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How can I back up my virtual machines?

Virtual machine backup is critical to the success of a data center. Expert Anil Desai shares some pointers for performing the task in this expert response.

How can I back up my virtual machines?
Two main approaches exist for backing up virtual machines (VMs). The first is to treat your VMs as if they were other physical nodes on your network. You can use tools such as Windows Backup to create backup files and then copy them to the host computer or to a network location. If you've invested in a third-party backup solution, you'll probably be able to use your existing software to install an agent within the virtual machine.

But what if you want to back up the entire VM from outside of the guest OS? You might be tempted to use solutions such as snapshots or open file agents to perform this task, but that can lead to backups that may be not be reliable. The quickest way to create a backup of a Virtual Server VM is to first place the VM in saved state, then copy all of the VM-related files, and then resume the VM. The entire process may take only a few seconds and is generally limited to the speed of the file copy operation. Furthermore, you can use the Virtual Server COM API to script the entire process so it run automatically and based on a schedule.

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