How to Protect Data During a Virtual Migration

Server virtualization has become a popular trend in enterprise IT. When migrating from a physical to a virtual environment, IT professionals need to ensure that their company’s data is protected, current and readily available.


If you’re one of the laggards, the holdup might be because you’re wondering, “How can I ensure that my company’s data is protected, current and available if we convert to a virtual server?” or “Do I convert manually or use an automated P2V (Physical-to-Virtual) product that streamlines the set-up and configuration process, and keeps my data current and readily available?”. These are important questions. The good news is, with the technology available today, the answers might be easier than you think.

Selecting a hypervisor

The first step to consider is selecting a conversion process compatible with your selected virtualization product. Contact your virtualization vendor for recommendations and customer references. Whether it is VMware, MicrosoftHyper-V, XEN or Virtual Iron, most will provide you with direction on how to accomplish the process. And if native P2V tools are not available, the vendor probably has software partners that provide this functionality. Having a list of questions to ask about the process will help get you started. Seven important questions to ask are:

Question #1: Does the virtualization supplier have a native P2V process?

Question #2: Does it require downtime of my production server, and if so, how much?

Question #3: How long will the conversion process take?

Question #4: Will I have to reinstall the application on the virtual machine or will it do that for me?

Question #5: How will I keep data changes current once the conversion process starts?

Question #6: Will all my network and application settings be maintained?

Question #7: What happens if the process fails before it completes? Do I have to start over?

Considering backup and recovery

The next step is to back up every server you plan to convert and review your recovery plans. Some processes will require lengthy downtime of the production server and/or preparation of the applications on the virtual machine, which you should figure into your plan.

There should not be any additional risks to the production server during conversion. But, if the process fails, you should be able to bring that physical server back online and start over. However, if there is a more severe failure in the middle of the P2V process, execute any existing backup or high availability procedures you have in place. The length of the recovery process will depend on the severity of the failure. Below are three examples of types of failures you could face:

Failure type #1: Site failure

If there is a site failure due to a power outage, fire or a weather-related event, you have a bigger problem on your hands than just the fact that your P2V process failed. So you won’t exactly be concerned with recovering just one server as much as you will be with implementing your business continuity plans to get business-critical servers operating to a functional level as quickly as possible.