Using VMWare Data Recovery for Offsiting

Brian HarringtonIT Manager
I work for a firm of about 30 with a healthy amount of sales but not enough to justify the expense of an enterprise level backup solution or appliance.  So I had to make my own.  

Before we went to VMware, we had been using USB hard drives as a backup target for each server which worked pretty well. Using basic Windows backup on the machines proved sufficient to provide data protection and consistency for all applications and files.  

Considering that virtualization adds a level of management between the OS and the hardware, it became obvious that a direct USB connection would no longer be possible  Having purchased the VMware vSphere Essentials Plus Kit, we were entitled to the use of VMware Data Recovery which is an awesome little on-site backup tool.  But it is not designed for offsite transport of the data right out of the box.  

Here's how we made it work:
Set Up VMware Data Recovery through the OVF tool
Add a dedup target, using a local virtual disk.  It allows for CIFS shares, but it doesn't work after you get above about 100GB of pre deduplicated data. It says it supports up to 500GB of deduplicated data on CIFS, but it starts getting inconsistent.
Add your virtual machines to the job
Note that exchange and SQL servers still require an application aware backup solution.  You can back them up with this but will still need to use ntbackup, wbadmin, or a thrid party tool to truncate the logs.
Build or buy a server with a large enough storage array to store your deduplicated image.  This will serve as our backup target.  Also pick up a couple of usb hard drives to serve as sneakernet off site tools.
Purchase and install Trilead VMExplorer, a powerful little virtual disk copier, on the backup target server.  I tried using powershell to pull this off but couldn't get the throughput that Trilead was getting.
Set up a Trilead job to copy the VMWareDataRecovery image to the local disk of the backup target server.
Now write a really simple script like this:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Trilead\Trilead VMX\vmx.exe" /runtask:VDR
                      RMDIR "F:\VMware Data Recovery" /S /Q 
                      robocopy "E:\VMware Data Recovery" "F:\VMware Data Recovery" /S /E /NP 

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And that will about do it. Swap drives daily, and you are good to go.

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