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Virtual server recovery in place offers quick restores with limits

SearchDataBackup contributor John Hilliard spoke with George Crump of Storage Switzerland to learn more about virtual server recovery in place -- a feature of some VM backup software products.

Recovery in place is the ability to be able to run an application from a backup instance of a virtual machine (VM) directly from the secondary storage location. Recovery in place allows users to continue operations without having to first perform a restore of the primary VM.

"The big gain, in theory, is that you save that transfer time," said George Crump, founder of Storage Switzerland.

Recovery in place works best in situations where there could be hours or longer between backups, according to Crump. He said that organizations with narrower backup requirements could find that recovery in place "isn't as helpful" and is usually secondary to other availability techniques, such as replication.

"As far as quick recoveries and being able to more or less instantly attach to a second copy of data, recovery in place is phenomenal," said Crump. "However, you do have that window -- you're still going to lose some data."

Another consideration is whether the duplicated VM is running on hardware that can support a production environment, especially if an organization decides to use a relatively less expensive option -- such as a backup appliance or the cloud.

Recovery in place doesn't require identical primary and secondary hardware to make the process work. Crump said that running an application on high capacity, lower performance hardware like a backup appliance can slow applications dramatically. Deduplication and compression further impact performance.

"Not only will the application perform badly, the disk backup appliance will perform badly for everything else going on," said Crump, later adding that "if you really want to leverage recovery in place as a cornerstone of a data protection strategy, you might need to augment a disk backup appliance."

Crump said the biggest players now offering recovery in place are Veeam and Unitrends (PHD Virtual). He said that recovery in place may be a good fit for many organizations, so long as it is compatible with their requirements.

"Every data center of any size … could leverage recovery in place in some fashion," said Crump. "How they leverage it will vary depending on what their performance requirements are."

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