I have inherited a mission critical pound server running CentOS 6.5 running on VMware. Server needs updates and patching for Shellshock but we do not want to do anything to it without having a complete backup and restore plan in the event of things going wrong.

Actual hardware is located at a remote location so I am looking for a solution to fully backup this server and be able to restore as quickly as possible.

Have looked at Acronis and Clonezilla, looking for ideas, thanks for any help.

  • 2
    Snapshots are a great and quick way to restore from any issues following such operations.
    – Sven
    Oct 7 '14 at 18:52
  • Snapshots are good just so long as you don't let them hang around for a long time as it will cause an increase in disk utilization the more the snapshot and running host diverge!
    – mdpc
    Oct 7 '14 at 21:50

You also have a couple of other choices:

  1. Copy the entire host in VMware, thus you have an entire copy of the host. Although you can do that while the host is running, I'd recommend against that.

  2. Take the system down to make a copy of the underlying VMWare files. If there is a problem with the system you could then either recopy them and/or reimport the host if needed.

  3. Finally you could backup the host using the standard Linux dump/restore mechanism. In this scenario it could be used to reconstruct either another VM or another hard metal host.

Again, I'd go for the snapshot facility, keeping in mind to delete the snapshot once the patching is confirmed. Snapshots can be a hidden source of disk space use and expansion as the snapshot and the running host diverge in content from the time the snapshot was made. It can also significantly complicate the restoration process for the host using the underlying VM files.

  • If storage space permits it, I'd keep snapshots of the system both before and after patching. I'd keep such snapshots around until one is confident the system is working as intended, that could be a few weeks or a few months.
    – kasperd
    Oct 7 '14 at 22:09

I'd recommend using the current backup solution you (should) already have in place... Since this is a mission-critical system...

Short of that, patching for Shellshock is non-intrusive and can be done without the fear of data loss.

As mentioned elsewhere, using a VMware snapshot is the easiest way to handle any rollback concerns. Do that to get through this immediate issue.


Snapshot the server restore to the snapshot if something goes wrong.

  • 2
    While this answer is technically correct and echoes the advice offered by SvW and mdpc, it's a bit short for a Q&A site. Could you please expand a bit? Oct 7 '14 at 21:55

I'm afraid that snapshots are not, by any means, a way to backup your VMs.

One good metaphor is to imagine a clerk piling up papers in a side of this desk. He knows he will be asked by his supervisor to report the work done during the week, so he just inserts a posit note before leaving the office each day and continues to pile up papers when he arrives the following day. If at any time, he is asked to report how much work he had finished by, let's say, Wednesday, he just has to remove the papers on top of the Wednesday posit and the state of the pile will be returned to exactly the time when he left the office on Wednesday evening. Once the supervising labor has ended, he can remove the posit separators and there will be no way to know the state of the pile at a given day, but all information will be there anyway.

The information contained between the posit notes are the snapshots, we can remove posit notes and consolidate the papers with the data underneath, or remove the topmost block of papers and revert the state of things to how they were the day before. But that does not mean we have a copy of the paperwork.

If for whatever reason: I/O error, hardware flaw or physical damage arise and one of the snapshots or base disks gets damaged, you may loose your VM, and won't be able to restore it.

We offer a totally free VMWare ESXi backup solution that is cron programmable and allows to perform hot backups of your VMs. There is no limit in the number of VMs you can backup and you can install to any number of hosts. It has an extremely low footprint on your servers and it is a stand alone solution that works in the free version of ESXi, so you can use it to backup your VMs in spare servers, like in a hosting environment.

Download here: https://33hops.com/xsibackup-vmware-esxi-backup.html

Man page: https://33hops.com/xsibackup-help-man-page.html

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