Virtualisation specialist Veeam claims to have cracked a major obstacle to image level backup within virtualisation environments, a problem that so far has raised questions about the integrity of virtual machines.

The new technology, SureBackp, has been developed to deal with the problem that backups by themselves are not always accurate. The company points out that even after a successful back, there's no guarantee that the operating system and applications will start without errors without testing and verify the recoverability of every backup - a horrendously expensive and time-consuming task.

Veeam claims that it has now solved this challenge. Doug Hazelman, director, global systems engineer Group at Veeam said that the problem was one faced by all administrators. "It's called crash consistent recovery- we're taking the image of a powered-off system and it has to be powered back on but each time, we're taking a snapshot of the backup and there's no guarantee that every backup will be accurate."

The company uses proprietary technology that, for the first time, allows a virtual machine to run direct from a compressed backup. By publishing the content of backup files direct to ESX hosts, Veeam said that it eliminated the need to extract backup files, and the time and storage required to do so. Hazelman said that the technology would work for any application that runs under VMware. "We're entirely application and operating system-agnostic," said Hazelman. "It works because we look at each virtual machine as an image, previously, you had to bring up data, now the entire server can be rendered as an image.

The company stressed that it was not talking about products but a new technology. "The products won't be available until the second quarter of this year." said Hazelman, "we wanted to release information about the technology well in advance to ensure that everyone understood it," he added.

"Historically, backup archive validation has provided assurances of backup archive file integrity, but not of the applications and data contained within the archive," said Chris Wolf, senior analyst, Burton Group. "Virtualisation provides a gateway for innovative solutions to include validation of entire application stacks as part of the backup process. IT professionals no longer have to lose sleep wondering if critical data can be recovered, when they can leverage innovative solutions that validate the application integrity of each backup job."