Backing up apps in Microsoft App-V, Citrix XenApp and VMware ThinApp

Few backup tools target virtualized applications, so here the most important components to manually back up for Microsoft App-V, Citrix XenApp and VMware ThinApp.

In spite of the growing popularity of application virtualization, the major backup vendors don't offer products that are targeted at backing up virtualized apps.

Here are some of the resources that need to be backed up and some basic techniques for backing up applications in Microsoft App-V, Citrix XenApp and VMware ThinApp.

Microsoft App-V
There are four primary components to Microsoft's App-V. These include the App-V Management Server, the streaming server, the App-V database and the content share.

The management server and the streaming server are both stateless, so it isn't critical for you to back them up. That said, if you lose your management or streaming server, rebuilding it from scratch can take a while. Having a backup or a redundant, load-balanced deployment can help minimize the amount of downtime that may result from the failure of one of these servers.

A much more critical component is the App-V database. This is hosted on SQL Server, so you should be able to use any backup application that includes SQL Server support.

The final component that needs to be backed up is the content share. This is nothing more than a shared NTFS folder, so any backup application should be able to back up the content share.

Citrix XenApp
Backing up Citrix XenApp involves four separate resources. You must back up Internet Information Services (IIS), your Citrix Web interface site, the data store and the published applications. Since pretty much any backup application that is designed for Windows Server 2008 should be able to back up IIS, I'll focus on backing up the other three components.

The easiest way to back up XenApp's Web interface is to create a folder on the server's hard drive named "Backup." After doing so, open the Citrix Access Management Console and navigate through the console tree to "Citrix Resources | Configuration Tools | Web Interface | <your Web interface>." After selecting your Web interface, click on the Export Configuration link, located in the Other Tasks section. When prompted, specify the "Backup" folder that you created earlier as the export destination. Keep in mind that if you have multiple Web interfaces or multiple Web interface sites, you will have to do each one separately.

The next component that you must back up is the Data Store. When you back up the data store, you are backing up farm settings, policies, accounts and other persistent data.

Unless you are using a Microsoft Access database, you will back up the data store by running the DSMAINT command on a XenApp farm server. To do so, enter the DSMAINT command with the BACKUP parameter and the path to your backup directory. For example, if you wanted to back the data store up to C:\Backup, then you could use the following command:

DSMAINT BACKUP C:\backup

In addition to backing up the Web interface and the data store, you must also back up each published application. To do this, open the Citrix Access Management Console and navigate through the console tree to "Citrix Resources | XenApp | Applications." The right side of the console should then display all of your published applications. Select the apps that you want to back up, right-click on the selected applications, and choose "All Tasks | Export Application Settings to a File." Make sure you choose the Entire Application option, and then back the applications up to the Backup folder you created earlier.

When you have finished backing up the individual Citrix components, you should also use a backup application to back up your 'Backup" folder to tape.

Keep in mind that depending on the backup software that you are using and on how your XenApp deployment is configured, there may be shortcuts to this process. For example, many organizations host the data store on SQL Server. There are many backup applications with native support for SQL Server backups.

VMware ThinApp
There are two different schools of thought when it comes to backing up applications that were virtualized using VMware's ThinApp. Some organizations prefer to back up the individual application sandboxes, while others think it's better to back up the "Captures" directory.

In my opinion, the best way to back up virtualized applications is to back up the Captures folder. In case you are not familiar with the Captures folder, it is the folder that ThinApp uses when it creates a project. This folder is located at C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware ThinApp\Captures. It contains a subfolder for each application.

The reason I recommend focusing your backup efforts on the Captures folder is because the folder contains a copy of all of the files necessary for generating a virtualized app, including application files, redirected operating system files and a file named ##Attributes.ini, which specifies the isolation mode.

So why not just back up the virtualized application that has already been generated? If you were to back up only the individual virtualized applications, you could conceivably restore those applications if something were to happen to them. However, backing up the Captures folder not only allows you to regenerate virtualized applications, which is handy if the application should become corrupt, but it also lets you modify the application without having to start a completely new project.

I hope this article helps you prioritize backup tasks. Keep in mind that this is an overview and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to backing up every possible configuration of the various application virtualization products.

Read more from Brien M. Posey

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has received Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional Award seven times for his work with Windows Server, IIS and Exchange Server. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and health care facilities and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox. You can visit his personal website at www.brienposey.com.

This was first published in January 2011

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