February 3, 2008

Backing up your virtual machines

After spending quite a few hours installing virtual machines and setting up snapshot chains, I backed up my work simply by copying all virtual machine files to another disk.

When working on a project using a virtual machine, I'm using another backup strategy, as I need automated, daily backups with at least 7 days history. Here Norton Ghost 12 really shines. Among its features, Ghost can do complete disk backups and restore these directly as VMware disk files (.vmdk).

On each "vital" virtual machine, I install Ghost and set up a daily backup of the entire virtual disk to another physical disk, or (preferably) to a network drive. I set up a complete backup every 7 days, and differential backups each day in between. The backups run at lunch time where my virtual machine is typically fired up, and I won't be bothered.

Ghost is quite efficient in both backup speed and compression. For instance, I have a 20gb virtual disk, and Ghost only uses 11gb to store a complete disk backup. Each differential backup typically takes up another 100 - 1000mb. The time it takes to do the backup is less than the length of my lunch break (< 30 mins) ;-)

So, if my external HD (where I keep all my virtual machines) dies, or if the .vmdk file somehow gets corrupted, or if I mess up something inside the virtual machine - I can be back up and running in no time. Even if my host PC is lost, I can be working again on another PC quickly.

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