Bare Metal Recovery: Pros, Cons, and Alternative

BMR pros and cons

What is Bare Metal Recovery and Why Choose it?
As an organization, it is vital to ensure data protection and security. When you back up your firms’ information and data, the main aim is to restore it in case there is a disaster, such as power loss, natural disaster, or human error. One way to do so is via Bare Metal Recovery (BMR).There are various kinds of data backup and restoration methods out there—traditional and newer ones—and each has advantages and disadvantages.

What is BMR?

Wikipedia defines BMR as “a technique in the field of data recovery and restoration where the backed up data is available in a form which allows one to restore a computer system from ’bare metal,’ i.e. without any requirements as to previously installed software or operating system.”
Bare Metal Recovery enables the re-creation of the entire system from scratch. This technique enables data recovery and restoration where, in theory, the backed up data will be available in a form that enables anyone to recover an entire system.

Advantages of BMR:

  • No need to reinstall individual software and operating systems
  • Ability to recover whole server, operating system, applications, and programs
  • Ability to automate server migration to either physical or virtual environments
  • Huge admin cost savings

Disadvantages of BMR:

  • Inability to restore to dissimilar hardware (some providers claim to have found a way to circumvent this issue, but in practice there are high failure rates)
  • Doesn’t always support recovery from tape drives, unless the BMR software and tape drives are from the same vendor
  • Complexity – It is usually an intensive, proprietary process that relies on a third-party OS to configure new hardware for a restore

Alternative Solution to Bare Metal Restore

One alternative to traditional BMR is the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) recovery offered by Zetta. This option creates image backups in the VHD format, which makes the recovery process smoother and simpler compared to traditional bare metal recovery.

The VHD-centric approach offers several advantages:

  • Standard Windows Technology – The server images are stored and saved in Microsoft’s VHD format. The image can then be restored to non-Microsoft virtualization systems, Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization solution, and also onto physical Windows servers.
  • Work Within Windows – The process stays within the Windows environment. This speeds up and simplifies the VHD recovery process. This reduces potential problems, especially with updates to the Windows operating system.
  • No Recovery Delay – Since the VHD format is inherently compatible with the Windows OS, it can be used immediately after the server image has been recovered from the cloud. There is no need to convert from a proprietary format or wait for specific hardware replacement.
  • Flexibility – A VHD server image can be mounted and read as disk, booted into Hyper-V, converted to VMDK, or burned back on to a physical box.

Chris Schin, Zetta’s VP of Products, explains how appliance-free VHD works in this video:

Conclusion

If your organization is looking for a BMR solution, keep in mind that BMR requires that you restore onto similar (if not identical) hardware. Creating a boot CD for drivers might not work as failover machines might have been upgraded, rendering the boot CD useless. Let’s face it—in today’s dynamic environment, as failover machines are upgraded constantly, it is impossible for IT staff to upgrade drivers continually. In some instances, virtualization could be the best solution as it will avoid the issues of hardware—allowing you to restore to dissimilar hardware.

BMR is a complicated process that might not always work. It has limitations, including the inability to recover data from tape drives. BMR is dependent on the operating system the backup was backed up from, and also requires that you exert a lot of effort, such as applications re-installation, to recover data.

Systems like Zetta’s VHD Recovery are an excellent alternative to BMR, and work in the Windows environment, with no recovery delays, and enable you to mount and read, and boot into Hyper-V, as well as convert into VMDK, and also burn data back onto a physical box. This flexibility allows you to go from virtual back to virtual, from virtual to physical, and from physical to virtual.