Planning to back up and restore data

Deploying your operating system inside a virtual machine does not eliminate the need to archive your server data for long-term storage and disaster recovery. The primary reasons to continue archiving your server data are to meet requirements to archive data (business, legal, or financial requirements), to recover from a hardware or software disaster, and to recover from a site disaster.

You should consider a number of backup strategies. You can back up the data directly from inside the virtual machine using existing technologies and in the same way you back up your servers currently. Additionally, with Virtual Server 2005 R2 Service Pack 1, you can use backup software that uses the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) writer to back up each of your physical computers running Virtual Server as well as all attached virtual machines without needing to install backup agents inside the guest operating system.

Best practices for designing a backup and archive strategy include:

  • Back up only what is necessary.
  • Schedule backups carefully.
  • Choose the appropriate tools for backing up and restoring data.

At a minimum, your archive and restore strategy should define the following:

  • A list of backup components.
  • A backup schedule.
  • Backup software and tools.
  • A backup topology.
noteNote
For more information about designing a disaster recovery strategy in Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 environments, see Planning for Disaster Recovery.

Identifying backup components

You need to identify all the components that must be backed up to meet both your data archive and disaster recovery requirements. With Virtual Server, you can address both archive and disaster recovery requirements by archiving the physical computer running Virtual Server. When you archive the physical computer, you are effectively archiving your virtual machine data as well because they are stored on the same physical computer. To enable a full restore of the physical computer, you must back up the following components to tape:

  • System state
  • Program files
  • Virtual Server configuration files
  • Virtual machine data

Choosing backup software

The optimal way to archive Virtual Server is to use backup software that is specifically designed to work with Virtual Server. If you use software that does not support Virtual Server, the process for archiving and the amount of downtime incurred differs depending on the type of software. You should consult the software manufacturer for more details.

Backup software that supports Virtual Server

If you have the opportunity to select new backup software, we recommend that you choose backup software that is specifically designed to work with Virtual Server. This software supports VSS and the new Virtual Server VSS Writer service (VS Writer).

VS Writer is a service that manages backup shadow copies of the volumes that contain the virtual machines and their virtual hard disk (.vhd) files and the volumes that contain the Virtual Server configuration files, for purposes of data archival. The VS Writer service is a Virtual Server-enabled VSS requestor. VS Writer implements a Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) writer for Virtual Server. VSS requestors can use the VS Writer to back up and restore virtual machines.

  • Backup software that supports Virtual Server minimizes the number of steps required to archive and restore virtual servers, and also minimizes downtime and ensures consistency of the data being archived or restored.

For more information about specific software designed to work with Virtual Server, see the Virtual Server Partners Web site.

Using backup software that supports Virtual Server

The optimal way to archive the Virtual Server replicas and databases is to use backup software that is specifically designed to work with Virtual Server. The main advantages of software that supports Virtual Server are that the archived data is organized in a way that makes restore operations intuitive and comparatively simple, the backup operations result in consistent data, virtual machine downtime is minimized, and the number of steps involved in archive and restore operations are minimized.

The following procedure provides general instructions for archiving Virtual Server when using backup software that supports Virtual Server. For instructions about how to use the backup software, see the documentation for the backup software.

To back up Virtual Server by using Virtual Server-enabled backup software
  1. In the console tree of the backup program, browse to Microsoft Virtual Server and expand Virtual Server.

  2. Select the virtual machines that you want to archive.

  3. Select the Virtual Server configuration to archive.

  4. Select the backup type.

  5. Select the media to which you want to back up the data.

  6. Start the backup.

When you use backup software that supports Virtual Server, it interacts with the VS Writer service and VSS to create a shadow copy of the data and then create a backup of the data on the volume shadow copy.

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