Disaster Recovery and Backup Strategies for the SMB

When infrastructure (server or storage) fails in a traditional, physical environment, there is typically resulting downtime while a complex and lengthy recovery from backups is reconstituted.  In most cases, this requires time obtaining and setting up identical replacement hardware, then additional time to recover the operating system, applications and data from the backups.

In a virtual environment, the abstraction from the physical hardware provides more flexibility in the backup and recovery approaches you can take, but ultimately, the questions to answer about your VMs and applications are relatively unchanged.  You will want to look at each VM/application individually and answer questions such as:

  • What is your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) per VM/Application? How quickly do you need to recover your data? Do you require failover in minutes or traditional restore time?
    • The Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the duration of time in which a VM or Application must be restored after a disaster.
  • What is your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) per VM/Application? Are you okay with crash consistent VMs?
    • The Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is the maximum tolerable period in which data might be lost from an IT service due to a major incident.
  • What is your bandwidth between sites? How often does the data change? 

With these questions answered on a per VM/Application basis, you should now be prepared to evaluate the options in the market for Disaster Recovery.

Backup Strategies with HC3

In cases where applications need to be recovered from backup due to logical corruptions or human error, HC3 VMs are abstracted from the physical hardware meaning that you can restore that VM to any HC3 system, even a different cluster at a different location.  The HC3 system also includes built-in snapshot capability that can be used to protect and restore applications running on HC3 VM’s to a previous point in time.   If you have multiple HC3 systems, snapshots can be replicated automatically to the remote cluster providing that same recovery capability using off-site data.


HC3’s built-in, cluster-to-cluster replication works by storing VM data files on a share that can be selected for replication to a remote cluster which can be configured to automatically run as often as every 10 minutes to monthly (depends greatly on the change rate of your data and bandwidth between sites to determine the length of time to complete the replication). From the remote cluster, the share containing VMs can be “restored” to a fully writable share and if the remote cluster is HC3 capable, any or all of the recovered VMs can be copied into new VMs on that remote cluster and started remotely.   This process is appropriate for those Virtual Machines that have a High RTO and is often used as a supplement to the alternatives outlined below.

Average RTO/RPO:

HC3 Virtual Machines can be backed up using virtually any 3rd party backup software that supports the guest operating system and applications running on HC3.  If you are migrating an existing physical machine to a VM, you likely do not need to change your backup strategy at all.

3rd party backup agents (if required) can be loaded into the guest operating system allowing them to be backed up over the network the same way a physical server would be backed up and with the same type of recovery options available.

Backup products that support full system backup and recovery (aka bare metal recovery), should be able to restore an entire virtual machine to a previously backed up state by re-creating an “empty” virtual machine (if required) and booting that VM using that products bare metal recovery process, which is usually a recovery CD/DVD image (ISO file) or PXE server.  Examples of products with such capability include Symantec System Recovery (also available with BackupExec), Acronis True Image, Double-Take RecoverNow and many others.  In addition, recent versions of Windows include their own built in backup and recovery tools that can be used inside each VM to meet backup and recovery needs.


For workloads that require a low RTO, products such as HC3’s Availability powered by Double-Take give users immediate recovery from any system outage by continuously capturing changes as they happen and replicating those changes to one or more servers at any locations, locally or globally.  This provides near-zero data loss for full-server failover in minutes.  This tool can also be used to backup virtual machines running in a non-HC3 environment (running on VMware, Hyper-V, etc.) to an HC3 system and vice versa.

For help in implementing your backup strategy with HC3, please give us a call!  Scale has several application notes and services around the options discussed here and we’re ready to help.



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