Image-Based Backup: Options for Collecting Images on Physical Systems

Author: Jason Mattox

Backup 2.0 technologies use images to re-invent how data is collected, transmitted and recovered during the data protection process. Image-based backup is intuitive on virtual systems, where images are created for Virtual Machines by the system. However, image-based backup can also be beneficial on physical systems with appropriate handling to create the image.

In this blog entry, I describe several options for creating images on physical systems. Created images can be used as a better basis for data protection.

Options for Converting a Physical System to an Image


On a physical system, there is no naturally-occurring single file which encapsulates the OS, application and system data. Creating such a file can be a relatively simple process. There are a few different methods which are available from Vizioncore to do this: system replication and using a binary injection model.

Converting a Physical System to an Image with Replication

Replicating the complete set of data required for the image from a physical system to a virtual server over the LAN is simple and easy to manage in an environment. Once established, the replicated image is kept current by sending only the changes in system configuration and data as they occur. Because only changes in the system and data are replicated, this is a fast and efficient method for creating an image of the physical system.

The replication occurs over a LAN between a physical system and a virtual server. Once on the virtual server, the physical image is available for image backup. In the event that you don’t want to store the physical image on a virtual server replication can also occur between a physical system and a Windows share location on the network, from which is can also be protected.

Converting a Physical System to an Image with Binary Injection


Another option that can be used to create a physical system image uses the same type of binary injection process described for backup of a virtual system in my <a href="http://vizioncorum.com/?p=784" target="_blank">January 26 discussion</a>.

Using binary injection avoids the need to deploy any software on the physical system, such as a backup agent. Instead, the binary file is injected into the system at run-time, does its job to create the image file on the physical system, and then is completely removed from the system.

I have been asked if injecting a binary isn’t kind of the same thing as an agent. It’s definitely not. This is a real difference in design that reinvents the operational experience of backup for administrators. Eliminating the need for an agent eliminates a huge amount of cost and administrative burden. Think about it: no agent means no deployment, no maintenance, no license tracking, and no upgrade. Injecting the binary at run-time means that the binary always matches the current version of the system and its applications. Removing the binary after the job is complete means that there is no ongoing overhead of running an agent in the background on the system.

Backup of a Converted Physical System Image


You might be wondering, if there is any difference in the backup process for a physical system image placed on a virtual server and a regular Virtual Machine image. The answer is no. The backup process works identically. This includes all of the efficiency capabilities built into the collection process for Backup 2.0, including compression and de-duplication.

In fact, the physical system image can operate like a Virtual Machine. This conversion process enables backup, and it also enables rapid conversion from physical to virtual machine deployments. For this reason, we often work with our customers to identify physical systems in their environment which are better suited to conversion to virtual machines more quickly. These include systems which are more static – which don’t often change their configurations and which don’t write new data. Systems like DNS servers, web servers, and security servers are good examples.

Systems which are static do not require frequent backup. So, why pay for expensive Backup 1.0 agents for those systems? Static systems are a great place to begin with image-based backup on physical systems.

Look for my next post soon on the topic of restoring physical systems with Backup 2.0.

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