Most IT organizations have server virtualization well under way. One issue to consider moving forward is how virtualization affects data backup and restoration.
IT departments that have deployed CA's ARCserve Backup will find that ARCserve Agent for Virtual Machines helps meet the challenge of backing up and remotely restoring virtual servers without having to add another manufacturer's product. IT shops that have yet to deploy CA's backup software may find that the features of the ARCserve Agent give them a reason to invest in CA for their virtual environment.
I took a look at the ARCserve Agent in combination with CA's ARCserve Backup File Server Suite, testing it in a VMware environment. The software is a good fit for small to midsize virtual environments and offers a strong continuity of operations tool. ARCserve also does an excellent job of backing up application files, which makes it ideal for organizations running virtual desktops over thin clients.
ARCserve Agent takes advantage of all the built-in features of VMware, including the VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) interface. There's no need to run backup agents on each virtual machine (VM) -- a single agent runs as part of VMware. The Agent also works with other VM environments, including Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer.
IT managers can also use VCB's multistream feature, which lets them perform multiple VM backups simultaneously. And ARCserve offers deduplication of VM backups, which makes backup storage more efficient. Through deduplication, the repetitive operating system data associated with multiple VMs doesn't overburden the organization's disk and tape storage.
ARCserve uses VCB to move the processing required for VM backups to a dedicated backup proxy. This cuts down on the processing overhead of the VMware server, so backup occurs without significantly affecting VM performance.
The IT team can then run frequent incremental backups without worrying about the impact on the production environment. Also, because VCB lets the backup run over a storage area network to the proxy server, the impact of the backup on network performance is significantly reduced.
The ARCserve Agent also offers additional features for IT shops using Windows VMs. The software can run backups of individual VMs at the file level, which lets IT staff restore individual files to a specific previous state without having to perform a full restore of the system.
ARCserve Backup Agent for Virtual Machines makes it easier to handle a mix of requirements because it supports mixed-mode backups. A mixed-mode backup lets IT combine backup jobs so the staff can run a snapshot of the whole server (raw mode) and daily incremental and differential backups in file mode -- within a single backup job. In the case of VMware, this offers the efficiency of its built-in raw feature while still delivering the ability to restore individual files.
The Agent also lets IT automatically restore a VM in the event of a crash. There's no need to manually start the recovery process, which means less downtime and a lighter workload for IT. And if the staff needs to restore a file to a VM, ARCserve offers single-step file-level restores from image-level backups of the guest operating systems.
The main disadvantage of ARCserve Backup Agent for Virtual Machines is that its file-level and application-level backup features are available only for Windows VMs. If an organization runs virtual Linux systems, those systems have to be backed up in raw mode.
Finally, ARCserve may not be the right choice for IT shops supporting a large-scale virtual environment. This software works best for organizations that support 100 to 5,000 virtual Windows servers and clients.