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Archive for the ‘Disaster Recovery’ Category

September 02, 2014

Why VHD Recovery is Best Recovery

Laura is Zetta.net's Content Marketing Manager. She writes, edits, designs and drinks too much coffee.

VHDRecovery

We’ve been talking about how the new direct-to-cloud server image function in Version 4.5 makes for better backups, and it does! But as anyone who’s ever had to restore a server after a major incident can tell you, backup is only half the battle. The other half – the more important half – is the recovery. And as it so happens, Version 4.5 has some improvements to make there too.

Smoother Restores through Standard Tech

When our customers make image backups with Zetta DataProtect, the image is saved in the VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) format, which is native to Windows. This offers a whole range of benefits for a smoother, simpler recovery:

Standard format. Because VHD is a native Windows format, there’s no need to convert to/from a proprietary backup format. Once you’ve recovered your VHD it’s ready to use immediately, speeding up the recovery process (and here at Zetta.net, we’re all about speed).

Compatibility. VHD is a Windows-centric format and therefore native to Microsoft Hyper-V. However, restores can be done to physical servers as well as non-Microsoft virtualization platforms like VMware.

Restore variety. “Flexible” is a seriously overused word, but this is one circumstance where it absolutely fits. When recovering a VHD, you have lots of choices how to go about it. To name a few:

• Mount and read it as a disk

• Boot it into Hyper-V

• Convert it to VMDK and put it in a Hyper-V farm

• Use standard recovery technology to burn it back on to a physical box

Better BMR. To put it bluntly, the advantage of VHD over traditional BMR is that VHD BMR actually works. In the past, BMR has been more of a nice idea than an actual functioning feature. It’s usually a very intensive, proprietary process that relies on a 3rd-party OS to try to configure new hardware for a restore. With VHD, your restore stays within the world of Windows; the entire process gets a lot simpler and less likely to go horribly wrong.

Keeping Up with Our Users

There’s a common thread in all these benefits: adaptability. It’s a cliché to talk about how the world of technology is constantly changing, but, well, it is. The system setup that works great for a user today might not be ideal for them tomorrow. And when our customers’ needs evolve, we want to evolve with them – not hold them back.

When a user needs to restore a server, VHD gives them the option to do whatever’s best for the situation they’re currently in. If they want to restore a physical server back to hardware, they can do it with fewer issues than trying traditional BMR. If they want to take advantage of a physical server’s demise to virtualize it, the image is already in a format that can be easily added to a virtual platform. And if the server is already virtual? Even better – just spin it up.

Don’t get us wrong – we’re not repositioning ourselves as a conversion tool. There are plenty of utilities out there already that do physical/virtual conversions, and we’re not interested in getting into that game. Our raison d’etre, as always, is backup & DR. But we DO want to make life as easy for our users as possible.

Let’s be honest: if you need to restore your server images, you’re probably already not having a very good day. But with VHD server images, at least we can help make it easier to move forward.

August 27, 2014

Video: Chris Schin Talks No-Appliance Image Backup with Storage Switzerland

Laura is Zetta.net's Content Marketing Manager. She writes, edits, designs and drinks too much coffee.

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It’s often assumed that you need an appliance for enterprise-level cloud backup & DR. How does Zetta.net work without one?

When backing up server images, how does using VHD increase your restore options – and how does it give you a better BMR?

Senior Analyst George Crump of Storage Switzerland recently caught up with Zetta.net VP of Products Chris Schin to ask those questions and more.

The Highlights

1. Zetta.net’s core product principle is to ensure our solutions require no onsite appliance at the customer premise, either physical or virtual. This allows us to eliminate the cost, complexity and scalability issues that come along with appliances. We’re able to do this because we’ve focused our resources on developing WAN optimization technology to rapidly move large files over the Internet without special hardware.

2. Our new server image backup function makes use of standard Windows technology to create an adaptable solution not tied to any specific system or deployment platform. Using the native Windows VHD format makes restores simple, and offers a wide range of options for physical and virtual recovery –including mounting the image as a drive and reading it, booting it into Hyper-V, converting it to VMDK and putting it in a Hyper-V farm or using standard recovery tech to burn it back on to a physical box.

3. Using VHD to restore to a physical box also avoids the pitfalls of proprietary, process-intensive traditional BMR. Since VHD is native to Windows, using it to restore a Windows machine is much simpler and less error-prone than past BMR.

Chris Schin and Storage Switzerland at VMworld 2014

August 21, 2014

Why No Appliance Makes for Better Server Image Cloud Backups

Laura is Zetta.net's Content Marketing Manager. She writes, edits, designs and drinks too much coffee.

ServerImageNoAppliance_v2

Earlier this week, we announced a big set of new features in our Version 4.5 release – the biggest of which is direct-to-cloud server image backups, without the need for an appliance or a local staging drive.

Full server image backups are something our customers have been asking for, and it’s something we’ve wanted to offer for a long time. But we’ve held off on adding this functionality until we had a cloud-first solution we were happy with – which is why we’re very excited to be introducing it in Version 4.5.

There were solutions available that we could have used to bridge the gap, but none of them were really architected to perform best with cloud. Many server image solutions are also reliant on an appliance, which is a non-starter for us.

Why no appliance?

We’ve talked before about why we’re not really big fans of appliances, but here’s why we think they’re not the way to go for your server images.

It delays disaster recovery. This is the big one. An appliance can be handy to have around for everyday restores like deleted files, but in an actual building-on-fire kind of disaster, an appliance can be a real drag on recovery. If you lose your servers and your backup appliance in a disaster (which is a prime situation for wanting your full server image backups, isn’t it?), you can’t restore until you get a replacement backup appliance sent to you – delaying your recovery by days.

It’s complicated. Any time you have to add a physical box to your system, it’s going to make the system more complex. Once you receive your new box, you need to test it, integrate it, possibly troubleshoot it, and then keep it maintained along with the rest of the system. The complexity issue goes double if you’re installing appliances on multiple sites, along with…

It gets expensive fast. Not only is there usually a pretty significant capital expenditure to buy the appliance itself, but the lifetime costs can add up as well. On top of any recurring cloud subscription fees, the increased complexity means increased admin cost as well. And if you’ve got more than one site that needs backing up, you’ll need an appliance for each one – so multiply that initial capital cost.

It doesn’t really do that whole “scaling” thing. Data just keeps growing, and it’s not likely to stop. This is a problem for fixed-size solutions like appliances. You can either buy one much bigger than you currently need (and essentially have half your equipment sitting idle for the time being), or buy one sized for your current needs and hope your data needs don’t expand for a while. When it DOES get full, pretty much the only thing to do is upgrade to a bigger one.

So how is our direct-to-cloud better?

So if appliances have so many downsides, why are they so prevalent for image backups? The short answer is performance. Many cloud-only backup vendors are rooted in the consumer space, and can’t provide the kind of recovery speed that businesses need for serious DR.

This is what makes Version 4.5 special. It’s architected specifically for cloud AND enterprise, with built-in WAN acceleration to move large amounts of data quickly over the internet. This lets us give our customers the level of performance necessary for enterprise data recovery, without shackling them to a hardware appliance.

There’s other benefits, too:

Recover from anywhere, without the wait. Since recovery isn’t limited by specific hardware, users can recover their backups from anywhere with an Internet connection. And since there’s no need to wait for a replacement appliance, recovery can start immediately after a disaster.

More efficient backups. Direct-to-cloud means just that – the image goes directly into the cloud, with no need to first write a local copy to an appliance or staging drive. This means backups get into the cloud faster, since there’s no intermediate step, and use fewer resources.

Scalable by nature. Physical media has an inherent size limit, but the cloud does not. When a user’s data exceeds their current allotment, they can automatically scale up to a higher subscription size, with zero disruption.

We’ll be talking more in the coming weeks about other new applications enabled by our new server image functions. Stay tuned!

August 18, 2014

Introducing Version 4.5

Laura is Zetta.net's Content Marketing Manager. She writes, edits, designs and drinks too much coffee.

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This is a big week for us at Zetta.net – we’re announcing the release of Zetta DataProtect 4.5, the latest version of our cloud backup & DR solution. 4.5 represents a big evolution for us, and we’re excited to offer our customers a lot of new options for how to back up and recover their data. So what’s new?

Direct-to-Cloud Server Image Backups. For the first time, our users can back up full images of their servers, and sync them directly to the cloud – no appliance or staging drive needed, with built-in WAN acceleration to get the image transferred quickly. This means our customers can get their backups into the cloud faster, without needing extra onsite resources to create the backup.

Immediate-Start Server Image Recovery. This is the beauty of the no-appliance approach – if users need their images back, they can start recovering them as soon as they have an Internet connection, from anywhere. Additionally, our server images are saved as VHD files, a format native to Windows – which means that the recovered backups can be used right away, without needing to wait while they’re converted to/from a proprietary backup format.

Physical and Virtual Recovery Options. Everyone’s system is different, and everyone’s needs can change. That’s why we designed our solution to work for a range of physical/virtual server image recovery options:

• Physical to Physical (P2P). Back up a physical server, then recover the backup to another physical server

• Physical to Virtual (P2V). Back up a physical server, then spin up its image as a virtual server.

• Virtual to Virtual (V2V). Back up a virtual server, then spin up the image for easy restoration

Native VHD BMR. This P2P recovery option lets you restore an entire system to new hardware using native Windows capabilities (hence the name). This makes for a less error-prone recovery than traditional BMR methods, which rely on third-party OS.

Faster SQL & Exchange Backups. Like server images, our database backups can now be streamed directly to our cloud, without the extra step of saving to local disk space first.

2-Factor Authentication (2FA). We actually announced this earlier in our response to the Code Spaces disaster, but this additional security option is now entering general availability. Our 2FA option, which uses the Google Authenticator platform, allows you to designate a mobile phone to receive special codes whenever someone tries to access your account, which are then required to log in (in addition to your password). This mitigates the risk of having your password stolen, as a malicious intruder would be unable to access your account without the secondary security code.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into our new services with greater detail. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to drop us a note if you’d like to learn more.

August 15, 2014

BMR: Broken Servers, Broken Promises, Broken Hearts

Laura is Zetta.net's Content Marketing Manager. She writes, edits, designs and drinks too much coffee.

BMRTeaserPic

Nobody was expecting a truck-shaped hole in your office when you came in to work this morning. But there it is, minus the truck that failed to negotiate a turn (but succeeded at using your primary server as a speed bump).

Fortunately you’re on point with your backups, and as Facilities gets the hole covered, you get ready to bring the server back to life. You’ve got your server images all set to go, and a spare server to put them on. It’s not quite the same as the server that’s now chunks embedded in the floor, but you’ve got a bare metal solution so it shouldn’t be a problem. You boot it up….except it doesn’t boot.

Congratulations, you’ve just hit the “*” on “Bare Metal Restore to any server*.”

Bare metal restores are a great idea. Save a server image backup, then restore it to any hardware after a disaster, even hardware dissimilar to what you had before. If it actually worked as promised, it’d be brilliant. Unfortunately, that’s not the usual experience.

The problem with trying to restore to dissimilar hardware is that it’s, well, dissimilar. If you’re trying to graft a server image onto a different machine, there are going to be different drivers, etc that can shut it down faster than a high school party next to a police station.

Traditional bare metal solutions have used their own third-party OS to try to bridge the gap – the idea being that you can load the image, the BMR solution will detect what needs to be fixed in order to get the image going, and then do it. But this is easier said than done, and despite vendors’ best efforts trying to prevent every possible issue is kind of like patching a dam built from Swiss cheese. There’s more hole than cheese.

So is there a way to do BMR that doesn’t end in heartbreak and recriminations? Or is the entire concept a lost cause?

Check back Monday at zetta.net for a BMR breakthrough.



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