Integrate Miniserver Snapshots to your Backup Strategy

Miniserver Snapshots are an amazing tool for your operations department. They allow you to create a disk image of a running system that can be used as template to create new servers, or to re-image an existing one.

Snapshots are very handy as a system-wide configuration management tool: you can use them to save a copy of your file system when it reaches a "stable state"; but it is not an effective backp mechanism by itself.

You should implement any sort of data backup system, either based on our backup services or implemented by yourself (we have shown you examples: backing up Linux with duplicity and Memstore and backing up Windows with Duplicati and Memstore).

Just because you're implementing a data backup system doesn't mean you can't benefit from Miniserver Snapshots, especially:

  1. To minimize the time needed to recover from backup.
  2. To perform backup validation tests.

Take Snapshots!

You should take a new snapshot every time you make a configuration change that can't be easily backed up by the data backup. For example: installation of new applications, complex service configuration and system upgrades.

This way, if you need to recover your system from a disaster, you won't be starting from a clean base system install: your applications will be installed and configured and your system will be mostly up to date. Once you have a system up and running with the latest snapshot, you only need to restore the data backup to be back in business.

Testing your Backup Strategy

How do you know your backup strategy is working? You don't want to test it when a disaster occurs: if something is wrong, it will be too late!

Buying some peace of mind is not as expensive as it used to be thanks to Cloud Computing. You can use one of our Miniservers by the hour and order it using your latest snapshot as the operating system. Then you only need to restore your latest data backup and verify that everything works as expected.

This way you can test your backup strategy, so you know your recovery procedure is correct, and it won't cost you much at all.

Some Tips on Taking Snapshots

Based on our experience with customers taking snapshots of their servers there are some tips we can share with you:

  1. Avoid configuring services bound to a fixed IP addresses. It could prevent your snapshot to work properly if used to create a new Miniserver because the IP addresses in the new server will be different.
  2. Use RAW images with busy Windows servers. Snapshots are taken when your system is running, so there may be disk contents buffered in memory or transient application data and because of that the NTFS file system may look inconsistent when processed with ntfsclone. RAW images are less space efficient but aren't affected by NTFS inconsistencies.
  3. You can access your server even without network access. We provide SSH and VNC access to your servers using MemShell, even when your server doesn't have network access. That will help you to fix any problems when creating a new server from a snapshot.

Finally don't hesitate to contact support if you have any problems or questions, our team will be more than happy to help!

Posted July 2012 by Juan J. Martínez , in Ops

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