Mikko wants to know about best practices for backing up virtual machines. Well Mikko, according to Jeff Woolsey, a Virtual Server Program Manager, there are two ways to backup a virtual machine. Both have pros and cons, so you'll need to determine which method best suits your business requirements. The first method is the recommended option.
Method 1: Back up each virtual machine from within its guest operating system
The first method is to install backup software in the guest operating system and back up each virtual machine in the same way you would a physical computer. The advantages to this method are:
The disadvantages are:
Method 2: Back up all virtual machines from the host operating system
The second method is to back up the Virtual Server host operating system. You can back up the entire host computer and all virtual machines at once, but this can only be performed when all virtual machines are either stopped or in a saved state. The downside is that this is not a “live” backup. You must shut down or save the virtual machines to perform the backup. Otherwise, the effect on your virtual machines will be like pulling the power code on a physical computer and then making a copy of the hard drive. The hard drive might boot next time, but Checkdisk would certainly need to run, and there will likely be corrupt user data.
Why is this a problem? The issue is that when you back up the host, the files on the disk are backed up, but not the memory in use by the running virtual machines. For example, if you allocated 2 GB RAM to a virtual machine and backed up the host operating system, there is potentially 2 GB of virtual machine data not backed up! To safely back up a virtual machine, the entire state of the virtual machine must be backed up which includes:
You can automate this process. For example, you could write a script to save the state of the virtual machines and back up the host operating system, but such a script is not included with the product. In the Scripts category of this blog (http://blogs.technet.com/megand/articles/category/9995.aspx), you can find a sample script for backing up a virtual machine and restoring it to a different instance of Virtual Server, which you can modify for your own purposes. For additional script samples, go to the Virtual Server script repository (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/scripts/vs/default.mspx). The advantage to this method is that the backup may be faster. The disadvantages to this method are:
See the Virtual Server Administrator's Guide for more information about the files and folders to back up and their locations.
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