As organizations look to their managed services providers (MSPs) for help streamlining workflows and improving operational efficiency, virtual machines should be a key part of any business-grade IT environment today. While virtual machines—or VMs—have long played a role in digitally driven organizations, they’ve become essential for teams that want to increase the capabilities of their IT assets, improve organizational agility, and add an extra layer of security to their digital infrastructure.
The number of organizations using VMs is already substantial, and it continues to rise each day. A 2016 report found that 48% of respondents were running 1,000 or more VMs in virtualized environments and 31% of respondents running 1,000 VMs or more in the private cloud. A follow-up report done in 2018 saw all surveyed cloud providers see increased adoption—often dramatically. As an increasing number of businesses begin to understand the value-add of operating VMs, these figures will continue to climb—and that means MSPs must be able to provide the kind of support their customers need to get the most out of this IT trend.
Managing virtual machine backups is one of the most critical aspects of VM support. With popular VM services such as Microsoft Hyper V and VMware vSphere, it’s up to you to efficiently store and protect critical organizational data without disrupting existing workflows. By doing so, you’ll make sure your customers are prepared in the event of a serious data recovery situation, such as a cyberattack, system failure, or natural disaster.
However, while backups are a must for anyone employing VMs, that doesn’t mean everyone has their best practices down. These can differ between Microsoft Hyper V and VMware vSphere, so it’s important to understand the ins and outs of each if you’re going to provide customers with the peace of mind they need when running critical operations in a variety of virtualized environments.
What is Hyper-V?
Microsoft Hyper-V is a popular virtualization software tool that comes in three versions: Hyper-V for Windows Servers, Hyper-V Servers, and Hyper-V on Windows 10. While many virtualization applications are limited to virtualizing operating systems, Hyper-V is unique in that it can also be used to set up and operate virtualized versions of hardware assets such as hard drives and network switches.
Another benefit of Hyper-V compared to competing products is that it’s not restricted to virtual machines on a user’s workstation. Instead, it can be used to create and manage VMs across an entire IT environment, such as servers. This makes Hyper-V a popular option for organizations that want to maintain dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of VMs at the same time, while being able to set all of them up using the same virtualization application.
Other organizations may use Hyper-V to create virtual machines for a diverse range of reasons. For example, VMs are a popular option for running different operating systems on the same physical device, in a virtualized environment. This can be an important tool for developers building enterprise tools, and can allow employees to work in operating systems that they may be more comfortable in.
Additionally, teams may want to use Hyper-V to set up virtualized versions of other IT assets. For instance, running virtualized environments on servers is an increasingly popular way to boost operational efficiency. This practice ensures servers are being fully used and that different workloads are separated from one another. Server virtualization can also have cybersecurity and data continuity benefits—safely isolating VMs in their own environments in case other workloads are breached or corrupted in some way.
What is a good Hyper-V backup strategy?
To effectively reap all of the benefits of Microsoft Hyper-V, it’s critical that MSPs and their customers back up their virtual machines on a regular basis. Otherwise, they risk losing critical workloads and carefully adjusted configurations in the event of a system failure, cybercriminal attack, or natural disaster. In these situations, knowing that you’ve invested in a good Hyper-V backup strategy is a must.
When preparing your Hyper-V backup plan, there are several important things to keep in mind to make sure you execute responsibly and strategically. First, it’s helpful to remember that Hyper-V’s checkpoints are not comprehensive backups in and of themselves. While these checkpoints do capture images of VMs (and data) at a certain point in time, they capture older information. This means that if you need to restore a VM for whatever reason, you’re going to revert to old data that may be significantly less valuable to you.
Second, MSPs should take the necessary steps to protect Hyper-V backups once they’re completed and run performance checks to ensure they’ve been backed up properly. For the former, encryption is a popular way to secure production data. After all, VM backups are essential to your customers’ data continuity plans, so taking every possible step to protect them from internal or external bad actors is essential.
For the latter, it’s important to make sure your Hyper-V backup strategy worked to plan. By checking to ensure your backups have been stored successfully and have been capturing data in a way that will be usable to you in the future, you’ll be doing due diligence that will pay off down the line. This can be particularly necessary depending on what operating systems and VM applications you’re using and what the backup process would look like for you and your customers.
What are the best tools to help with VM backup?
Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere are both popular and effective virtualization applications that can offer important capabilities for your customers. However, despite the rich features they offer for setting up and operating virtual machines across organizations, many users find them challenging to use—especially when it comes to complicated processes like backing up VMs beyond the checkpoint or snapshot functionalities that they each offer.
Accordingly, you should be on the lookout for third-party tools that can supplement your virtualization applications to take the guesswork out of VM backups. With SolarWinds® Backup, MSPs can get the full suite of cloud-enabled tools they need to streamline backups for their customers’ virtual machines. SolarWinds Backup can help with Hyper-V backup, VMware backup, and more—storing critical business continuity information in a secure global cloud with industry-leading recovery options. Whether you’re looking for full-image restores or you need to recover essential applications, SolarWinds Backup offers the kinds of rapid recovery you’ll need in any data loss scenario.