If it is so much more inefficient, why do so many backup administrators use an agent-based approach? Is there anything that agent-based backup offers that hypervisor-level backup can't?
I think that the main reason why so many organizations still use the agent approach (guest-level backups) is because of conditioning. Prior to the widespread adoption of virtualized servers, we were all in the habit of backing up individual servers. Although host-level backups do away with this requirement, many people continue to back up individual virtual machines because the process feels familiar to them.
That isn’t to say that there are no advantages to performing guest-level backups. Guest-level backups often offer better compatibility with legacy backup software and application awareness can sometimes be less of an issue.
Another advantage is that guest-level backups allow you to pick and choose which virtualized servers you want to back up, and you even have the option of including or excluding resources within the virtual machine. The vStorage APIs offer these same capabilities for host backups, but not all backup products take advantage of these capabilities.
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