Why Choosing a Dedicated Hyper-V Backup Product is a perfect choice (Part 1)

by [Published on 16 Dec. 2014 / Last Updated on 16 Dec. 2014]

This article looks at why it is important to choose a dedicated backup product for Hyper-V rather than relying on Windows Server Backup and Hyper-V Replica.

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to Why Choosing a Dedicated Hyper-V Backup Product is a perfect choice (Part 2).

Introduction

As part of the IT processes, you implement a monitoring solution to ensure any issues with the IT infrastructure are known and necessary corrective actions are taken to resolve the issues. It also then becomes necessary to implement a backup solution to restore the business services as quickly as possible in case of any disasters. Microsoft Hyper-V offers great features in terms of networking and high availability. You can use Hyper-V migration technologies to live migrate virtual machines without any downtime and use of “Live Storage Migration” technology helps in moving virtual machine’s storage across Hyper-V servers. These migration technologies do not help in protecting the data in virtual machines. To protect Hyper-V virtual machines and its data, it is always recommended that a dedicated Hyper-V backup product is implemented in the production environment. Microsoft introduced Hyper-V Replica, a disaster recovery technology, which tracks the changes on the primary virtual machines and then replicate those changes to a Hyper-V replica server running in the disaster recovery site. I have seen many organizations considering Hyper-V Replica as a replacement for enterprise backup solutions. Undoubtedly, Hyper-V Replica keeps backup copies and if needed those backup copies can be restored to bring the virtualized workloads at the disaster recovery site, but there are many reasons as to why Hyper-V replica cannot be considered as a replacement of an enterprise backup solution.

Microsoft also provides Windows Server Backup tool, which includes the ability to backup and restore virtual machines running on the Hyper-V hosts. Although Windows Server Backup, sometimes referred to as WSB, in Windows Server 2012 R2 ships with a number of improvements including support for backing up and restoring individual Hyper-V virtual machine, but it still cannot be considered as a replacement for dedicated Hyper-V backup product. There are various third party backup products available for Hyper-V to protect virtual machines and its data. This article helps you understand why it is important to choose a dedicated backup product for Hyper-V rather than relying on Windows Server Backup and Hyper-V Replica. There are several reasons highlighted in the first part of this article series, which I am going to explain shortly.

Restore Individual Files/Folders from Virtual Machine

Without using a dedicated Hyper-V backup product, it would be difficult for virtual administrators to restore individual files/folders from a virtual machine backup copy made using Windows Server Backup. As a manual approach, to restore files/folders from a virtual machine, you will restore the virtual machine’s VHD from a backup copy to an alternate location and then use the native tools to mount VHD and explore files and folders in it. A dedicated Hyper-V backup product provides built-in feature to restore individual files and folders directly from the backup copy without actually restoring the VHD file. Another important point to note is that dedicated Hyper-V backup products such as Altaro Hyper-V Backupprovides ability to restore selected emails or mailboxes directly from a backup copy of an Exchange Server virtual machine. This is called “Exchange Level Item Restore” in Altaro Hyper-V Backup.

Booting Virtual Machines directly from the Backup Copy

Another important reason for choosing a dedicated Hyper-V backup product is that it is capable of booting a virtual machine directly from a backup copy. This is useful when you do not want to wait for restore operation to complete and want to bring the services online as quickly as possible. I have seen many third party products offering this feature. One of them is the Altaro Hyper-V backup, which provides you the ability to boot a virtual machine directory from the backup copy.

Validating Backup Copies manually or automatically

As part of the IT best practices, you must also verify the backup copies to ensure these backup copies can help you recover your environment in case a disaster strikes. As an example of verifying backup copies are using the “SureBackup” feature of Veem Backup product. The “SureBackup” feature is intended to simplify the backup verification process for each backup it processes. “SureBackup” lets you validate backup copies of your virtual machines without impacting the production environment. You can automatically verify every created restore point of every virtual machine and ensure that they will function as expected in case of any disaster. Many third party backup products also provide the ability to schedule backup verification processes. As an example is Altaro Hyper-V Backup product which has a feature called “Sandbox Restore”. The “Sandbox Restore” feature allows you to plan and execute verification processes at a scheduled time. That way you can easily verify that your virtual machines are being backed up correctly.

Provides Full Back up support for Clustered Shared Volumes

WSB on Windows Server 2008 and R2 lacked support for backing up virtual machines stored in the Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV). WSB in Windows Server 2012 do provide support for backing up CSV virtual machines but with some limitations. One of the limitations is that CSV virtual machines cannot be added as part of the backup configuration. Another limitation is that in order to backup and restore in event of any failure, Windows Server Backup must be configured on all the nodes in the failover cluster. A dedicated Hyper-V backup product is fully aware of the CSV and hosted virtual machines in it and is also capable of backing up and restoring virtual machines from the central management console.

Avoid Backup up of unnecessary Files Backup

Since the backup software is designed to work with a specific technology, it is designed in such a way that it excludes the files, which are not necessary to include in the virtual machine backup copies. It is an important time to consider. This not only helps in reducing the size of the backup copies, but it also becomes easy to copy the backup copies to a USB flash drive, if needed.

Allows you to restore Virtual Machines as Clone

Windows Server Backup provides you the ability to restore individual virtual machines to the same Hyper-V server. A dedicated backup product provides the ability to restore the virtual machine as a clone on local or remote Hyper-V servers without affecting the live virtual machine environment.

Conclusion

You saw how using a third party Hyper-V backup product for your Hyper-V environment provides you the flexibility in restoring business services quickly. Restoring individual items such as files/folders and Exchange items become easy and booting a virtual machine directly from a backup copy reduce the time it takes to restore the business services. While Windows Server Backup tool is an important piece designed by Microsoft but it lacks the ability to provide full support for backing up virtual machines residing in a CSV volume. There are a few more reasons for not considering Windows Server Backup tool a replacement for third party Hyper-V backup product, which I am going to highlight in the next part of this article series.

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to Why Choosing a Dedicated Hyper-V Backup Product is a perfect choice (Part 2).

See Also


The Author — Nirmal Sharma

Nirmal Sharma avatar

Nirmal Sharma is a MCSEx3, MCITP, and was awarded Microsoft MVP in Directory Services. In his spare time, he likes to help others and share some of his knowledge by writing tips and articles for various online communities. Nirmal can also be found contributing to PowerShell based Dynamic Packs for ADHealthProf.ITDynamicPacks.Net solutions.

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