Using a virtualization-specific backup solution in a production environment significantly simplifies the restore process, especially for servers that are difficult to restore, such as those running Microsoft Exchange Server, SQL Server, SharePoint, or Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. Because the backup solutions essentially perform an image backup of the virtual machines (VMs), restoring a VM is as simple as restoring the VM's disk files on the host and starting the VM.
I recently tested Veeam Software's Veeam Backup & Replication, which supports both VMware ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V servers. It comes in two editions: Standard and Enterprise. Both editions include backup and replication (local or remote) functionality. Table 1 summarizes the features included with the Standard and Enterprise Editions. The Enterprise Edition costs around 30 percent more than the Standard Edition, but I think that the features in the Enterprise Edition are well worth the additional cost, especially if you run applications such as Exchange, SharePoint, and SQL Server. You can upgrade from the Standard Edition to the Enterprise Edition by paying the difference in price.
Veeam Backup & Replication's licensing is based on the total number of physical CPU sockets you have on all your ESX or Hyper-V hosts. If you have six or fewer CPU sockets to purchase for your entire company, you can buy Veeam Essentials, which is sold in two-socket bundles. However, a company can only buy up to three two-socket bundles. If you have more than six total CPU sockets on your ESX or Hyper-V hosts, you must purchase Veeam on a per-socket basis. You have two options. You can purchase Veeam Backup & Replication as a standalone product or as part of the Veeam Management Suite, which includes Veeam Backup & Replication and Veeam ONE (Veeam's monitoring, documentation, and business categorization application). Veeam Essentials also includes Veeam ONE.
Veeam Backup & Replication consists of several components:
- Veeam Backup Server. This is the main software that schedules and performs the backups.
- Veeam Backup Enterprise Manager. This software provides centralized management of multiple Veeam Backup Servers. You need only one instance of Enterprise Manager to manage multiple servers.
- Veeam Backup Search. Used in conjunction with Microsoft Search Server, Veeam Backup Search is used for offline system catalog crawls and searches. If you have more than 200 VMs, you'll have much faster search results with this software when the file to restore might be located on multiple backups.
From this point on, I'll concentrate on the main features of the Veeam Backup Server component running in a VMware environment.
Installation and Configuration
Although you can install the Veeam Backup Server software on a VM, I suggest that you install it on a dedicated physical server because when the software is running, it places a significant load on the server. Veeam suggests a server with at least two cores and 4GB of memory if you plan to use a local SQL Server instance. If you're using a remote SQL Server instance, you can configure the server with 2GB of memory.
The installation of the Veeam Backup Server software is straightforward. Because the backup server must communicate with either a vCenter server or ESX host, the backup server should be placed in the same network as the vCenter server or ESX console network. Ideally, this should be a separate dedicated management network that's isolated from other VM traffic.
Before you run the installation program, you should verify that valid entries exist for all vCenter servers, ESX hosts, and the backup repository (which I'll discuss shortly). These entries can reside either in a DNS server or local HOSTS file on the backup server. Make sure that all resources (vCenter servers and ESX hosts) can be resolved.
For me, the installation of the Veeam Backup Server went very smoothly. When you run the installation program, make sure you have at least 10GB of free space on the drive on which you install vPower NFS. This technology enables running VMs directly from backup files.
After the software is installed, you need to create the backup repository. This is where the backup files, copies of VMs, and metadata for replicated VMs will be stored. The backup repository can be DAS on a server, NAS, NFS storage on a Linux server, or Just a Bunch of Disks (JBOD). I also recommend that you back up the backup repository to some type of offline media, such as tape. I typically run a full backup of the VMs over the weekend and run incremental backups to disk during the week. After the daily backups are finished, I run a separate backup job to tape.
When planning for disk space, make sure to account for the total amount of disk space that your VMs use, plus space for the incremental backups. Veeam does a good job with compression and deduplication of the backup images to save space, but to be on the safe side, I recommend purchasing at least 1.5 times the amount of storage on the host or cluster. More storage lets you keep more backup history on disk, without having to restore from tape.