Data center managers have embraced virtualization as a cost-cutting measure and a reliable means of consolidating servers. My school district is no exception. But I have struggled with backing up my virtual servers for a couple of years now and have been relying on traditional file-by-file backup software to get the job done.
As I searched for alternatives, I stumbled across Veeam Backup and Replication, which is quite possibly the easiest backup software for VMware environments. Backups created with Veeam are exact copies of virtual machines, while traditional backups often aren't useful for fully restoring a working system.
Ideally, end users will never know that servers are running in a virtual environment. However, as with any server, there eventually will be some downtime that has an impact on users. With the ultrafast backup engine in Veeam Backup and Replication, you can recover a downed server in a matter of minutes. If you are using the replication feature and the server goes down, end users might never know that they are working on a replicated system. The bottom line? By reducing the downtime that end users might otherwise experience, Veeam Backup and Replication can boost their productivity.
Why It Works for IT
IT departments that have made the move to virtualization, while enjoying its many benefits, surely have struggled with backing up their virtual machines (VMs).
Veeam Backup and Replication fills the gaps in the VMware Consolidated Backup engine. The VCB is similar to Windows Backup in that it provides a minimal set of server backup features that are insufficient for all but the most simple environments. Veeam utilizes the VMware vStorage API for communicating with your data stores and securely copies data to your backup destination (with optional encryption).
When deploying Backup and Replication, you have the option of using nearly any accessible storage device. I use a Drobo external drive array with four 2 terabyte hard drives linked by a firewire 800 connection.
Backups can also be saved to USB thumb drives as well as to a stand-alone recovery tool. This is a great option if you need to restore a server at a remote connection and don't want to push the data over a WAN connection.
During one backup, Backup and Replication pointed out that two of my VMs had not been upgraded to the latest version of virtual hardware and advised me that they could not be backed up using the changed-block tracking method. After upgrading the virtual hardware for those two servers, I was able to increase the backup speed of one particular server from 5 megabytes per second (for a full backup) to 160 MBps (for changed blocks only) by utilizing the changed-block tracking. This is typical backup performance for Veeam in my environment.
Backup and Replication is simple to set up. Once in the administration console, add your VMware servers through the wizard and select which VMs you want to back up. Within a few minutes you can create the entire backup regimen run it. Additionally, you can create different users and roles for large environments. This is great if you have an Exchange administrator who doesn't handle Linux servers or Active Directory servers.
Licensing for Backup and Replication is per CPU socket, which works well for high-density environments. I was unable to try the replication feature because my VMware environment would not provide a realistic representation of the feature set. With a call to technical support, I had an answer to my questions within a couple of minutes.
Veeam Backup and Replication is a reliable, robust product that does the job it was created to do, and does it well. One problem is that the software only works in a VMware environment. Another issue is that the changed-block backup only works when VMs are upgraded to virtual hardware version 7. This may be the impetus you need to finally upgrade to vSphere, VMware's upgrade to ESX. Hardware version 7 is built-in to vSphere.