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Why are data backups and disaster recovery converging?

Backup and disaster recovery have primarily been treated separately. Learn how server virtualization has allowed these two technologies to converge.

In the past, data backup and disaster recovery (DR) were primarily treated separately. Backup was about making a recoverable copy of data or entire servers, while DR was concerned with continuity of business -- the idea of moving workloads to new hardware and remote locations in the event of a major disaster.

There now seems to be a convergence between backups and disaster recovery, and a great deal of it can be attributed to server virtualization. Most organizations are heavily virtualized, and server virtualization provides a degree of flexibility that simply was not possible until somewhat recently. Not only does the hypervisor deliver new capabilities, but many backup vendors have design features that exploit the portability of virtual machines (VMs).

To give you a more concrete example, consider the instant recovery feature found in many of the newer backup applications. Restoring a server from backup used to take hours, and in some cases days, to complete. Instant recovery features leverage the hypervisor and disk-based backup to allow the backup copy of a VM to be brought online almost immediately.

An organization can use the backup VM copy just as it would use the production virtual machine. A traditional restoration is still eventually required, but it occurs in the background after the backup VM has been brought online.

This is a great example of how backups and DR are converging. The backup application is still making point-in-time copies of the VMs, but instant recovery capabilities have reduced the recovery time objective to levels that were previously only attainable using expensive, high-availability features such as virtual machine replication or failover clustering.

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