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Using Windows Server Backup on a Hyper-V Host

We have a host running Hyper-V, with about 6 VMs on it that perform various tasks (DC, Exchange server, Fileserver, etc.)

We have a 4TB hard drive installed internally in the Hyper-V host that we want to use for backups. I've installed the Windows Server Backup feature on the Hyper-V host, and set up the backups, and it runs each night and looks like it succeeds.

However, I'm a little bit skeptical that these backups will actually be helpful in the event that we need to use them for restoration. From what I can see, it can be used to restore an ENTIRE VM, or an ENTIRE VMDK file, but it can't drill down into the VM to do something like restore an individual file.

So this backup I have to treat it really as just a way to restore the entire server in the event of something really catastrophic happening like hard disk failure.

I was considering setting up another 4TB hard disk in the host, and creating VMDK files for each of the VMs, and having the VMs ALSO run the Windows Server Backup feature, making them each backup to their special "backup" VMDK file stored on the other drive. They will stagger and run their backups an hour apart from each other.

I've done this in a VMWare ESXi environment where I didn't have the option to backup the whole host, with good success. It is basically handling the backup the same was that you would if each VM was a physical machine.

But is it wise to have both of these backup systems in place at the same time? Is it recommended? Is there some better way to configure it?

At this time, purchasing backup software isn't really an option, as much as I'd love to put Veeam in place or something, so unfortunately right now we have to make do with the tools that Microsoft provides with the server by default.
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Frosty555
Asked:
Frosty555
2 Solutions
 
noxchoCommented:
You can always mount the backup file as virtual disk in your Windows and copy out necessary files out if it.
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sergio vegaCommented:
Ouch! That is a scary scenario. I personally will not use or recommend using the native Windows backup tool for anything in production, let alone a Hyper-V environment.  If you are using Hyper-V 2012, you can easily set up a replica to a SMB Shared.   Good luck.

http://blogs.technet.com/b/virtualization/archive/2013/06/14/using-smb-shares-with-hyper-v-replica.aspx
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Svet PaperovIT ManagerCommented:
You could perform two-level backup by using Windows Server Backup:
-      One on the Hyper-V host level – restoring the whole VM in case of crash or disaster – something like the old full server restore
-      One in the virtual machines where you need file-level restore (DC and Fileserver, for example)
Exchange server should not be part of this scheme – may be for the OS and program partition only. On Exchange server, Windows Server Backup must be run inside the server in order to truncate the log files.

Third party backup software can do all that in once but with a good backup schema and schedule you could achieve the same result – the major difference will be longer backup and restore time (actually not quite true – the restore from file level backup from always-online backup storage is really fast).

You could take a look at an inexpensive WSB wrap, like BackupAssist, especially for Exchange server http://www.backupassist.com/index.html

However, I will recommend using external device for the backup. You could choose by simple NAS, directly attached USB or a NAS with iSCSI support. Internal hard drive defines the purpose of the disaster-recovery-ready backup.
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Frosty555Author Commented:
noxcho - can you mount access the backup files without having to RESTORE the whole thing? E.g. mount the backup, then mount the vmdk inside? The problem with having the Hyper-V host do the backups is that in order to access a file inside of a VMDK, I'd have to restore the entire VMDK somewhere, then mount it to access the file inside. For a fileserver where the vmdk is ~500GB, this is a pretty big operation.

Svet - I don't see how a NAS + iSCSI, or a USB connected hard disk would be superior to a local hard disk plugged into a SATA port on the server. Can you explain? A USB hard disk that will forever live on a shelf right above the server is, for all intents and purposes, equivalent to a standalone disk connected directly to one of the SATA ports so far as I can tell. Using WSBackup to backup to a network share is definitely not ideal because it will only keep a single backup, and it deletes it prior to creating the next one resulting in a large windows of vulnerability where you have no backups. And for NAS + iSCSI, I don't see the benefit of all that added complexity compared to just having a local disk?
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noxchoCommented:
noxcho - can you mount access the backup files without having to RESTORE the whole thing? E.g. mount the backup, then mount the vmdk inside? The problem with having the Hyper-V host do the backups is that in order to access a file inside of a VMDK, I'd have to restore the entire VMDK somewhere, then mount it to access the file inside. For a fileserver where the vmdk is ~500GB, this is a pretty big operation.
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Here comes to mind the following trick: install VMware Player or Oracle Virtual Box.
Mount VHd under Windows and then mount the vmdk under virtual machine.
If this sounds too complicated then you need simply let the virtual machines backup themselves to a central storage instead of imaging the raw vmdk files by host machine backup server. Then you will be able to easily mount the vhd file from selected virtual machine under Windows Disk Management and copy out files.
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Frosty555Author Commented:
Thanks for the comments everyone. Also I realize I've been saying "VMDK" when I actually meant VHD all this time... I'm using Hyper-V, not VMWare. Nevertheless I don't think it changes the question much.
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