SBS 2011 backup on TAPE on ESXi 5.0

Andrej Pirman
Andrej Pirman used Ask the Experts™
Hi experts,

I must prepare an offer for my client with the following configuration:
- 6-core SERVER, with RAID 10 SAS disks...DONE
- ESXi 5.0 platform for new SBS...DONE
- SBS 2011 with 50 CALS... DONE
- Local backup on NAS storage...DONE

All done, fine.
Customer wants to have also BACKUP ON TAPE. He's chosen LTO4 800GB tape drive. Nice, but:

1.) As I read some forums, ESXi 5.0 (actually, any ESX) does NOT support (well) SAS or SCSI drive passthru. Instead, Device Passthru is recommended, so I would need another SAS controller, just for LTO4 tape drive, and then configure passthru for the whole SAS controller. Am I right?
Can be done?

1.a) Subquestion:
Regarding Hardware, we are talking of brand new FUJITSU RX 300 S7 server. This one has an on-board SAS RAID 0/1 controller, which is not used, because our solution of RAID 10 disks requires separate hardware RAID controller.
QUESTION: would it be possible to connect LTO4 tape drive onto On-Board controller and passthru to SBS VM only this controller, while another hardware RAID will still be used for ESXi virtual machines?

Which software would you recommend for this scenario?
Requirements are good SBS with Exchange backups, possibly on mailbox or even on single mail item level, and simple file backup - all those ON TAPE.
Another reqirement is PRICE. I've looked at BackupExec, and it costs alost 2.000 US$, which is quite a lot for my opinion. But I might be wrong, of course.

Any advice appreciated. Thanx!
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VMware and Virtualization Consultant
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Expert of the Year 2017
You are correct, the connection of a tape drive is NOT supported by VMware Support.

this is the article you may want show your client, scroll to the bottom of doc, its in RED.

Note: VMware does not support Tape Drives connected directly to ESXi 5.0 which is documented under Release Notes for vSphere 5.0.

SCSI passthru is not reliable to the virtual machine.

Symantec and Overland will recommend that tape drives are connected to SCSI cards not RAID cards that are presented to the VM using VMware VM Direct Path.

This is possible, but troublesome, and you will not get support from VMware. This is what VMware will call Partner Support, eg via Symantec for BE, or Overland or tape drive vendors.

We would strongly advise AGAINST tape backup, and recommend disk based backup eg Veeam Backup and Replication v6, and then backup the Veeam backups to tape for archive.

issues still exist with tape backup speeds with BE and ESXi VM Direct Path.

EE also has VMware Articles? Checkout my EE Articles

VMware ESX/ESXi Backup Guide

In answer to your questions.

1. Possible with Vendor Support, (Symantec or Overland, HP, Dell) and purchasing a dedicated SCSI card (Adaptec or LSI Non RAID card) to attach the LTO4 tape drive to. and present this PCI card using VM Direct Path. It is highly likely you will still get issues, and VMware will not support this, or offer support and refer to Partner (, (Symantec or Overland, HP, Dell)

2. Windows Backup, or the following products

AppAssure - Number 1 Backup and VMs and Cloud

Unitrends - a good vRecovery Backup Appliance.

Symantec Backup Exec V-Ray Edition - Unmatched backup and recovery designed for virtual and physical environments

VM Explorer - Simply, cost effective and it works.

Acronis Backup & Recovery® 11 Virtual Edition - simple but effective

StorageCraft ShadowProtect Server  - amazing but can be expensive


Excellent! Thank you, hanccocka!

I decided to offer 2 options to the customer:

OPTION1: installation on VMware ESXi 5.0, with backup on NAS device.
OPTION2: installation of SBS 2011 on barebone metal, with backup on TAPE.

In both cases software for backup would be the same, examining prices right now.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE Fellow)VMware and Virtualization Consultant
Fellow 2018
Expert of the Year 2017

As a VMware Partner, we've been struggling with Tape solutions for years, and we now only have one client left that uses tape!

Good Luck!

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