At one time or another every organization is bound to need to recover a server. Maybe it’s a hardware malfunction or a corrupted drive. Or it could be an unexpected physical disaster like a flood or a tornado. It could even be a virus or software problem.
No matter the cause, unless you have unlimited time and patience you’ll want to be able to do a “bare metal” restore—in which you bring back the whole operating system and every other characteristic of a system along with its applications and production data. Although different operating systems might handle it in different ways, it is never a small task.
Unfortunately, many backup and recovery strategies focus primarily or even exclusively on production data, including structured (database) and unstructured (file) data. That, after all, is the information that is most valuable to a customer’s operation and hardest to replace. It’s the data that users and customers care about.
Why bare metal restore software matters for your SMB customers
What’s often missing from this thinking is the equally important “data” in the operating system and applications. It’s all data though, whether it’s file-and-folder, application-native or image-based. Moreover, to get an operation back up and running after a major incident requires more than just the production data. All the pieces are necessary.
SMBs, with their smaller—sometimes nonexistent—IT departments, are particularly bad at recognizing and thinking through their potential need for bare metal restore. File-and-folder and application-native backup techniques enable restoration of different kinds of production data, unstructured in the case of the former, structured in the case of the latter. But only image-based backups—the ones that enable bare metal restore—back up the operating system, application configuration and system state data.
Failing to get those things just right could lead to errors, problems connecting resources, and other blocks to restoring business operations.
Benefits of bare metal restore
Bare metal software solutions have been available in a variety of forms for many years, both on premises and in the cloud. Some of the traditional on-premises oriented companies have offered bare metal capabilities through the backup appliances they sell. Others take a software-only approach, providing a management process for capturing and maintaining up-to-date system images.
The bottom line? Bare metal backups take an operation and bring it back to life—even if they don't have the people and the documentation to figure it out from scratch. Furthermore, since time is money, the biggest benefit of having a bare metal capability is rapid time to recovery.
And, of course, enabling bare metal recovery via a cloud-based provider eliminates most of the complexity of managing image-based backup software in-house, in addition to safeguarding against cataclysmic events like fires and floods.
Regardless of the bare metal approach you use for your customers, it’s always a good idea to test recoveries periodically. No matter how good bare metal is, the process is still mission-critical and potentially complex, and it should be checked regularly to ensure both software and process effectiveness.