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Agentless protection of vSphere guest machines
PPR offers fast and reliable agentless disk-imaging backup or replication of online and offline Windows, Linux or other OS guest machines supported by VMware. The use of VMware CBT (Changed Block Tracking) and the patent-pending Paragon’s ITE (Image Transfer Engine) ensure full and incremental images are created with the minimum time and impact on vSphere. Flexible retention policies, enhanced data processing methods, automatic exclusion of irrelevant data, and the innovative pVHD format allow the optimal usage of backup storages. Employment of MS VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service) when taking snapshots of Windows machines, guarantees data consistency. Introduction of Paragon’s ProTran®, a unique data transport protocol and a two-tier storage infrastructure, open up further minimization of backup windows and network traffic for simultaneously made images.
Backing up vSphere guests
Unlike traditional backup tools designed to work with physical machines, PPR can operate at the virtualization layer and directly employ the VMware snapshot mechanism to do backups. It doesn’t need an agent on a target virtual machine to create its point-in-time copy including its configuration, operating system, apps, etc. This approach significantly enhances the backup performance, while minimizing the load on target machines and the hypervisor during the process. Besides, there’s no need to provide credentials for every guest to do backups.
Replicating vSphere guests
For high-availability virtual environments that run the first tier applications, PPR complements VM Backup with VM Replication. Replication provides the best RTO (Recovery Time Objective), for this technique implies creation of clones (replicas) of target machines on a certain ESX datastore and their registering on the host under different names. Replicas are stored uncompressed in their native format, thus they are ready-to-go at any moment. All changes since the initial full replica are written to VMware native snapshot files, acting as restore points, thus allowing the usage of the VMware revert-to-snapshot mechanism to further accelerate disaster recovery scenarios, providing for almost zero downtime operation.
Recovering vSphere guests
With PPR you can recover a virtual machine to any good-to-know point in time and place it to the original or a new location. When restored to the original location, the original machine will be deleted (it should be offline). When restored to a new location you will be prompted to provide a new name for the machine, a host and datastore to reside it, virtual disk type, and network properties. Our product will change the VM configuration file and store the target machine according to the defined location. For replicas the whole disaster recovery procedure comes just to its launch, which may take only a couple of seconds.
Agent-based protection of physical machines
PPR offers agent-based backup of Windows physical machines. Any Windows OS computer on the network can be protected entirely, by separate volumes or drive letters. Almost all technologies used for the agentless protection of VMware ESX guests are also available for machines protected through on-site agents (MS VSS, Paragon’s ITE, ProTran, GoForSure, pVHD). By embedding a special plug-in, users can monitor backup activities on target machines through the system tray. Wake-on-LAN Assistant allows waking up remote target machines to do backup. There’s no need to install it on all machines that require it – the administrator just picks one and it will automatically wake up all others that share the same subnet when needed.
Backing up physical machines
Target machines should be added to the infrastructure directly from the console or on-site to embed a special agent that will interact with the infrastructure and accomplish backup tasks. It’s possible to create a special policy that will periodically check Active Directory OUs for new members to automatically add them to the infrastructure. When setting up a physical backup policy, you can specify as a backup object entire computers or separate volumes. All backup images are being highly compressed during creation by using redundant data exclusion filters and Paragon’s VHD backup format, which eases the backup storage requirements.
Recovering physical machines
With PPR you can recover a physical machine to any good-to-know point in time. Data volumes (non-system volumes) can be restored remotely, while system volumes and entire machines – on-site with a special WinPE media prepared beforehand through Boot Media Builder. To do a restore operation the target computer should have a network connection to Administration Server or one of Backup Servers. Thanks to the third generation of Paragon’s Adaptive Restore technology, the same hardware components are no more a demand – you can restore a Windows based system (any since Windows XP) to a completely different hardware by injecting required drivers and other actions crucial for this type of migration. Paragon’s Recovery ID allows minimizing time and effort of restore operations – the administrator sets up a one shot restore policy in the console, assigning it a particular ID. The user only starts up the failed computer from the WinPE recovery media and enters the obtained ID, thus initiating the pre-configured restore operation.
Agent-based protection of virtual machines
The agent-based backup technique can also be applied to protecting guests hosted by non-commercial VMware ESX, where the VMware snapshot mechanism is unavailable, or for VMware fault-tolerant configurations that do not allow agentless protection. Moreover, it can help to protect MS Hyper-V host as well as Windows guest machines hosted by other hypervisors.
PPR allows browsing contents of virtual or physical backup images as well as VM replicas to do granular recovery of separate files and/or folders. Required data can be restored either locally (on a machine where PPR Console is installed) or on a network share, provided the original directory structure is kept intact if necessary.
MS Exchange Protection
PPR offers agent-based protection of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007/2010/2013 and its email databases. By operating at the application level through MS VSS (Volume Shadow Copy) API, administrators have no need to allocate time for backup windows, for PPR enables to create consistent database backups without any impact on the production email server. As for MS Exchange, PPR supports all latest backup technologies, like incremental backup chains, data retention mechanisms, block-level data de-duplication, replica databases, etc. But its main advantage is in flexible restore – restore of all or certain databases to the original or new location, including restore to RSG/Recovery Database with the option to create a dialtone database to let users send or receive emails in the process. When restoring the latest backup in the chain, there’s the option to replay transaction logs, thus achieving minimal possible data loss. PPR also allows non-destructive restore of certain mailboxes. By default, their contents will be restored to the original location, provided none of the already existed email items are lost. If necessary, you can specify any mailbox and a folder where you’d like the restored data to be placed to. If using PPR together with Paragon Granular Recovery (PEGR), you can easily connect a backup email database to MS Outlook to view and extract certain emails.
Restoring Exchange databases to new location
Obviously restore of Exchange email databases may take hours, which is dangerous for any present day business. Inevitable downtime however can be practically avoided by using the so called dialtone databases during the process. The essence of this technology is that users of the problem Exchange Server keep sending or receiving emails, while their mailboxes are being restored. When the restore process is over all emails from the dialtone databases are moved to the restored databases, thus no information is lost. Microsoft provides instructions on how to use dialtone databases, but it’s too complicated, involving many actions from the command-line PowerShell console. Paragon offers to do the same by going through a handy 5-step wizard, and even optimizes the process, getting unprecedentedly fast restore timings.
This scenario has little to do with disaster recovery. Let’s consider quite a typical situation when an Exchange administrator needs to restore a single mailbox – one of the employees left the company several months ago. According to the internal security policy, his/her email account was blocked and then deleted. Suddenly his/her former boss is requesting to restore that mailbox as it contains very important information. Obviously, if the administrator doesn’t have the option to restore at the mailbox level, he’s in trouble. The same goes when important emails are deleted by accident. PPR allows non-destructive restore of certain mailboxes. Mailbox contents can either be restored to the original location, provided none of the already existed email items are lost, or to a new location.
PPR supports a two-tier storage infrastructure that optimizes the backup window and network traffic for backups performed simultaneously. In this type of infrastructure, the first-tier (primary) storage can reside as close to the target machines as possible, thus ensuring the highest backup or replication performance. In roughly 90% of all restore cases the local site is operational and only an individual machine requires restoration, in which case the primary storage destination also provides the best restore performance (RTO). The second-tier (secondary) storage can be located off-site (cloud, remote office location, etc.) and serve as the DR site to protect from site outage or, in the case of a single machine being down, to restore from in case the local backup is not available. So, during the dual protection process, first, all target machines are backed up or replicated to the primary, local storage, minimizing the impact on the production environment, and then these primary backups are being copied (archived) to the secondary storage during a time that ensures minimum impact on the network.
Using one second-tier storage
Backup data located on the local storage are copied (archived) to the secondary storage, preferably at times when the impact on the production environment and the network can be minimized, e.g. the weekend or after hours during the week. Any storage device that is supported by your environment can be used, e.g. local, ESX datastore, network share, FTP, SFTP.
Using two second-tier storages
Advanced dual protection scenarios may involve utilizing two second-tier storages. Backup data located on the primary storages is archived to two different secondary storages, preferably at times when the impact on the production environment and the network can be minimized, e.g. the weekend. Depending on the type of the secondary storage, VM replicas can be automatically converted to pVHD images and vice versa.
Local deduplication storage
PPR enables to deploy the so called local deduplication server into company’s network environment. By linking existing local and network backup storages to it, you can make sure they do not contain duplicates of backup data, thus significantly cutting on storage requirements. Besides, deduplication enables to cut even more on network traffic, as again only unique blocks of data are transferred to storages, thus having a positive effect on backup timings, RTOs and RPOs of the company’s IT infrastructure.
* Agentless protection of Hyper-V guest machines is available as a preview release at the moment
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