It’s very easy to find yourself far down the path of virtualization and forget something so trivial as backup. This is not a problem new to virtualization, as backup has often been on the sidelines in many people’s eyes. But with virtualization, it’s even more possible to forget backups since creating a new “server” is as simple as pressing a button. But there are a number of things you really must take into account when embarking on a Hyper-V virtualization plan.
It should go without saying, but without proper backups, there can be no restore. In this day of increased use of the cloud and increasingly reliable storage, sometimes we forget that hardware does fail. When it does we need a backup system that works. Without a good backup system, your new Hyper-V system could one day be nothing more than a paperweight.
The most obvious part of the backup setup is that you need regularly scheduled backups that are based on a standardized configuration. No one should have to remember to do the backups; they should just happen. As said earlier, backups are rarely at the forefront of most people’s minds, which means that they will get forgotten if performing them relies on someone’s memory. IT should configure backups once with a schedule to run them forever.
There should also be a retention period for backups able to deal with multiple different recovery scenarios. You cannot, for example, make a single backup each night that overwrites the backup from the previous night. Besides the fact that overwriting the previous backup means that while you are conducting that backup the previous backup is already being deleted. It is important to keep multiple versions of backups in order to recover from a number of scenarios. Consider, for example, what happens when someone discovers that a very important database table or directory was deleted over a week ago. Storing backups for only a few days will not allow you to recover that table or directory, and that data is gone forever. You need to examine your environment to see the types of recoveries you need to recover from, including user error, data corruption, and outside attacks such as ransomware. Configure your backup policies to be able to protect against them. Determine backup retention policies based on the business requirements of the company, but few companies can get by with anything less than 30 days.
You also need to configure the backup system to interface with the virtualization system. It is a bad idea for many reasons to simply install a backup client inside each VM and back it up as if it were a physical machine. This uses too many I/O resources and typically costs more from a backup software licensing perspective. It’s better to install a client at the hypervisor level so it communicates with your VMs as VMs. This means it will also communicate with any applications that need to be put in any sort of special status prior to backup. This is typically done via the Volume Shadow Services, or VSS.
Backing up things at the hypervisor level will also ensure that you can recover any component of the system that goes bad. You should be able to restore individual files inside the VMs, although this may require the installation of a backup client in order to make that happen. It should also allow you to recover entire VMs or containers if someone accidentally deletes them or your storage fails.
Backing up Hyper-V is not hard, but it does require some forethought. Like anywhere else in IT, ignore proper backup design at your peril. Learn the proper methods to backup Hyper-V and use them, which includes regularly scheduled backups, enough retention to handle all recovery scenarios, and backing up at the Hyper-V level so that you can recover individual files, VMs, and containers. Once backups are configured and regularly scheduled, you can concentrate on building your Hyper-V environment.
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