Imaging and Virtual Machines

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by beethoven, Aug 2, 2018.

  1. beethoven

    beethoven Registered Member

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    Just wondering how to use imaging when using Virtual Machines? If I run a server (A) on one OS with a Virtual Machine that is running a server (B) possibly using a different OS, how will this affect my backup policy? Do I need to use independent imaging on both or would an image of A automatically cover B? Are there any specifics I should bear in mind when setting this up or things to avoid?
     
  2. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    A VM is nothing more than a file... if you back it up (System image or File & Folder image), it should be backed up.

    Maybe I'm missing something here... :doubt:
     
  3. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    If you want to backup the running VM, you will need the appropriately licensed product installed in the VM to do such.
     
  4. beethoven

    beethoven Registered Member

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    Froggie, my bad - VMware is something totally new to me and I am only starting to look into this.
     
  5. oliverjia

    oliverjia Registered Member

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    find the .vmdk file, and that's all you need to backup. You don't need to actually use any app to do the backup.
     
  6. beethoven

    beethoven Registered Member

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    Oliver, thanks - I did not realise that VMware is an operating system in itself, so I understand Froggies comment that the backup is being done on or for the Virtual Environment. So, I guess I would like to continue constant backups via imaging to be able to go back to a certain point in time in case some corruption happens. I guess I could do additional backups of the .vmdk file and that would be similar to a full backup?
     
  7. oliverjia

    oliverjia Registered Member

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    Yes
     
  8. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    The VMDK file might not be everything. I don't think it includes any hardrives the machine might have.
     
  9. beethoven

    beethoven Registered Member

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    sorry guys, I am still trying to wrap my head around the practical impacts of this.
    We are running a windows server with the OS on one drive and several applications on another drive. Both are being imaged incrementally at the moment via Shadowprotect (a older version still doing it's job). We now bought a new Dell hardware and found out that it does not support all drivers we are using. As we don't want to change the os at this stage, we want to use VMware on the new hardware and virtually run the original server. Once this has been installed, I still want to be sure I can recover in case of an emergency. So if the hardware fails, I can reinstall VMware. Once VMware is up and running again, I should have my Virtual Machine back.
    Of course if there is a software corruption on the Server in the virtual environment, I would like to have an image to roll back to.
    So please correct me if I am wrong.

    Running a imaging software in the virtual environment should allow me to go back to a previous state as currently on the physical server? If I want to migrate such an image back again to a physical server, I hope that is not an issue either assuming it's hardware compatible ( e.g. my current server is still running fine though getting old - if I keep it for emergency, I could install back on itif necessary?)
    How does the .vmdk file come into place? Where is it generated and how can I copy this ?
     
  10. garry35

    garry35 Registered Member

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    imaging a drive or partition would backup the drive and its contents, but if the virtual OS is located on a different drive then it might be easier to copy or backup the virtual drive seperately assuming its a single file
     
  11. askmark

    askmark Registered Member

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    What version of VMware vSphere ESXi are you using, Free, Essentials or Standard? It's important to know, as the Free version doesn't give access to vSphere's Backup API's so third-party Virtual Machine aware backup software can't be used.

    I'm not familiar with using imaging software to backup virtual machines as its not really the recommended method, unless the backup software is virtual machine aware. Recovery is made more difficult because you've got to build a blank VM, boot it from your backup software's ISO/recovery disk and then restore the image backup from external storage (USB) on to the VM's vDisk(s).

    vSphere ESXi is really easy to install/reinstall (takes about 15 minutes and you can even install and boot VMware from a USB stick) so I wouldn't worry to much about backing up the Physical server (VMware don't support imaging of the boot disk anyway), Just concentrate on the Virtual servers(s).
    If your'e using the non-Free version of vSphere then you could use Veeam Backup and Replication Free (unlimited VM's, but can only do adhoc backups, unless you use Powershell to automate scheduled backups) or Altaro VM Backup Free (maxium of 2 VM's per host). I use Veeam daily at work so know it very well, but have never used Altaro but it's meant to be just as good - probably also easier to use.

    Whichever VMware aware backup product you chose you're going to need a dedicated a PC to act as your backup server, with either, enough local/external disk storage for backups or access to NAS storage. The amount of storage required will depend on the size of your VM and how many full/incremental backups you want to retain. The PC doesn't need to be anything fancy just as long as it's running Windows 7 or higher, has a reasonable amount of RAM (16GB) and at least dual core. For only one VM, the requirement should be very low, just make sure you meet the minimum specified by Veeam/Altaro.

    Hope this helps. PM if you want any more advice.
     
  12. beethoven

    beethoven Registered Member

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    Askmark, thank you for your comments.
    Will give this more thought and talk to the partners involved to ensure we have properly tested everything before making the switch. The version purchased is ESXI 6.7 Essentials.
     
  13. pandlouk

    pandlouk Registered Member

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    Maybe you should take a look at software like altaro vm backup. Using an imaging program to backup the host + vm's is not recommended because (first) it will create huge incrementals and (second and most important) the vm should be shutdown or paused before running the backup. If the virtual server cannot be shut-down you should either install an imaging app inside it and use it to create incrementals for the virtual server or you should use backup apps that are hyper-V and vmware agnostic (eg. the backup software tells vmware to create a snapshot, and then create a backup of the new snapshot).
    Check the following free apps as a start
    http://www.vmwarearena.com/top-5-best-free-backup-software-for-vmware-and-hyper-v-infrastructure/

    edit: I forgot to mention previously. Another way to backup a live virtual machine is to use the autoprotect snapshots feature and then use, a file backup or sync app to copy/update the folder were the vm resides with the backup location(s).
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
  14. beethoven

    beethoven Registered Member

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    Pandlouk, thank you - I had a look at Altaro based on Askmark's suggestion but this seems to be quite pricey. Also, for the past few years this server was only shutdown for maintenance every few months, otherwise it's running constantly. I think I would be happy to have the imaging done within the virtual system provided I can get this to work. We may include Veeam in that scenario and I will certainly study your link too.
    As to the file backup suggestion, again I am not sure if this will work. The virtual server will have two drives- one with the OS and some programs - apart from updates not much is changing there and a second drive with Data files. These will change and need to be saved but as there are databases involved based on a program running on the first drive, I am not sure if a straight copy/paste will work.
     
  15. askmark

    askmark Registered Member

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    You're welcome. The Essentials edition is perfect for small business and will give you everything you need, including third-party backup support.

    I see that you mention Altaro is too pricey. Unless you have more than two VM's I would have thought the free version would be more than sufficient for your needs.

    With regards to Veeam I would look at the Backup Essentials product which is for small businesses. You can subscribe on a per VM basis rather than buying it outright which financially may work out more affordable.

    I really would discourage using imaging software as its just not appropriate for backing up VMware in a business environment.

    You mention you have databases on your server, are these SQL server based? If they are they will need to be backed up with VSS aware software so data is in a consistent state if you have to recover from backup later. Veeam among others is application aware but not in the free version.

    My advice is to seek professional help and advice from an experienced VMware solution provider.

    If you want free advice from professionals then I can highly recommend the Spiceworks forum. You can ask questions and receive answers from IT professionals and industry experts as well as advice from the software vendors themselves.

    Good luck and if I can help in any way please don't hesitate to contact me.
     
  16. pandlouk

    pandlouk Registered Member

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    You are welcome.
    - Altaro has a free version "Altaro VM Backup Free" that should be fine for your needs.
    - Imaging from inside the vm works the same as on a real machine; just treat it as a real machine... you perform backups/restores from the virtual enviroment.
    - It is not a simple file copy paste. The snapshots function as imaging incremental backups. https://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/...UID-6F339449-8A9F-48C0-BE70-91A2654A79D2.html
    The snapshots in this scenario will function as the imaging backups. The copy/paste/sync of the vm floder functions as a secondary location for your backup... as if you take an image of the system and then you copy that image to another location for safe kepping. (altaro and the other vm backups work in a similar way but on a larger scale, for multiple vms)
     
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