Time to backup your backup

Don’t lose what’s important

scyther5Everyone has files that are important to them and it would be a disaster if they were lost.  Years’ worth of pictures from graduations, kids growing up, and even items like tax returns or import documents that have been scanned for digital file storage.  Keeping digital files can make it easier to store, as well as search for later.  The problem is, what happens if your hard drive crashes and you lose everything?  A good backup plan is something that most people tend to forget about.  Many people will backup pictures and documents to one main hard drive and believe that is good enough.  What happens if that drive dies?  I had a colleague bring me the external hard drive where she had kept all the pictures of her children growing up.  The drive had crashed and after looking at it, I had to let her know there was nothing I could do to retrieve the files.  The drive was dead.  She lost years of pictures.  She was under the impression that it was on an external drive and that was good enough.  The truth of the matter is, you can never have too many backups.

Don’t be fooled by cloud storage options

Cloud storage programs such as Drop Box, One Drive and Google Drive are great places to store files, but you need to keep them stored somewhere else as well.  For me , I keep my son’s pictures on my laptop and backed up to my Microsoft One Drive account.  Then from time-to-time I will run a backup of those photos to my external hard drive that I keep connected to my wireless router.  This way the pictures and important files are kept on my laptop, in my One Drive cloud storage and also on an external hard drive.  These pictures are so important to me, I will probably even back them up a fourth time to something like DVD.

Do follow the Backup 3-2-1 Rule

This rule states:

3 – Copies of anything you care about – Two isn’t enough if it’s important

2 – Different formats at least (more is always better in this case) – examples of this would be Dropbox (or other cloud storage) + DVD, or hard drive + USB stick

1 – Off-site backup – This means using a cloud storage option such as Carbonite or Crash Plan.

Crash Plan and Carbonite are topics in of themselves, but these are great programs to back up larger amounts of data.  With programs like One Drive and Drop Box, you tend to get one folder that is backed up.  With Crash Plan and Carbonite, you can back up your entire computer if necessary.  Look for upcoming posts about Crash Plan and Carbonite where I will explain exactly how they work and why they are a good choice.  In the meantime make sure you backup your important data by no less than the Backup 3-2-1- Rule.

As always, we welcome your opinion and questions. Do you have a data backup plan in place? How are you keeping your files and precious memories safe?

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
[email protected]
©Custom Systems Corporation 2014

XenServer Backup Options – Part II

In this second of a two part series, we’ll discuss available options for XenServer Backup.

Citrix Xen ServerIn Part I of this blog post , I began discussing backup options for XenServer.  I touched on the tools that come with XenServer and cruelly ended it without getting into the topic of third party backups.  In this second part, I am going to completely skip over that subject and make you wait for Part IV.  Don’t ask what happened to Part III.  OK, I am done kidding around (for now).  Third party backup solutions generally fall into one of three categories: backups done through storage replication, backups performed at an OS level, and backups performed using snapshots through the XenAPI.

Storage Replication

Backups done through storage replication utilize the replication abilities built into your backend storage (SAN or NAS).  The VMs stored on your SAN or NAS get replicated to another site by the storage device.  This is both a backup and disaster recovery option.  However, it is probably the most expensive option because it requires two or more storage devices in different geographical locations with a pipe between them big enough to support the replication traffic.  File level restoration becomes a problem because the VM as a whole is replicated without a way to parse data inside the VM.

OS Level

Backups done utilizing at the OS level is the traditional method of backing up a server.  Even though these are virtual machines, they are still fully functional servers.  The hardware they run on is different, but in essence to the OS, that is a difference in drivers used.  The OS is still the same.  You can use your traditional backup software which usually (not always) places an agent in the OS to perform backups of the server system state, data, and files.  This could be solutions from Symantec, Carbonite, Acronis, ComVault, and hundreds of other backup vendors.  For those of you with smaller Windows server VMs and wanting to save money, you can even employ Windows Backup which comes with Windows.  OS level backups is a method in which you can keep from using multiple solutions providers and will provide the most granular level restore options for the OS, applications, and services.  One solution will probably handle it all.  However, you will be restoring a server the same way you would a physical server.  Fix the hardware, install the OS, install the backup agents as needed, and then restore.  This is a big differentiation from solutions geared towards backing up virtual machines as a whole image because they enable you to restore a VM back to its state at the time of backup without rebuilding the server.

Snapshots with XenAPI

Backups done through snapshots utilizing the XenAPI is a very common form of backup for a XenServer.  This method backs up the server as a whole image.  Many solutions utilize this method.  In fact, you can find free premade scripts people have posted that will perform this function for you.  You just won’t get any bells and whistles with a script.  And that is what differentiates the 3rd party backup solutions over just getting a script.  The bells and whistles 3rd party vendors include catalog and sort options, give broader control over the storage being used, and other features.  Some of these solutions have features that will mount the snapshot to allow you to perform granular recovery.  PHD Virtual (acquired by Unitrends last year) was one of the first well rounded support offerings for XenServer.  Over the last few years, it has grown to allow you to do granular level restores even for Exchange and SharePoint.  Quadric Alike is a well-rounded solution.  Its product trial is a free version for one XenServer that does not expire.  So, if you are a small shop with only one XenServer, here is a good free solution.
Ideally, a solution that provides both physical and virtual server backup solutions with granular level restore would be what a lot of administrators are looking for.  It would be your single backup product that covers both physical and virtual worlds.  SEP Software Corp offers such a solution as well as Symantec NetBackup.  Many of these solutions started out as a standalone products which were incorporated into a package or integrated into another solution.

As I stated, I am not covering anything in-depth and my purpose was not to review solutions in this article.  It is more about awareness.  If you would like to offer a suggestion I did not mention, please do so in the comments below.





Sr. Network Consultant
[email protected]


© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation