them throughout the migration.
Many SMBs use a separate backup application for each server environment. A great deal use just the one backup application across their virtual and physical environments.
Customers should choose an offering that bridges the physical and virtual worlds, taking maximum advantage of both while supporting business continuity.
The protection of data in virtualised infrastructures should be a key consideration in every virtualisation rollout. VM backup need not be complicated.
David Blackman is general manager of northern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Acronis
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