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I'm not an admin, so bear with me! I am in the process of figuring out how to use CommVault for backup/restore of a SharePoint MOSS 2007 small farm - one Web server and one DB server. We also have VMWare ESX and I am wondering would it be possible to take a snapshot of both servers, fully functional, at a point-in-time, and simply revert to these snapshots in the event of a catastrophic failure?

I understand that Microsoft recommends rebuilding the environment using their tools in this type of scenario, but doesn't the ability to take snapshots obviate the need to rebuild servers manually?

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3 Answers 3

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Yes it would work but a few thoughts, firstly ESX snapshots are not a long-term thing, they slow a VM down a lot and shouldn't be around for more that 24 hours in general, secondly you'd be wise to quiesce your open files first to ensure transactions are complete etc.

If you want a nice ESX-only solution the best idea is to get your server how you want, stop all services likely to have open files (MSSQL, Exchange, Sharepoint etc) - then CLONE the VM, then restart your services. This way all files are integral and you have a known working state. That said if you have commvault then you just need to buy their various app-server bolt-ons and it'll backup your VMs accurately by quiescing them first - job done.

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Most backup software such as NetBackup and Commvault have bolt on products that are there to ensure you get cohesive backups of a variety of application servers, they'll do an Oracle one or an MS SQL one and so on, speak to their sales people or look on their site and you'll catch what I'm on about. –  Chopper3 Mar 4 '10 at 23:11
    
Microsoft's guidance is not to do vm snapshots on production servers in the farm. See more comments and quotes from the guidance on my answer to a similar MSDN question: social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/zh/sharepoint2010setup/… –  Tom Resing Oct 19 '11 at 20:02

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but I think the other excellent comments are already leading you down this path: VM snapshots, no matter if you're using Hyper-V or VMware or something else, are not supported by Microsoft in SharePoint farms. If you've got a multi-server SharePoint farm, VM snapshots (especially over time) will lead inconsistencies between your snapshots, something you simply can't have if you're relying on them as a DR solution. For more information, I'd recommend taking a look at the first in an excellent series on SharePoint and Virtualization at the MS UK SharePoint's team blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/uksharepoint/archive/2009/02/26/virtualizing-sharepoint-series-introduction.aspx and the links provided in it.

Basically, the problem is what Christopher is alluding to, but I think its too much of a risk to consider using, especially since Microsoft is taking such a drastic stance on it and not supporting its use.

If your customer has made the investment in the Commvault product, its probably going to offer you a lot more than MS's tools in the way of usability and coverage. If you can't get that working reliably, I'd say you'll need to look at SQL backups of your content dbs, as well as SharePoint backups and backups of the critical files on your WFE (customizations, 12 hive, IIS metabase, INETPUB folder, etc) to get the coverage you need.

John

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+1 thanks for this info John, most helpful :-) –  IrishChieftain Mar 10 '10 at 21:41

You can definitely take snapshots with VMWare. IIRC, it's preferable to power down the host to take the snapshot, although it does also support snapping a live system. And you can indeed revert to a past snapshot.

However, there are some downsides. First off, the existence of snapshots theoretically degrades performance for the guest, as VMware has to maintain a log of changes separate from the original snapshot. Furthemore, it isn't as robust as a Commvault tape backup. If your VMWare storage bites the dust, it's taking the snapshots along with the original server. Likewise if your office building suffers some catrastrophic failure.

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Good point re: the risk factors! :-) –  IrishChieftain Mar 4 '10 at 22:38

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