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esxi, besr, backup vm guests

Posted on 2010-08-18
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
Looking for recommendations, guidance, best-practices, etc.

Currently:
traditional phys servers (OS on bare metal).
Windows OS, running BESR
Primary backup destination - dedicated SATA disk inside server chassis (separate from OS,DATA)
Offsite backup - usb disks rotated daily, taken offsite
This solution works

Looking to virtualize several servers onto a single host:
VMware esxi on bare metal
several windows guests, each running BESR installed in the guest
Primary backup - internal SATA defined as datastore in ESXi
Offsite backup - ???

ESXi doesn't play well with the usb disks, especially if they are disconnected and swapped around.

Does anyone have a solution for this type of scenario?  My VMware support guy was a total D-bag and said I need a second server with tape.  Yeah...let's bring you into the 21st centruy with virtualization and then step back to 1990 and back it up with tape.
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Question by:snowdog_2112
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by:Steve M
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Tape is still the number one enterprise backup solution today, although it is older technology it's definitely not obsolete so I wouldn't call it 1990.  Disk to disk is an obvious second but doesn't go offsite usually as they aren't designed durable enough to be reliably portable.

You could backup your vm's to another physical server's disk (maybe a windows server) and then run regular jobs to your usb drive from that server to copy the backups and take them offsite.

Hope that helps,
-Steve
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by:bgoering
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ESXi 4.1 plays ok with USB devices, it is kind of a manual process to hook them up to the OS, but it works. I see no technical reason to change your strategy.

However, espicially if you are using SAN storage for your datastores, it can get kind of expensive to maintain another disk strictly for backup purposes. Have you considered a solution like vRanger Pro or Veeam Backup and Recovery. Both of those are 21st century and designed for a virtual environment.

Good Luck
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by:snowdog_2112
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Unfortunately we are in challenging economic times, so the factor in your solutions that is prohibiting those solutions is cost.

Also, a "somewhat manual process" of swapping a USB disk is not an option for people who find swapping tapes to be too technical. :)

We've toyed around with it a little bit since my post, and I think our solution is going to be - in the immediate - to connect the USB disks to another physical host (an xp station will work), and have BESR use the disk as the offsite destination using a UNC path.  
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bgoering earned 500 total points
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That will work :)

I am assuming you will just share the USB drive from the other machine and backing up directly to the USB device?
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by:bgoering
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BTW - Once you complete the manual process to attach it to a VM once - it should forever stay there, so there is no reason your backup server couldn't be a vm on ESX 4.1

I was under the impression that you had been shuffling the usb drive amongst physical servers in the past, that can be a hassle to shuffle the same device amongst vms, but if only one vm owns the device it isn't so bad.
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by:snowdog_2112
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No - but we *are* shuffling USB drives.  i.e., end user has 5 WD Passport disks.  Mondays, disk #1 is attached to Server.  BESR offsite copies to the disk.  Tuesday, disk #2 is connected, and BESR updates disk #2 with everything from the internal SATA. etc.  On Friday, disk #5 is attached and it gets the entire week's worth of incrementals.

On a physical box, detaching #1 and attaching #2, the disks always have the same drive letter.  Using a standalone host outside of the VM environment (i.e., an XP box on someone's desk) the  and share, so it's accessible by UNC path.

We're doing more testing, but instead of attaching the USB directly to the server, using a UNC path seems to work - and could be used regardless of the P/V nature of the server we're running BESR on.

Does that seem reasonable?
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by:snowdog_2112
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I'd like your input on my last post, but you seem to be in agreement with our approach.  Thanks!  (you've responded to my plea's for help before - I appreciate your assistance as always!)
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by:bgoering
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Yes - seems reasonable to me. Is only one user doing this? Or does each user have their own set of 5 drives?
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by:snowdog_2112
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There is only one set of USB disks on one workstation as the Offsite destination in BESR.
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