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Virtual data protection and recovery checklist

Keep these eight quick tips handy as you implement your virtual data protection and recovery strategy. They cover snapshots, encryption for data protection and recovery, and more.

Data protection and recovery is a whole new ball of wax in virtual environments. You have to follow virtual data backup best practices, but you may still run into VM backup problems.

Even if you know how to configure virtual server backup and optimize server performance, this data protection and recovery checklist will help your organization stay on the right track to protect your virtual data.

  • VMs on a storage area network (SAN). Backups, such as snapshots, are best pushed to SAN storage for fastest data protection and recovery. Shared storage also allows stored VMs to be easily migrated to other servers. Consider the implications of backup operations on SAN storage requirements.
  • Opt for virtualization-aware backup products. Any backup tool can capture a VM file, but applications must often be quiesced so that no virtual data changes during the backup process. Use virtualization-aware backup tools that can operate with open files. This maintains availability and reduces disruptions for users.
  • Don't forget the underlying system. VM backups can stand alone, but they are not bare-metal backups. Remember to back up each server's operating system and hypervisor or make provisions to restore those server elements from original media.
  • Consider data deduplication. Data deduplication removes redundancy to reduce storage requirements. Most backup tools support deduplication, but select a virtualization-aware tool that can also provide deduplication services. Deduplication can affect backup performance.
  • Consider encryption for data protection and recovery. Backups can present a security risk, especially if a backup is made or copied across a wide area network and stored off-site. Consider using virtualization-aware backup tools that implement encryption for sensitive virtual data.
  • Re-evaluate backup testing and verification. Take advantage of the speed and ease of virtual backups to streamline your verification and testing regimen. A single auxiliary server can easily be used to test any number of VM backups for integrity.
  • Don't ignore disaster recovery (DR) requirements. A shift from tape or disk-based backups to SAN-based VM snapshots should not change the need for DR preparation. Implement plans to copy VMs off-site regularly along with other DR practices.
  • Plan VM failover behaviors. VMs can often be restored to any virtualized server, and this can enhance availability. But virtual servers need adequate computing resources to support additional VMs. Plan failover workflows and server workloads in advance.

About the author
Stephen J. Bigelow
, a senior technology writer in the Data Center and Virtualization Group at TechTarget Inc., has more than 15 years of technical writing experience in the PC/ technology industry. He holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, along with CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications, and has written hundreds of articles and more than 15 feature books on computer troubleshooting, including Bigelow's PC Hardware Desk Reference and Bigelow's PC Hardware Annoyances. Contact him at


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