Protect Business-Critical VMs with Effective Backups

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Today, your data is more important than ever.  Most businesses, no doubt including your own, are making use of data in ways that were not used just a few years ago.  Many organizations are more “online” than ever before.  Data can potentially be flowing 24x7x365.  Protecting your data is extremely important when it comes to disaster recovery and the overall continuity of your business.  Backups are a key component of your overall data protection strategy.  They are absolutely critical when it comes to ensuring data is not lost in the event of various data loss events that can occur.  Let’s take a look at how to protect business-critical VMs with effective backups and see what is involved in doing this.

Why are Backups of VMs necessary?

We often think of VMs as a special entity in themselves, however, in the most basic sense, it is actually the data and the services hosted by a VM that in reality is important.  By protecting business-critical VMs with effective backups, you are able to protect the data and services they house.  What are the dangers to your data housed inside virtualized environments, especially when modern hypervisors tout many high availability mechanisms for your production workloads?

In looking at threats to your data, there are three primary threats that can potentially lead to major loss of data if proper measures are not taken to protect it.  What are those threats?

Hardware Failures

Hardware failures can certainly be the culprit in data loss events.  Especially in the realm of storage, hardware failures can be catastrophic.  This is why you want to have several redundancy mechanisms and high availability mechanisms in place for your virtual machines running inside your virtualized environments. 

This includes redundancy that can protect you from failures.  When it comes to storage, RAID is one of the most basic means of protecting data since it allows you to lose a certain number of hard drives and still have your data accessible.  Hypervisors have built-in means to provide high-availability to your data. 

For one thing, it is best practice to not have a single point of failure.  This means multiple paths to your data, multiple hosts in a cluster to provide failover capabilities, and redundancy built into the hardware layer, including power, storage controllers, etc.

These mechanisms help to provide the ability to withstand at least one failure of hardware and still have access to your data via the high-availability mechanisms and resiliency provided at the hardware and hypervisor level.

Today’s hypervisors such as VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V have failover mechanisms that allow recovering from a failed host by the healthy hosts assuming control of VMs running on the failed host.  Guest clustering also allows even further resiliency at an application layer by ensuring there is no downtime to the application during the restart time required for VMware or Hyper-V to restart VMs affected by a failure. 

Hardware failures are not the only concern to business-critical data and arguably, are not the most threatening concern.  While backups are still needed to protect against massive hardware failures that lead to data being corrupted, there are two other scenarios that give even further weight to the importance of effective backups.

End User Mistakes and Intentional Data Deletion

Often your end users will pose the greatest threat to your data.  There are many scenarios that can lead to data loss when related to end user actions.  What are these?  End users can either accidentally or intentionally delete the wrong data.  They may mistake a legitimate file for one they want to delete and intentionally delete the wrong file.  Also, they may perform a “Save” operation instead of a “Save As” operation leading to data getting overwritten or deleted from a file mistakenly.  This can lead to data loss as well.

There is the other scenario involving a malicious or disgruntled employee who may intentionally delete important files to intentionally cause data loss and impact business continuity.  When you think about any of these scenarios, the high-availability offered by your storage or at the hardware or virtualization layer offers no protection for these kinds of data loss scenarios. 

Taking effective backups of your data is the only way to effectively restore data that has been affected by end user actions.  What about cybersecurity threats that are commonplace today?

Cybersecurity Threats

Ransomware is one of the most ominous threats to business data today.  We hear about it making headlines holding corporate data hostage with the demand of a ransom payment to gain access back to business-critical data.  Ransomware is extremely dangerous.  The only two ways to recover your data are pay the ransom or restore your data from backups. 

Dealing with cybercriminals and relying on them to allow you access back to your data is a dangerous position to be in.  Having effective backups of your entire dataset using a product that can reliably backup your data is really the better option.  By having effective backups working in conjunction with effective cybersecurity solutions allows you to have confidence in your data.  What constitutes effective backups?  There are several characteristics you should look for in your backup solution you choose to protect your data.  Let’s take a look at those and why they are important.

What Features Should You Look for in a Backup Solution?

What types of backup features should you look for when choosing a backup vendor and backup solution to protect your valuable data?  In today’s fast-paced world of always-on IT, data is always changing.  Your backup solution needs to have effective and efficient ways to capture those data changes so that at a moment’s notice, you can restore a single file or an entire datacenter’s worth of data if needed. 

Modern backup solutions today should include:

  • Multi-hypervisor support – This is important as many enterprise environments are running multiple hypervisors across their landscape of infrastructure.  Having a backup solution supporting modern hypervisors like VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V provides the flexibility with your data protection solution to avoid vendor locking with technologies used.
  • Ability to use CBT and other space saving technologies – Having the ability to capture only the true changes in your data at the block level is extremely efficient and is certainly a needed feature.  Additionally, the ability to utilize deduplication and compression saves tremendously on space as well.
  • Application aware backups – Generally, it is not the VMs themselves you are looking to protect, it is the data they house and the applications they are running.  Having a data protection solution that is able to properly interact with applications running in the VMs is extremely important to the consistency of your data, especially for database applications.
  • Technologies and features to support 3-2-1 Backup objectives – Having the ability to store your data in multiple locations and on multiple types of media is important.  This includes the ability to store or replicate your backup data offsite as well as in the cloud or on tape.
  • Security built into the platform – Security is arguably one of the most important topics in IT operations and infrastructure today.  You want your backup solution to be able to protect your data held in backups as it is essentially a copy of your production data.  This includes encryption in-flight and at-rest.
  • Ability to easily migrate between platforms – As mentioned, supporting different virtual infrastructure platforms is a powerful capability that allows you to have flexibility in where you run your workloads.  Additionally, having the ability to easily migrate between those different platforms without having to jump through hoops is extremely valuable as well.
  • Site-level protection with replication – Replication is a key technology that is used to protect your data and applications at a site-level.  By replicating VMs from a production site to a secondary or DR location, if the primary production site is taken offline, traffic can be switched to the secondary location and access provided to the workloads running there instead. 
  • DR capabilities with failover and orchestration – Part of challenge when protecting workloads at a site level is having the means to seamlessly switch traffic from one location to another and do this in an orchestrated fashion with the network reconfiguration that is generally required.  Be sure to make sure the data protection solution you choose has the ability to failover workloads gracefully and orchestrate the actions needed to failover such as network reconfiguration.
  • Features and capabilities to meet compliance and regulatory needs – Regulatory and compliance objectives are only going to get more difficult and complicated to meet.  You want a backup solution that makes this process easier and not more difficult. 

Protect Business-Critical VMs with Effective Backups

When looking at a capable and modern backup solution that fits the features and criteria listed above, Vembu BDR Suite is a great solution.  I have used Vembu now for the past three years or so and have been impressed with the wide range of features and functionality contained in the solution.  The solution is easily provisioned and allows protecting VMs across your various hypervisor infrastructure.

Vembu provides really great features for both VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V environments including support the latest and greatest versions of each hypervisor.  Proper protection of Hyper-V Clusters is included with Vembu BDR Suite 4.0 and higher.  Vembu has powerful features and capabilities in the solution including:

  • Agentless backups
  • Granular restores
  • Quick VM recovery
  • Application aware backups
  • Backs up VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and AWS EC2 instances
  • Provides really robust platform migration using VembuHive filesystem virtual disks are instantly exposed as different virtual disk types
  • Provides OffsiteDR solution to boster 3-2-1 backup objectives
  • Encryption in-flight and at-rest
  • Automated DR failover with network reconfiguration

Vembu has a simple 5-step process to backup your business-critical VMs.

Protect-Critical-VMs-with-Effective-Backups Protect Business-Critical VMs with Effective Backups
Protect Business-Critical VMs with Effective Backups

Wrapping Up

Protect business-critical VMs with Effective Backups. Backups are more important than ever before.  Never before has there been the wide range of risks to your data.  From hardware failures, end user threats, and cybersecurity threats like ransomware, you must protect your data.  If you are looking for a backup solution to protect your environment, take a look at Vembu BDR Suite.  You can download a fully-featured trial version here.  The great thing about the trial version is that it automatically transitions into the free version of Vembu BDR Suite with many great features.  Protecting your data starts with choosing the right solution.  Regardless of which product you choose, be sure it meets the recommended features needed to comply with today’s very strenuous data demands. 

Stay tuned for the next part in the series, ” VMware vSphere Backup Best Practices” to see how you can use best practices in your VMware vSphere environment to protect your data.