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Turning to the cloud for VDI disaster recovery

The cloud makes it possible for any business to have a strong VDI disaster recovery plan. You can choose to back up data by file, or you can back up the whole image.

Cloud services can provide the flexibility and low up-front costs that make implementing a DR strategy more feasible...

than ever, but it can be difficult to integrate the cloud with existing systems. Luckily, there are several ways to incorporate cloud services into your VDI disaster recovery strategy.

The servers hosting your virtual desktops are just as susceptible to floods, hurricanes and cyberattacks as your physical desktops, whether those servers reside on-premises or at a remote data center. Even a minor disaster can bring an entire operation to a standstill. But you can minimize the effects that a disaster can have on your business if you have a VDI disaster recovery (DR) plan in place.

Comprehensive disaster recovery plans are sometimes out of reach for companies – small and medium-sized businesses -- that lack the resources or infrastructure necessary to build an effective strategy. The cloud has changed all that.

Backing up to the cloud

Many organizations already back up virtual machines (VMs) to cloud storage services, usually by file-level backup or image-level backup.

With file-level backup, companies copy individual files within the VM to the cloud, whereas image-level backup replicates the entire VM image. In both cases, the data is copied to an off-site location, away from your primary operations.

File-level backups are similar to the traditional types of backups that happen routinely on desktops and servers. An agent is installed on the guest operating system and it controls which files get backed up and when. File-level backup systems are easy to implement and make it simple to restore individual files. But this approach can be cumbersome and time-consuming if you have to restore an entire VM.

Image-level backups are snapshots of your VMs at a given point in time. One method you can use to create the snapshots is to run a backup script or similar mechanism to periodically copy the image files to a cloud storage provider. Then you can restore the entire VM when you need it without going through the tedious process of restoring many individual files. That being said, using a script can be slow and resource-intensive.

A better approach is to do what many services and tools already offer: Back up an initial copy of the entire VM image to storage, and then apply changed blocks to the image at regular intervals. This approach to VDI disaster recovery can help avoid much of the system overhead associated with the script method and provide an efficient and simple mechanism to back up and restore VMs in their entirety.

Some VM storage services and backup tools support both file-level and image-level backups, often without requiring a change to the VM configuration, such as installing an agent. In this way, you're getting the best of both worlds: You can restore individual files if you need them, or restore the entire VM.

Next Steps

DR, DaaS and DraaS

Guide to VDI disaster recovery

Breaking down DR for VDI

Two-pronged approach to VDI DR

This was last published in January 2015

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Do you use the cloud for DR for your virtual desktops?
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We are currently doing this with our most critical infrastructure. We don't do this for every machine, but for the ones that are essential to our operation, we back up and do restores from the cloud (via AWS).
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No comments, but a question to experts.
For most critical infrastructure, Cloud for DR vs High Availability (with failover-failback setup). Which one will you bet on?

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This is something, I think, that many people don't think about. VMware has been fairly vocal about discussing this topic and the necessity to do so.

--KB

Karen J. Bannan, commenting on behalf of IDG and VMware.
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I'm not really getting how this is different from backing up anything else. Is there something specific to VDI about backing up and disaster recovery?
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