Useful Tips for Hyper-V VM Disaster Recovery

In order to stay competitive in a business environment, companies are expected to conduct operations and provide services to their customers without interruption. However, this is not always the case, as there are a number of factors that can negatively affect your business processes. Creating and constantly updating a disaster recovery plan enables organizations to mitigate any possible risks while being able to make a quick recovery from the losses that may incur.

What Is VM Disaster Recovery?

VM disaster recovery is crucial in any modern IT environment since businesses can succumb to a series of threats (disasters) that have the ability to undermine a business’ efficiency and general operation.

Essentially, disaster recovery is a set of policies, procedures, and tools that are aimed at minimizing downtime and recovering business functions as quickly as possible. Disaster recovery for virtual environments generally includes:

  • Block-level VM backup and replication
  • Retention of VM backups and replicas at a remote DR site
  • Failover to VM replicas in a case of disaster; use of VM backups for long-term storage and reliable recovery.

VM Disaster Recovery in a Hyper-V Environment

Microsoft has introduced its own built-in virtualization platform, Hyper-V, which provides high availability and business continuity. Hyper-V includes a set of inherent features that enable efficient VM disaster recovery. The budget, infrastructure, and scale of your business operations determine which of these features should be included in a disaster recovery plan. However, disaster recovery in a Hyper-V environment is typically based on the following:

  • Having a DR site, i.e., a location to which an organization can move its processes and operations for the period of a disaster.
  • An alternative virtual platform and database servers. In case of a disaster, the servers and virtual platform software must be prepared at the DR site to host virtual machines. Thus, the downtime is minimized and business continuity is guaranteed.
  • Virtual backup software. Hyper-V uses the technology of Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), which allows the making of backups or snapshots of files, even when they are in use.
  • Replication software. Hyper-V replication allows the use of the copies (replicas) of running VMs as a means to restore the VM in a case of disaster.

This set of means can help an organization create as well as successfully implement a VM disaster recovery plan for their Hyper-V environment.

How to Protect Your Business with Hyper-V VM Disaster Recovery

Hyper-V VM Disaster Recovery can be performed either by backing up or replicating VMs. Both options have certain aspects that should be considered when creating a DR plan.

  • Backup. During Hyper-V backup, a point-in-time copy of a VM is created. It is then sent to a remote site for storage. Business-critical data is stored in a compressed and de-duplicated state. In case of a DR event, a damaged VM can be recovered from the backup in the same state that it was in during the backup process, and will appear on the target server.
  • Replication. VM replication creates an identical copy of a primary VM (a replica) that can simply be powered on in case of a DR event when an immediate recovery is required. Failing over (i.e., shifting business processes) from the original VM to the replica can be critical for business continuity and high availability.
  • RTO and RPO. The recovery point objective (RPO) and the recovery time objective (RTO) play a significant role in Hyper-V VM disaster recovery. RPO and RTO are defined by a DR plan. RPO signifies the amount of data that a business can afford to lose without harming the business. RTO is a particular period of time within which business operations must be recovered after a disaster. VM replication allows much shorter RTOs than recovery from VM backup.

How to Design an Effective VM Disaster Recovery Plan?

Successful disaster recovery is achieved through implementing a well thought-out and fully-tested recovery plan that considers a business’ needs. To design an effective disaster recovery plan, it is important to adhere to the following basic recommendations:

1. Define the most likely disaster scenarios that may affect your virtual infrastructure, and find a way to reduce possible risks of these scenarios.

2. Determine the order in which your applications and VMs should be restored in order to protect business-critical services. Depending on the scale of your business, you might have multiple VMs with different applications. Moreover, those VMs might be interdependent. For instance, you might have a VM with Active Directory Domain Controller, a VM with a database server, and a VM with a web server. In this case, the VM with Active Directory Domain Controller should be powered on first. Then, the VM with a database server can be started as the VM with Domain Controller has enabled user authentication. Lastly, the VM with a web server can be started after the VM with a database server is up and running, because the database can now be used by the web server for proper operation.

3. Consider the recovery point objective (RPO) and the recovery time objective (RTO). Note that RTOs and RPOs should be established for applications and VMs separately. Increasing the frequency of backup and replication jobs would significantly improve your RPOs, but would be resource-demanding; thus a balance should be achieved. The length of RTOs, on the other hand, should be used to define the components of the highest priority, which should be recovered first.

4. Identify the emergency response team that is responsible for restoring your virtual environment.

5. Create a step-by-step disaster action plan, which should be regularly tested and updated.

Useful Tips for Successful Hyper-V VM Disaster Recovery

Here is a list of useful tips that should be taken into account for successful Hyper-V VM disaster recovery.

  • Run and test VM backups regularly. Set the backup schedule based on your business needs and priorities. Regularly test the backup restoration process to check for any gaps in your DR plan.
  • Create and test replicas regularly. Depending on the importance of a particular application or VM for business, you can set up replication jobs to run as frequently as possible, in order to ensure an almost instant recovery. Test your replicas regularly to verify their integrity and recoverability.
  • Failover testing allows verifying a system’s ability to transfer critical operations to a DR site in case of a DR event. Failover testing helps identify deficiencies and mistakes, which potentially have the ability to undermine the DR process.
  • Regularly update your data protection solution. Microsoft is constantly updating its products so it is important for your data protection solution to be able to adopt new APIs and Hyper-V extensions.
  • Store backups and replicas at a remote site. Keeping such data in a distant location allows you to eliminate the risk of having a single point of failure.
  • Apply all Windows Updates to each VM. Hyper-V is changing and developing rapidly, thus Microsoft wants to ensure that its Hyper-V Integration Services are kept updated. The latest Windows updates improve the software, remove outdated features, and provide security fixes for each VM.
  • Test for hardware and software errors. Conducting RAM and disk verification tests, along with checking for disk warnings are essential to avoid system failure as well as the potential loss of data.
  • Keep adequate disk space on your physical machines and VMs to ensure successful backups and replications. Free disk space enables reliable backups and fast replications, while a lot of RAM is crucial when restarting a VM. Thus, it is practical to install a data protection solution that can manage storage space and send notifications about the critical level of RAM.
  • Install and implement a data protection solution that supports VSS. This is attributed to the fact that VSS monitors performance as well as the state of VMs during backup and replication jobs. It is also advisable to configure VSS for the effective optimization of your backups and replicas within each VM.
  • Monitor the recoverability of VM backups and replicas.

Hyper-V VM Disaster Recovery with NAKIVO Backup & Replication

The latest version of NAKIVO Backup & Replication has introduced a set of new features, including the advanced Site Recovery functionality supporting VMware, Hyper-V, and AWS EC2 environments. Site Recovery represents a set of actions and procedures that can be arranged in a particular way to create a site recovery workflow (job). Site recovery workflows in NAKIVO Backup & Replication enable the orchestration and automation of a DR process across multiple sites.

Site recovery jobs include automated failover, which allows the recovery of an entire site in just a few clicks. Moreover, NAKIVO Backup & Replication provides failover of two types: planned and emergency.

  • Planned failover is generally used to protect a system from an oncoming disaster. In this case, the solution performs one last data synch, and then moves the workload from the primary site to the VM replicas.
  • Emergency failover is activated when your primary site is exposed to immediate danger. The solution moves the workload from the primary site to the VM replica without the data synch (to save time). Thus, the minimum downtime is guaranteed.

Furthermore, NAKIVO Backup & Replication can run a site recovery job in a testing mode, which is an ideal way to find out whether your recovery workflows function as planned, and whether your RTO can be met. Testing can be performed either on demand or on schedule.

The possibility of creating a site recovery workflow with the help of NAKIVO Backup & Replication offers a significant advantage to any company. You can create a DR strategy that matches your specific business needs, set it up beforehand, and run it in just a few clicks if disaster strikes. In addition, you can constantly test and optimize your DR strategy to achieve the best possible results (zero downtime, shorter RTOs, high availability, and lower costs).

Conclusion

In a modern IT environment, it is essential to have an effective VM disaster recovery strategy in place. Creating and constantly testing the efficiency of your disaster recovery plan ensures quick response, which allows for minimal service disruption and supports business continuity. Adhering to the basic tips listed above can help you to create a reliable disaster recovery plan for your Hyper-V environment.

NAKIVO’s Backup & Replication is a timesaving and cost-effective tool that provides a high level of flexibility along with ease of use. The product combines a powerful backup solution with a versatile DR solution for comprehensive and automated VM data protection with the shortest RTOs.

Download the Full-Featured Free Trial to test NAKIVO Backup & Replication in your own environment.

Useful Tips for Hyper-V VM Disaster Recovery
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