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Backup Solution minimum downtime

Hi All

I would like your expert advise regarding  the following scenario.
We have a customer with 5 servers, all running DC,EXCHANGE,SQL etc... respectively
Lately we had a completely failure on our exchange server and thank God we had a recent conversion of that server on our ESXi server which we use for this purpose. Unfortuantely the image was 2 weeks old so we had some difficult time until we bring back all emails, that cost time and money to the customer.
Now the customer liked the idea of ESX server and is asking of some kind of backup/fault tolerance/DR solution that will bring back any server in case of failure in no more than an hour.It can either be the same physical or virtual machine. He is asking if we can implement such as scenario using an automated conversion or backup system for our servers and that it will cost no more than 5000 euros.

My idea was to propose to the customer to buy Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 2010 starter kit that gives 5 server and 10 desktop agents. The idea is that symantec BESR will backup all servers on a daily basis on external hdds and then convert automatically those images to a server running Vsphere ESX licensed version.In this scenario when a physical server dies i can immediatelly turn on the virtual machine that was converter last night from BESR. I tried this scenario using trial versions of BESR and vsphere but it never worked.When BESR is performing the conversion a "very general error" pops up saying that BESR cannot covert the snapshot due to either disk space, network errors,privileges etc. I am 100% sure that none of these are the cause of the problem. Reading many forums regarding this error i ended up thinking that symantec is advertising a product that can do something which in reality i dont think it can do.

I am open for suggestions,solutions,advices and anything else you can think of as a solution according to this budget....

Thank you

Watch Question

As per my understanding of your query, you are running 5 different physical servers at present which provide various services like Exchange, Domain Controller and SQL in your environment.
Please correct me if my assumptions are wrong.
1.May I know what is your present backup strategy ?  
2.On what kind of Hardware are these physical Servers running at present ? (Dell / HP / IBM, Tower / Rack / Blades)
Top Expert 2010
First question...how many ESXi hosts does your customer have? If under 3, here is a very inexpensive option for you:
So, since your customer is ok with "some" downtime, you may not need HA, which is fine. With ESXi, free version, backing up VMs is not simple/automated. It can be done, but the VMs need to be turned off to do so. If you have a 'purchased' version of ESXi, backup capabilities are greatly enhanced and can be automated. First, see this link on cost of purchased version of ESXi. It has recently been reduced by 1/2 (only $495) and I hear from a fellow EE expert that this pricing is only good till the end of June:

Next, here is a link to compare the ESXi editions to see if you want more/less features:

(here's another link just for more info: http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/small-business/)

All you really need is an option that has vCenter. Then this is what I recommend to backup your VMs. First, and hopefully, your customer has some traditional backup (Veritas, Acronis, Avamar, Commvault...something). You can use that to back up regular data (file storage, Exchg/SQL DBs, etc.). Then, what I would do is get Veeam Backup & Replication to back up your VMs (see: http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esx-backup.html; you can trial it for 30days). With Veeam, you have the option to b/u to local storage (either external drive, or some network share, or local storage) on the box Veeam is installed on....or you can b/u to an ESX/i datastore. You have the option to either create a replica of a VM or b/u. With replica's, if you have a VM that crashes for some reason, all you have to do with a replica...if it's replicated to a ESXi host...is power it on and you're back up and running. If you have a b/u, you'll need to do a restore before being able to power it up. Veeam has thin provisioning, VSS/quiesing capability, as well as de-dup'ing, and restore points (so you don't have to do full b/u's each time). If your Exchg/SQL data is on a VMDK file and part of the VM, you can backup everything (every file in the VM's directory). If the critical data is, say on a SAN, and the DB storage is connected to your VMs via RDM, you can simply back up only the VM files (can't back up RDMs), then restore the b/u if your orig VM crashes and then restore the Exchg or SQL data from your traditional b/u solution.

As you can see, you have some options here AND you can stay under budget (this depends on how many hosts your customer has I guess too). Veeam is $500US per physical socket. So, if your customer hosts have 1 quad-core CPU, it's $500.

Let me know if you have further questions.

Have you not looked at some of the snapping tools for vmware :

veeam's backup toolset

phdvirtual - they did a free version of there backup express tool ?

Vizioncores tools
Top Expert 2010

FYI - be careful on terminology; snapshotting is not a b/u strategy and shouldn't be used as such. Snapshots are solely to be used for doing updates to VMs, and THEN REVERTED/COMMITTED back to the parent disk of the VM when update testing is done. Snapshots are not your friend! :)



Answer to arunraju:
The present backup strategy is Arcserve with agents that performs backup on tapes.
All servers are HP ML350G4

Coolsport00 has been very informative and i will begin testing the trial period of veeam straight away.

bonkeydave also gave me extra considerations for phdvirtual and vizioncore which i also find interesting and thank him also for this info.

You may want to elaborate on how you lost the Exchange server.

In my opinion, the best strategy to protect Exchange is:
1. Double Take to run real time replication between LIVE and Standby
2. DPM to run daily backup and hourly snapshots

This will provide you the maximum protection over the Exchange and the least amount of downtime.

I would also set up a second DC if you don't already have one.
I am glad you are able to get things started. :)


Thanks for all your help guys