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How to use SnapCenter for VMware backups

NetApp storage appliances and VMware's vSphere platform provide widely used data center resources. Combine their capabilities by using NetApp's SnapCenter to back up vSphere.

One of the most common setups for virtual environments is to use vSphere -- vCenter and ESXi hosts -- in conjunction with NetApp storage appliances. Both VMware and NetApp offer best-in-class resources, which makes the pair of vendors a good combination to host critical on-premises workloads.

Of course, you must know how to back up these workloads in order to run the servers in your virtual environment. You would traditionally back NetApp up via a disk-based system using the company's patented technology: Snapshot, FlexClone, SnapMirror and SnapVault. Pairing these backup technologies with vSphere enables you to back up and restore VMs, data stores and virtual machine disk (VMDK) files, databases and even certain granular file systems.

Backup strategy for implementing SnapCenter with vCenter

Before implementing SnapCenter with vCenter, think about your backup strategy. A comprehensive backup strategy requires you consider and decide on when and what to back up, how long to keep backups and which NetApp backup technology to use.

You can use snapshots on an hourly or daily basis to back up entire data stores. This practice not only captures your data store at a given moment, but also enables you to back up and restore the VMs and VMDK files within those data stores. It also means you don't have to worry about adding VMs to a backup strategy manually, since they run on these data stores. However, don't rely on snapshots as your only backup strategy, as snapshots do not hold up in the long term.

Backup prerequisites

Before you back up vSphere data, consider what you need first. You must have a backup policy, NetApp Storage Virtual Machines (SVMs) and have resource groups in place before you can begin.

A backup policy includes settings such as the schedule and retention policy. The resource group defines what specific data stores and VMs NetApp should back up.

After you have created what you need, you can begin to run your backup jobs. You can also monitor these jobs from your vCenter Web Client.

Restoring vCenter from a backup

NetApp snapshot backups take literal seconds to complete, and SnapCenter enables you to perform file system restores as well.

When using SnapCenter with vCenter, you can perform the restoration process in a few ways, including by using clones, mount operations or storage vMotion. However, with Network File System in play, the process is a simple SnapRestore. When you restore a VM, keep in mind your backup overwrites the entire VM. To circumvent this limitation, clone your original VM before running a restore job. This way, you essentially have a backup that can undo your backup, in the event that something goes wrong.

You can restore specific files from the VM file system with Windows VMs, but not Linux. To do this, attach a backup of a VMDK file to the original VM and then restore those files, which copy to the original VM.

Using a REST API

APIs are all the rage nowadays, and SnapCenter offers a method to manage the backup and restoration of vSphere with a REST API. You can also find REST APIs for adding NetApp SVMs, attaching or detaching VMDK files and downloading job reports.

If you use both vCenter and NetApp, you can use SnapCenter as a simple and efficient method for backing up VMs. NetApp enables you to back up and restore in a seamless and fast manner. NetApp snapshot backups take literal seconds to complete, and SnapCenter enables you to perform file system restores as well.

Dig Deeper on Backing up VMware host servers and guest OSes