P6 Scheduling: Why VM’s are Ideal for Scheduling in P6

In a previous post I mentioned that a Virtual Machine (VM) is ideal for P6 Scheduling. I will discuss why that is in this article. I am also creating a series on how to setup a Virtual Machine and P6. You can find the first of those articles here:

VM is the ideal due to portability and redundancy. The entire client system resides within just one folder on the host system, making it easier to backup. All you have to do to back-up the entire P6 database is copy VM client folder to some place safe. That is it. You don’t have to log into SQL Management Studio. You will not have to run some arcane TSQL query, and prey that everything works fine. All you need to know is how to copy-and-paste files from one folder to another.

Let’s talk about how you backup a Windows system with P6 on it. You can back up a P6 system a number of different ways without a VM. Every one of these options have drawbacks. I’m going to list the ones I can think of here:

  1. Full system Image: This creates a full system image of your entire computer. This includes your OS, your Programs, your documents, and everything else on your system’s hard drive.
  2. Document Backup: This just creates copies of your documents. It can be likened to copying and pasting them to a backup drive.
  3. Database Backup: This creates a backup of your database files. It’s not that difficult to do, but it can be very risky, even if you’re familiar with database administration.
  4. XER Backup: This is when you create P6 XER backups of every schedule you have.

Each of the above methods do not work well for backing up systems designed for P6 scheduling. I will detail the drawbacks of each one using the following scenario:

You brought your laptop to a jobsite and it got flattened by a truck. The system is completely destroyed. There is a silver lining though, you have a backup drive in your briefcase! You go to the local Best Buy, purchase a new laptop, and return to to the jobsite in hopes of salvaging the day.

Scenario 1: Full System Image

The system restore completes after a couple of hours. You log into Windows and notice a lot of odd things. For one, Windows keeps popping up with notifications that “new hardware has been detected” and that it’s “installing drivers”. Your screen is blurry, because the video card in your old laptop is different than the BestBuy one. The system’s resolution maxes out at 1024 x 768 due to missing video drivers. It’s bothersome to work like this, but you’ll manage. Everything works well enough. You think you might be able to get the system up to snuff with a few of more hours of work later that night.

Scenario 2: P6 Document Backup

I’m going to handicap this one and say that you have the Microsoft Office, and Primavera CD’s and product keys available. You start up the BestBuy Laptop and log into windows. The next 2 hours are spent copying files over and installing Microsoft Office and Primavera. You then go to restore the SQL database by trying to connect the database .mdf and .ldf files, but you can’t! You don’t know why, but backups of Microsoft SQL databases are built specifically to prevent this type of use-case!

Scenario 3: P6 Database Backup

Okay let’s say you have successfully made backups of you Primavera databases, then you just have to setup the database correctly, you know how to do that without IT’s assistance right? A summarized list of tasks you need to perform are as follows:

  1. Recreate all database users
  2. Assign users the correct permissions
  3. Import the database backup and hope it all works.

If it does great, but that took you 4 hours to get things up and running again.

Scenario 4: XER Backup

Let’s say you had XER backups of all your work, this is probably the best option available without using a VM. You still have to install P6, Microsoft Office, and wait for P6 to restore the XER backup(s) which can take hours depending on the size of the backup. Additionally, your XER files don’t backup project baselines, EPS structure, layouts, or custom reports. You will have to recreate all of those from scratch. Not to mention that while you may have restored one or two XER backups here at your clients office. You will still have to restore all the remaining XER’s for your other clients. Depending on the number of projects you have, this process can very easily take an entire day to complete.

The Ideal P6 Scenario: Virtual Machine

P6 Scheduling VM Backup Copy and Paste
Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V your cares away!

Ideally you have been using a P6 in a virtual machine and you have a backup of the client system. In this scenario you just install the VM software on your new computer. Then you copy over the client system files and open it up on the host system. You are up and running where you last left off like nothing ever happened. The entire P6 database is intact. You also have Microsoft Office and any other programs you installed on the VM Client.

Okay, so I have convinced you that the best way to setup P6 is to use a VM, or perhaps I’ve peaked you curiosity. How do you set up a VM? You can find the first of those articles here:

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