Have Cake & Eat it Too: Server Image + File-based Cloud Backups
Opportunity cost is a part of life. If you choose to go to Hawaii for this year’s family vacation, you can’t also go to Yellowstone. If you spend all day powering through a single project, you don’t make any progress on the other projects. If you go to Comic-Con as an Enterprise crewman, you can’t also be a Jedi (well, not unless you’re prepared to deal with an angry mob).
For cloud backup, there’s always been an opportunity cost on deciding between file-based or server image backups. Both have their advantages, but choosing one or the other also meant dealing with certain drawbacks.
The core feature of our latest 4.6 release allows users to explore their VHD server images in the cloud, and choose individual files to restore. Why does this matter to our customers? Well, for the first time it removes the opportunity cost of having to choose between server images and file-based cloud backups.
Image-based Cloud Backups
Server images are a popular form of backups, and for good reason. They offer users several key benefits for ensuring their data is there when they need it.
Since a server image captures everything on the disk, it’s impossible to miss something when making backups. This means no finding out at the worst possible time that the directory you need restored was somehow skipped when the backups were configured. You can rest easy knowing that everything that was on the machine is there in the backup.
Another big plus for server images is that since they include everything – OS and all – you can use one to restore an entire server if things go south. Post-disaster, server images can be a lifesaver.
So what’s the problem? Well, for server images in the cloud, size has always been a big downside. Most cloud-only solutions aren’t WAN-optimized, so depending on the size of the server it may take days to backup or restore a full server image. [shameless plug: guess who’s got two Ts in their name and IS WAN-optimized?]
A related problem is that, traditionally, you haven’t been able to restore single files from server images in the cloud. If you just want to restore one file, you’ve had to restore the entire server image from the cloud, then retrieve your file from within the recovered image. As mentioned, this can take forever with a non-optimized solution – especially compared to the time it would have taken to restore the single file you actually need.
File-based Cloud Backups
As the name implies, file-based cloud backup lets you choose individual files or directories to back up. More importantly, it lets you RESTORE individual files or directories.
Disasters might be spectacular, but they’re relatively uncommon – 90% of the time you’ll just need to restore a single file. File-based backups get you that single file back with a minimum of time and mess. They can also save a lot backup space if you’re only interested in backing up part of a server.
The downside to this, of course, is that specifying individual areas to back up means it’s possible to overlook something. “Sorry, we thought that thing was backed up but it actually wasn’t” is not a fun conversation for anyone involved.
Another issue is that if there IS a disaster, and you need to restore a full server, file-based is not usually the most efficient way to go about it. You’ll need to first reinstall the OS, etc, which adds time and hassle – not good when you’re probably already in a rough spot.
The Best of All Backups
This is the cool part about 4.6: you don’t have to choose between completeness and convenience. Previously, users could use our web-based management tool to browse their files and directories in the cloud, and choose which individual items to restore. Building on the added server image functions we introduced in 4.5, 4.6 allows you to access your VHD images in the cloud and explore their contents like any other directory. You can then choose individual files to restore, without having to recover the entire image.
This gives you the best of both worlds. You can take full server images, and rest easy knowing you’ve got your entire server covered if you need to do a complete recovery (and that nothing will be forgotten in the backups). But if you just need to pull back that one file the VP accidentally deleted, you can select it from inside your image and restore only that file – saving time and hassle.
So go ahead. Rock that Starfleet uniform with a lightsaber. We’ve got your back.