Strategy to backup a Virtualized Infrastructure

Posted on 2015-01-31
Last Modified: 2016-02-25
In a virtualized world the following things needs to be backed up:
Files / Folders
Applications / Application Objects
Operating Systesm
Virtual Machines
Virtual Hosts
Virtual Clusters
.... add anything else

then are we safe just by backing up VMs or we should continue to backup the traditional way (file / database backup) in order to achieve full recover-ability (Veeam v8 allows file level recovery).

For Example: If a machine is running SQL Server, taking a full VM backup and restoring will restore my SQL Server data as well. Assuming that daily backup is acceptable, is there a need of traditional SQL Server backup using SQL Server Agent?  How confident can one be about the SQL server database, when restoring the VM ... is there an integrity check at VM level backup?

Please throw light on backup strategies for backing of infrastructure running VMs hosting databases / web servers / AD / Exchange

Question by:zen shaw
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LVL 119
ID: 40581351
File and Folder backup, is old thinking, and designed for physical machines, in a virtual environment, it's quicker and more efficient to backup the entire VMs, which you can also use change block tracking to backup the VMs.

If you use an Application Aware Backup Application such as Veeam Backup and Replication, you have Change Block Tracking, and also application aware backups for AD, Exchange and SQL.

We tend to find, VMs are backed up for DR, and SQL Administrators also like to perform SQL backups seperately, which they backup more than once a day, which gives them flexibility, of being able to restore a VM, and then apply the latest SQL backup/restore.

Author Comment

by:zen shaw
ID: 40581384
Is it because they are using Application Aware Backup? Does it assure integrity of database as well?

While the full / increment backup is being done, does the VM stop any new connections / transactions?
LVL 119
ID: 40581405
Is it because they are using Application Aware Backup? Does it assure integrity of database as well?


While the full / increment backup is being done, does the VM stop any new connections / transactions?

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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Philip Elder
ID: 40581934
How complex is the infrastructure?

For simple setups we would deploy StorageCraft ShadowProtect in-VM to a variety of backup destinations.

For more complex and clustered setups we run SP in-VM or we look to Veeam to back up complex and clustered environments.

It all depends.

Our Disaster Recovery Planning includes:
 + Regular bare metal/hypervisor restores of backup sets
 + Instant On via ImageManager on ShadowProtect or Veeam (backup converted to live VM)
 + Spot recovery and/or granular recovery for everything (Exchange, SQL, SharePoint, Files, Folders, ETC)

Author Comment

by:zen shaw
ID: 40582823
I have a pretty simple infrastructure ... One VMware HA cluster with two HP server, two storage boxes, two firewalls all connected through VLAN via two Cisco switches.

I understood VM backups but how would I take Hypervisor backup using Veeam?  

@Philip ... the in-vm is again agent based backup ... is it not against the spirit of agent less virtualisation backups?
LVL 119
ID: 40582855
Which Hypervisor are you using ?

Veeam only backs up the VMs.

Author Comment

by:zen shaw
ID: 40582870
VMware ESXi 5

Author Comment

by:zen shaw
ID: 40582875
I installed the ESXi on a SD card but since it was a single point of failure, I changed that to run ESXi on a RAID 1 Directly Attached Storage ... so now my hosts boot from these RAID 1 Disks ....

Do I need to backup the Host / or its Config ... or it doesn't matter as in an even of complete disaster ... I can install new Host with new ESXi on it and restore the VMs?
LVL 119

Accepted Solution

Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 500 total points
ID: 40582881
ESXi on an SD card is not really a single point of failure, we've been installing on USB flash drives and SD cards since 2004, and we've not had a system fail yet!

Modern servers, now also have MIRRORED SD cards! - no SPOF!

Magnetic spinning disks, fail more than flash drives! Flash is used in most Cisco Routers, that are used in the Internet.

The SD card, usb flash disk, is only used at boot-up, to read the OS into memory, and then is memory resident, so very little  usage of an SD card in a server!

RAID 1 installs fail more, and are more trouble repairing than flash!

If you had installed on an SD card...

How to Backup an ESXi installation on an USB Flash Drive or SD card, for security or redundancy.

However, there is no need to backup the hypervisor, you only need to backup the configuration....Some organisations, just have good documentation, to follow, should they need to re-install, smart organisations, backup the configuration, after they've made changes, or daily backups of config.

We script daily backups of ESXi config!

To back up the configuration data for an ESXi host using the vSphere CLI, run the command:

vicfg-cfgbackup --server=ESXi_host_IP_address --username=root -s output_file_name

If you are using vSphere CLI for Windows, run this command: --server=ESXi_host_IP_address --username=root -s output_file_name

Backing up and restoring ESXi configuration using the vSphere Command-Line Interface and vSphere PowerCLI (2042141)

All you need to do then is re-install ESXi, and then apply the configuration!

Author Comment

by:zen shaw
ID: 40582897
Thanks Andrew.

I always used SD until I was dwarfed by a Senior Consultant who suggested the RAID 1 (same guy who said VMs from Intel will not work on AMD hardware). At times I have to keep quiet :)

What details are stored in the Host Config? ... your article seems to backup current / default configuration, is there no need to backup regularly especially if new VMs are being created?
LVL 119
ID: 40582925
1. It depends how often you change the configuration of the HOST (not adding VMs!).

2. it depends on how tight and good your documentation is of the HOSTS.

e.g. vSwitch, virtual machine port groups, advanced configuration settings etc

you just need to backup the configuration files, these can be restore to a vanilla, virgin fresh installation of ESXi.

same guy who said VMs from Intel will not work on AMD hardware

Senior Consultant - well we all know he's wrong!
LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Philip Elder
ID: 40583028
I'm not sure about the "spirit of agentless backup" comment?

Veeam is an excellent backup solution. In an HA environment it very well can be the best direction to take. Since the dollars were already invested in HA then the same thought should go into the backup solution.

We've been backing up VMs on Hyper-V for a long time now using a guest-only methodology. We don't work with VMware so Andrew and others will have a lot more to say on that subject.

Author Comment

by:zen shaw
ID: 40598494
I have used Veeam as a test trial and I guess I'll go with Veeam.

Thank you to both Philip and Andrew for their advice.


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