Definition

virtual machine replication

Contributor(s): Laura Fitzgibbons

Virtual machine replication is a process used by information technology (IT) professionals to create backup versions of virtual machines (VMs) The backup can be kept and used to restore the machine in the event that its data is corrupted or lost.

By replicating a secondary version of an important business system, a company can insure the safety of important files and processes and improve the reliability of their performance. VM replication can also help organizations meet their high availability goals since replicating the primary VM for recovery purposes does not have to affect uptime.

There are two major types of virtual machine replication that provide organizations with various restore points:

  • Real-time VM replication- Data is copied to the replicated VM as it is being written, giving the most precise backup. However, this requires a large amount of hardware and bandwidth.
  • Point-in-time VM replication- This initiates data replication on a scheduled or requested basis.

How VM replication works

The backup version of a virtual machine may be created on the host where the original VM resides, a neighboring local host or a host somewhere remote to the organization. Computer professionals can configure their backup VM with a primary and secondary site.

In order to perform a replication, the primary and secondary sites must meet certain criteria. The primary site needs to provide all of the services available for the virtual machine and the secondary site is a place where those services can be migrated, whether in the same room or a separate remote site location. For added security, it is a good practice to host the secondary site somewhere that would not fall prey to disasters or weather events that could impact the primary site, like a fire or hurricane.

Primary and secondary sites must include a data center and the secondary site needs to be configured to replicate all of the same resources of the primary site. For instance, this could include storage capabilities, hardware and workload.

In the event of data loss or damage to hardware, the backup from the alternate location can be quickly implemented for speedy recovery. The faster that a system can be restored with its virtual machine replication, the stronger the business continuity and the faster that work can resume. Most virtual machine replication is done by an application like vSphere that handles creating and maintaining the mirror system.

This was last updated in May 2019

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