How to protect your virtual environment from data loss

Written By: Ontrack

Date Published: Apr 23, 2020 12:00:00 AM

How to protect your virtual environment from data loss

It’s been more than a decade since the release of the virtual environment. According to a study by Gartner, most firms report 75% or higher virtualization – proving that the virtualization market has moved from niche to mainstream. The positives of virtualization are definite, but the risk of data loss is still a potential downside. In this blog, we explore how your organization can protect its virtual environments from data loss.

Due to the improvements of hypervisors over the years, the bulk of modern IT systems are now virtual. Modern hypervisors have reduced the complexity of setting up and maintaining physical servers, allow for better server utilization and increase IT flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of businesses.

However, whether you use VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix, Oracle or any of the other hypervisors, there is still the potential for data loss. To avoid unnecessary data loss in virtual environments – here are five essential tips on how to protect your files:

Use the right backup software for your virtual environment

There are various backup software solutions on the market. Some are available to use both with VMware and HyperV solutions. The main factor to consider when choosing your backup software is how much time is needed to recover virtual machines (VMs) out of the backup and the VM templates. Additionally, good backup solutions for VMs are able to mount the backup while the files are transferred back to the main host system.

A snapshot is not a backup

Always create backups if you want to make sure that everything is recoverable in the event of a failure. Create snapshots if your changes are very important, and you don’t want to lose any data; this will cover the time frame between the last and the next backup. If you use snapshots, don’t try to build snapshots that build on each other, as this not only reduces performance but makes them more susceptible to error.

Don’t save backups and running VMs on the same storage

If you save your backups on the same hard disk or storage space as your active VMs, you risk ending up with losing all your data. If a backup fails and a VM is active, it will likely overwrite the backup. To prevent this from occurring, always store your backup VMs and your active VMs in different places. It also makes sense to make multiple backups and store them on a different local server/hard disk, whether in the cloud or on tape. Having two additional backups will help you in the event of a data loss.

Don’t try to mix virtualization solutions

Using several virtualization solutions in the same environment can increase the risk of data loss. If, for example, a VMware system on one SAN is expanded onto a second SAN that is used by HyperV, there is a high chance that the second SAN will be subject to severe data loss. Such data loss will occur because of the different layers that the virtualization tools create when they are linked or expanded. Therefore, it is better to keep your virtualization simple and stick to one solution within a given environment. Adding too many layers of complexity can be very risky and will make any needed data recovery time consuming or not possible at all!

Think and plan before you use VMs 

Always keep in mind that virtualization and virtual machines are not error-free and are as likely to fail as other storage options. Therefore, before you create a virtual environment for sensitive applications, think about what is most suitable for your organization’s needs. For example, some applications have a high input/output (I/O) rate and are, therefore, a better fit for physical server environments.

Many of today’s virtual platforms include data protection and recovery mechanisms, but you would be wise not to rely on them. They may claim to protect you from data loss, but they are not a replacement for a proper backup strategy.

But remember… 

Even if you implement the above five essential tips, there is still a chance that your virtual machines could experience data loss. It is therefore essential that your IT department is fully aware of the ins and outs of your systems, and have a specific plan on how to react in case of failure. Every organization should have a data recovery company on speed dial; downtime and the loss of data can be extremely costly for an organization, so ensuring a specialist is on hand to help is vital to ensure the recovery of valuable data.


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