What is Bare Metal Recovery and what are its Advantages/ Limitations?

Bare Metal Recovery RestoreWhy Bare Metal Recovery (BMR)?

Before exploring Bare Metal Recovery, we should see how a normal back-up process works briefly- You have a back-up agent installed on the clients/ servers that need to be backed up and a back-up server/ appliance that actually coordinates and stores the backed up data. Of course, the main aim of back up is to restore the data and hence the restoration process (on a machine whose hard disk was replaced, for example) basically consists of reinstalling the operating system first, then the applications and then the data and then the settings/ configurations. All these are individual processes that needs to be done individually.

As you can guess, the chances of making errors in the above process are higher, as chances of human intervention (and reconfiguration) going wrong is more during the restore. It also takes more time to properly restore and check if everything has been done correctly, and troubleshoot if not. Bare Metal Recovery was introduced to make this process easier, better, faster and fail-proof.

What is Bare Metal Recovery/Restore (BMR)?

If a server or a group of servers are totally destroyed (by a disaster like flood, fire etc), Bare Metal Recovery still enables the IT team to recreate them from scratch (on a different system/disks) including the Operating System, its configuration/ settings, patches, applications running on the operating system and (perhaps with the help of a back up software) even the data! The BMR solutions mostly follow automated processes with minimal human intervention – hence they are fast and mis-configurations could be avoided. So, the hardware on to which the system is being recovered can be devoid of any operating system, file formats, partitions etc, and the BMR would recover all of them! So, the restore disk could just be a bare metal (roughly)!

Some BMR solutions take snapshots (images) of the entire disk and back it up frequently and restore to the most recent snapshot. This however makes it difficult to restore the data in a dissimilar hardware configuration. Some more vendors tweak their backup solution a little and add the BMR component to the same where each component(operating system, application, etc) could be separately installed (with changes, if required) as the backup solution stores the data and BMR solution backs up the operating system and the settings/ configuration.

What are the advantages of Bare Metal Recovery (BMR)?

  • BMR is faster than manual backup processes.
  • BMR is prone to lesser errors as human intervention in the backup process is minimized.
  • Saves a lot of administrative efforts during a disaster as all the settings/ configuration remains intact and the trouble of e-installing¬† individual softwares , operating systems manually can be avoided.
  • Certain BMR solutions allow incremental backup and restoration, which saves a lot of storage space and bandwidth, and helps backing up to a remote location.
  • Some vendors offer integrated BMR and Backup solutions which enable BMR to be added as an additional component of the regular backup where the configuration/ settings/ operating system etc are restored from BMR and data is restored from the normal backup software.
  • BMR can restore not only to the latest backup point, but also to any available (earlier) backup points.
  • BMR can recover the whole server, operating system and applications (or) selectively recover some of them.
  • BMR can be used for automating server migrations (to other physical or virtual infrastructures) too, as the process is almost the same.

What are the disadvantages of Bare Metal Recovery (BMR)?

  • A common problem in BMR is the recovery to dissimilar hardware configuration (when compared to the original systems from which they were backed up), as the device drivers for the new hardware will most probably be different. But certain BMR solutions can handle this and recover to any new configuration of the hardware.
  • BMR solutions are mostly specific to the operating system of the systems that need to be backed up and restored.
  • BMR solutions generally do not support recovery from tape drives and even the ones that do, require that the BMR software and the tape drives be purchased from the same vendor.
  • While backing up servers are critical, a lot of data is resident on mobile devices like laptops and tablets. More over, they keep frequently changing and sometimes cannot wait till the scheduled backup happens. In those cases, Continuous Data Protection might be more apt than bare metal recovery.
  • BMR is more focused on disaster recovery and a company that has no investments in a backup software, would hesitate to invest for pure DR. Even if the company has a backup solution in place, there is no other option than to buy the BMR solution from the same vendor. And some backup solution vendors don’t integrate with BMR.

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One Comment

  • Robert

    Nice technology write up – a few vendor suggestions might help point people in the right direction though.

    Thanks for your comment, We do recognize the value in mentioning vendor names but right from the beginning, we wanted this website to be vendor neutral because that allows us to represent technologies from multiple vendors, and besides the readers could also focus on the features and the functionalities of a product/ technology than who has what. It provides a vendor neutral platform for evaluation purposes as well. But you do have a point, I agree to that.