Rethinking Backup with Veeam

I am a worry wart when it comes to backing up data. For my critical systems, I never trust a single backup method, but rather I implement several different strategies for backup and disaster recovery. For the past two years, one of those methods has been using Veeam Backup and Recovery.

Traditionally, Veeam has been a product to backup virtual machines (VMs) hosted on either Hyper-V or VMware hosts. They specialized in backing up the entire VM to disk quickly and easily using encryption and/or deduplication. Daily backups are incremental, as they only backup the bits of virtual disks that actually changed since the last backup. This makes incremental backups very quick, and requires very little disk space compared to comparable solutions. The product also made it very easy to restore an entire VM to any host running the same hypervisor platform.

The more recent versions have taken things a step further… actually several steps further. Not only can you restore an entire VM, but also individual files (a single Word document for example) from backup. Veeam now looks inside the VM and has the ability to selectively restore Active Directory, Exchange, and SQL objects without the need of an agent within the VM.

In general, restores are easy, and full restores can be made at any point in time without having to figure out which full and incremental backup repositories you need for the restore. The Enterprise license has one particular feature, called Instant Restore, that is particularly interesting. Let’s say your backups are stored to a 6 TB NAS (network attached storage) device, and you need to restore a VM as quickly as possible. Instant Restore creates the VM object on the target virtualization host, but keeps the virtual disks for that VM in the backup repository (in this example, on that 6 TB NAS). This allows you to get a VM restored from backup and booted within minutes. Then once the VM is booted, the virtual disks can be copied in the background.

Backing up to a local disk array can be fast and inexpensive, but it is always good to have off-site copies of your data. Because of this, Veeam has included three different options in their latest revision.

  • Copy jobs copy backup data from one location (ex: your primary backup target) to a different location (ex: an offsite NAS). Veeam basically stores its backup data inside files using their own file format, so you could always write a PowerShell script to copy data to another storage location, or external USB drive.
  • Tape jobs will write your backup data to tape for off-site and long-term archiving.
  • Use a cloud-based storage provider as a Veeam backup repository.

Regardless of which method of backup you choose, I recommend making sure you enable encryption for the backup jobs.

Veeam can be a little on the pricy side, but they do licensing a little differently from many backup vendors. Since there are no agents inside of VMs, licensing is per CPU of the hosts you wish to backup. You’ll definitely get the most return on your investment if you run a larger number of VMs on each host.

Oh yeah… there is a free version too!! The free version only allows for full backups of entire VMs on an ad-hoc basis. There are no scheduled jobs or automatic retries. Backup jobs created with the free version can also be imported into the full versions (Standard or Enterprise), so don’t worry about losing your historical backup data when you decide to upgrade from the free to paid version of the software.

I am not paid by Veeam, nor do they give me any free software. They just make a great product in an age where we really need to rethink how we are backing up data.

Free NFR? Paul Braren recently wrote about Free NFR of Veeam Availability Suite v8 with Backup & Replication for VCPs, vExperts, and many other certified professionals. If you are certified by Microsoft, VMware, or Veeam, you may qualify for a free 2 CPU NFR (not for resale) copy of Veeam Availability Suite.

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