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Recommendations for ESXi Backup Solution?

Posted on 2011-03-10
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Is there a VMWare application or an image backup solution for Windows Server 2008R2 that will save directly to a VMWare ESXi datastore located on an iSCSI partition?  Here is my inventory:

Primary Server: ESXi 4.1 with internal SAS and solid-state drives hosting three Windows servers: SBS (200GB), Server 2008 (>100GB), Server 2008R2 (>100GB)

Second Server: ESXi 4.1 with internal SATA drives to serve as a stand-in server

QNAP TS-459+ Pro NAS device partitioned with one iSCSI partition and one Windows-accessible partition

Layer 3 Network Switch

The goal is to backup each Windows Server from the Primary Server to the NAS so that a nightly backup image could be immediately mounted directly by the Second Server in the event that the Primary Server fails.
I am not confident that the QNAP device is robust enough to rely on for a vMotion/shared storage scenario.  I feel more comfortable relying on the fast internal drive array in each ESXi server.  I’d welcome any thoughts on this though.

I have been using both Symantec BESR 2010 and Acronis image backups at various client sites but the conversions from the backup image set to the virtual machine format are cumbersome and (depending on the version) sometimes need to be run manually.  I have not tried BESR Virtual Edition nor do I know exactly what that product does.  It seems like there must be some way bring the second server online quickly (short of vMotion) that does not require restoring an image from a backup set.  Any ideas?
Question by:Qualitycomputer
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Accepted Solution

nappy_d earned 1000 total points
ID: 35093756
e my recommendation that you backup to another device outside of your virtual host.

The QNap devices are very fast as shared storage devices. Now this will also depend on the number of guests that are hosted on host server.

Now, to backup software. The best option to consider is D2DD(disk to Disk with Deduplication). This method allows for faster backups so that full backups after the initial backup is faster by only backing up blocks of data that have changed.

Software that uses this are Backup Exec and Arcserve, in conjunction with their virtual machine agents and VCB.

Another option that is also Quite popular is Veeam or Replicon, which are backup to disk.  

In my opinion D2D is great but I still believe that at least once a month, you should copy your D2D data to tape for off site storage in the event of complete disaster.

Assisted Solution

justadad earned 1000 total points
ID: 35093785

I think you are on the right track, however VMWare has tried to keep all suitable backup products off the market unless you have a paid version of VMWare. (Which you may have since you mentioned that you may have done vMotion) Assuming you are on the free ESXi, you could get the Small Business VMWare bundle that would give you license for 3 servers for under $800. Once you have that you get VMware Consolidated Backup api's and can then have several choices for backup solutions. (Veeam, phdvirtual, vRanger)

If you must stay on the free ESXi, then the only choice I know of is ghettoVCB see: http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-8760

I have used it but on my ESXi 4.1 server I had some data corruption after the backups were done.  I may not have had the drives queised when the snapshot was made...I need to investigate that...but haven't wanted to try it in case it would fail. For now I have been pausing the VMs before copying.

I will add one more thing. I found that it is easier to backup to a NAS via NFS than to iSCSI. ESX with iSCSI is limited to a 2tb LUN but with NFS I could expose more space. For me it was better as we are going to keep more than 1 copy at any one time so we could exceed the 2TB size.

For us we are copying the VMs about once per month or quarter and doing data backups inbetween.  That way we can restore any VM and then restore the data relatively quickly.  Our shop is not a 24 hour shop so we can pause the VMs and copy them manually in the evening after the normal data backups have run.

Expert Comment

ID: 35093794
I should add to what we are doing for offsite, we copy the VMs to multiple encrypted USB disks for offsite transport. Tape drives are too expensive nowadays if you have less than 2TB (compressed) of data to backup.
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 35093828
Tape might be expensive(sort of) but when you compare it to a single usb disk(which is far more inexpensive) disks fail more than tapes. I guess it is a trade off that the bean counters need to weigh when providing IT a budget for infrastructure.

Author Comment

ID: 35094052
I should have been clear that I have the licensed version of ESXi which includes the storage and backup APIs.  Veeam sounds like just the kind of thing that I need.  I see that Veeam is licensed per number of CPUs on the machine that is being backup up to (not the Primary Server).  Does the backup ESXi host also need to have a VMWare license with the APIs, or can it run the free ESXi?  

Does anyone have a ballpark price for Veeam running on a 2 Quad-Core Xeon processors?  

Finally, must Veeam save only to the NAS or can it save directly to the second internal storage Datastores on the secondary server?

Thanks for the advice so far -- I knew that there must be a product that could maximize what should be a fairly common hardware scenario.  I'll also check into Replistor.
LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 35094258
Veeam costs about $4K-USB per processor.  However, they can get pretty agressive with pricing if you have corporate agreements in place.

It is better to store your data on external storage.  
LVL 125
ID: 35094401
You must have a licensed version of ESXi (not the free version)  to use GhettoVCB

Author Comment

ID: 35094419
Anything in the ballpark of $4k per processor is way beyond my budget.  I haven't used conventional solutions like Backup Exec in a few years since switching to image backups.  Would the current version of Backup Exec with the appropriate agents for the virtual environment accomplish my stated goal?  Could it run automated backups and then automated recoveries to either the NAS datastore or Secondary Server datastore?

You mentioned that the QNAP is fast.  If I were to run it as RAID-5 with a hot spare do you think it would be reliable and fast enough to host the data partition which stores the active data and MS Exchange store?  I'm thinking that perhaps I could host the system drives on the internal storage array of the Primary Server but keep the data that must be up-to-the-minute on the NAS.  Should I ever need to boot from the backup server I could perform any restorations from a recent backup and then mount the active data from the NAS datastore.

My only concern with my proposed plan is that I'd hate to have the most important data on the weak link of the system -- I trust the internal array more than the NAS.  Would it help to isolate the traffic to the NAS from the ESXi host by using the Layer 3 switch with VLAN?  The Primary Server is VERY fast and will host only 3 Windows Servers (SBS, Terminal Server, App Server) for about 10 users.   I'd rather not bother with network segmentation if it isn't necessary.

Thanks again!
LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 35094559
Yes it would accomplish your goals.  It will still cost you about $1500.

Automated recoveries is not available via BExec or other solutions.  Unless you have a multihost environment running VMWare HA, it will require human intervention.

How important is uptime and what can your company withstand with being down?  1 hour, 4 hours etc.

They're gonna get you coming or going.  If your company can bite the bullet, based on this link, in conjunction to BExec, license yourself for vCenter Foundation.

This way if you need some peach of mind in the middle of the night you get fail over capabilities till you get to to the office the next morning  http://store.vmware.com/store/vmware/en_US/DisplayProductDetailsPage/productID.126844900

Author Closing Comment

ID: 35096727
Thanks for the Veeam recommendation.  At the moment the best price quote I have received is for just under $600 per processor core which makes this an affordable solution.  

Vreeam Backup and Replication  V5 actually looks almost too good to be true.  Not only can you restore an entire machines in a matter of minutes, the program will verify the recoverablilty of the backups.  That feature along with the apparent ability to backup to the secondary datastore over a WAN linke (with integrated bandwidth managment) makes this, at least on paper, a viable offsite/disaster recovery solution as well.  

Thanks to you both for your help!

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