PBS: Why You Need Backup 2.0 — Avoiding the Costs of Traditional Backup

Reducing OPEX (Operational Expense) is a low-hanging fruit that often times I see some organizations fail to reach up and grab. Sometimes it is overlooked after virtualizing and other times it is even a fear towards virtualizing (VM Stall).

In this post I’ll share details from multiple sources (including Project Blue Sphere) on how backups in virtualized environments can be significantly improved.

The Backup 1.0 Burden

Veeam recently published the results of a survey of 500 enterprises on backups and the results were interesting:

  • The average enterprise requires 5 hours (averaged) to restore a virtual machine — little improvement over the 6 hour average for physical.
  • 63% experience problems each month when attempting to recover a server
  • Failed restores cost companies over $400,000 annually
  • 59% of organizations still use Backup 1.0 (physical-based backup tools)
  • 63% are trying to use the same backup tool for both physical and virtual servers

I believe that these sub-par numbers are being driven by the 59% which are still using Backup 1.0 methods.

Backup 1.0 versus Backup 2.0

What is Backup 1.0? I’m going to “borrow” Quest Software’s definition of Backup 1.0 and 2.0 which is illustrated below:

Backup 1.0 involves traditional backup agents installed within the OS which incurs additional OPEX burdens. The restore process often consists of deploying a new server, installing the OS and then backup software, performing a restore from tape and sometimes having to repeat the entire process.

Backup 2.0 in contrast is agentless and full images are restored from disk in a single step. This single-step recovery from disk often drastically reduces restore times – in some cases by a factor of 10 or more.  Furthermore, with Backup 2.0 you don’t have to sacrifice granular file/mailbox level recovery as solutions like Quest vRanger and Veeam Backup and Replication provide granular file/object level restores as well.

Project Blue Sphere: A Tale of Two Infrastructures

At Project Blue Sphere we had a newer 20-host virtual infrastructure being backed up to disk by Quest vRanger Pro 4.5.  Restores when necessary were relatively quick and painless.

However another ESX 3.0 farm existed from a different org in which Backup 1.0 methods were still used.   A few months ago, several VMFS volumes suffered a catastrophic failure and it took days to restore several production and business critical VM’s using the painful multi-step restore process of Backup 1.0.   Staff worked overtime during these days building systems from scratch, deploying backup agents and then trying with mixed success to run restore jobs from tape.

This event made management painfully aware of the differences of the backup methods and is one reason why Project Blue Sphere was chartered – to get the entire organization to realize the benefits of Backup 2.0.

A Note on SQL Databases

In a separate incident I observed a scenario where it took over 40 hours to restore a business-critical physical SQL server and database into production. There’s no technical reason the server couldn’t have been virtualized but that’s a different topic. It was the Backup 1.0 restore of the database from tape that took hours and hours for the restore.

Regardless of whether your SQL server is physical or virtual I would strongly recommend considering either Red Gate SQL Backup or Quest LiteSpeed for SQL Databases. These products will back up your databases to local disk with compression rates usually greater than 95% making restores very fast and pain free. From a recovery/RTO perspective, one of the worst things you can do for a large SQL database is to restore from agent-based backups to tape.

When combined with Backup 2.0 you have the best of both worlds.  You can quickly restore the server from an image, and then also restore databases to different points in time, using the local compressed backups from one of these solutions.  A similar best practice is to regularly dump the system state to local disk using NTBACKUP on Active Directory Domain Controllers.

Backup 2.0 Benefits Are Real, But Process Is Needed

While there are huge advantages to Backup 2.0 it’s not a magic bullet. Special attention is required – especially with VSS and application consistency to ensure that your applications are being backed up in a consistent state. For more details on these problems and how to address them, reference our two part series on VMware and VSS (Part One and Part Two).

Quest vRanger and Veeam Backup and Replication

I’ve referenced two competing products and the intent here is not to compare these two solutions, but rather a focus on how both Quest vRanger and Veeam Backup and Replication are strong solutions that can help organizations realize the benefits of Backup 2.0.

For Project Blue Sphere we happen to use Quest vRanger which we have used for years and I am certain that Veeam vPower would be able to do an excellent job as well.

Other Solutions

At Project Blue Sphere we elected to not use our existing TSM (Tivoli Storage Manger) infrastructure as the vStorage API is not fully supported at this time. Different backup vendors offer varying levels of support for the vStorage API (VADP), but in my opinion Quest vRanger and Veeam vPower are two strong solutions which are focused primarily on virtualized environments from the ground up, and both of them go beyond the capabilities of the vStorage API to provide additional benefits in virtualized environments.

Conclusions

Many companies are still using Backup 1.0 methods and those that do suffer from:

  • Long restores times
  • High labor cost for restores
  • High failure rate for restores
  • High financial impact for recovery delays and failed restores

Ironically, 44% in Veeam’s survey indicated that they are not virtualizing some workloads due to concerns about backup and recovery.

Both Quest vRanger and Veeam Backup and Replication can be used to achieve the benefits of Backup 2.0:

Are you using Backup 2.0 methods for your VM’s today? If not, you may have much to gain by taking a closer look.

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