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How can software for backup use cloud resources and VMs for recovery?

The latest development in the backup software market emphasizes bringing virtual machines up in the public cloud. Explore the reasons why and important details for implementation.

We shouldn't forget that the whole point of software for backup is to allow an application to return to normal operation as quickly and efficiently as possible. For organizations with enough money, this is frequently accomplished by having an entire replica of the production environment at a secondary location. In many cases, the disaster recovery or backup hardware has the same configuration, making these products extremely expensive.

As the public cloud has continued to mature, data protection software has evolved to make use of cloud resources as a backup target. Initially, these products were focused on simply placing a copy of data into the cloud as a relatively cheap off-site location. It removed the need to worry about shipping tapes or other kinds of physical media. One of the biggest trends in data protection is the move toward using the public cloud as both a backup target and a location for recovering applications in the event of a disaster at the primary site.

The most recent advancement in software for backup has been the ability to take a virtual machine instance running on premises and adapt it to run in the public cloud. Although VMs are made up of files that emulate traditional hard drives, this translation process is more difficult than it seems. Virtual machines have embedded drivers to support virtual devices, like network and storage adapters and disk drives. Bringing up a VM in the cloud means changing details like Media Access Control addresses, IP addresses and, possibly, directory services entries such as Active Directory. There are also licensing considerations, as many software products are licensed by processor/socket and system ID.

Ensuring an application or VM can be kept in sync between the primary and DR location is very important. Many products either run drivers in the VM or emulate storage in the hypervisor layer, diverting a copy of I/O to the software for backup. Once DR is invoked and the remote copy brought into action, updates must be brought back to the primary site after the DR issue has been resolved.

These kinds of software for backup options provide the ability to significantly reduce the cost of DR for organizations that simply can't afford to run a secondary site.

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This was last published in July 2016

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