Altaro: First Impressions

In March 2018 Altaro announced v7.6 of their backup product, I thought it was time to give the product a whirl and provide feedback on my first impressions.

Lab

As those who follow my blog know, I switched to Server 2012 R2 running Hyper-V a while ago.  In this configuration I have a HPE DL360 G6 with some local SATA storage as the backup target for my Hyper-V virtual machines.

Installation

Altaro make the claim (see here) that you can be up and running, allowing you to back up your first virtual machine within 15 minutes.

Once I had completed the simple registration form to access the Unlimited Plus Edition for 30 Days, it was time to launch the installer.

A straight forward intuitive installer is completed within a couple of minutes we are ready to launch the management console.

Configuration

As soon as the management console is loaded, we just need to follow the 3 steps outlined below.

Altaro 01

Connecting to the Hvper-V Hosts is a straight forward process, entering the IP Address and credentials you would expect.

Altaro 02

After this I entered in the backup location and selected the VM which required backing up and clicked backup.

So far so good, Altaro have validated that backups can be started within 15 minute of installing the software.

CDP Settings

As we know all workloads are not equal and more critical application services require a lower restore point objective.  With Altaro,  I can set CDP settings as low as 5 minutes.  The part which is quite impressive is that they warn you of the impact on the hypervisor of taking such frequent snapshots.

Altaro 03

Offsite Backup

Another feature I wanted to validate was integration with Azure Storage Backups to undertake an ‘offsite backup copy’.

After entering the Connection String for one of my Azure Storage Accounts, it was simply a case of dragging and dropping the VM I wanted to protect into the ‘Offsite Location’ bucket and finally provide a Master Encryption Key.

I was interested to see the native format of the ‘Offsite Backup’ to see if this could be used to migrate VM’s to Azure.  Using Microsoft Azure Storage Explorer I browsed to the storage account and viewed the VM location.

The Offsite Backup VM isn’t easily identifiable, I’m assuming the VM name is encrypted by the Master Encryption Key and the backup files are held in Altaro format.

Altaro 06

Essentially this means that if you had a DR event on-premises and you needed to restore backups from Offsite, you would need to install and configure an Altaro Backup server which isn’t a big deal in itself but just adds to the overall time needed to restore business operations.

Schedules

When administering backups, an area which time and effort is spent is on backup scheduling.  I was pleased to see that the schedules are different for CDP and regular one off backups.

In this scenario, I wanted to perform an on-premises backup and then follow this up with an offsite copy.  A couple of click and this was ready to go!

Altaro 05

A bit of feedback for Altaro is it would be good to be able to name your backup schedules as I could see identifying the right schedule could become cumbersome.

Advanced Settings

Enables you to control features such as De-duplication, Encryption, Exclude ISO’s/Drives and use Change Block Tracking.

Linked back to the Offsite Backups, it would be great if you had the option to backup to Azure as a native VHD (without de-duplication) as you could then spin up your VMs in Azure and use this as a migration tool or for DR scenarios.

Restore

For me, on-premises restores are a given.  I’m more interested in restoring archive data from Azure (using Altaro Retention Policy to control this).

Selecting the Restore Icon, I can select Azure Storage Account, again with a decent prompt which states you will be charged for egress data.

Altaro 07.PNG It’s a case now of dragging the backup down your internet pipe to be re-hydrated by Altaro VM Backup on your selected Hyper-V Host.

One of the things I would like to see is a File Level Restore from an Azure Storage Account to avoid restoring an entire VM .

Final Thought

It’s clear that Altaro have invested heavily in a slick user experience to provide simplified backup operations with a clear and concise dashboard that is intuitive.

I’m sure that we will see further enhancements especially around the integration with public cloud.

If you’d like to try the software for your Hyper-V and/or VMware environments, you can download Altaro VM Backup to back up unlimited VMs for 30 days, then enjoy forever free backup for 2 VMs. Download Altaro VM Backup for free here.

Backing Up vCentre Using Veeam 6.1

Veeam is a great product, I use it regularly to meet customers RTO (Restore Time Objectives) and RPO (Restore Point Objectives).  As I’m sure you know Veeam’s functionality is extremely diverse with DR, CDP and Backup capabilities.

One of the issues we have had with Veeam has been when you are backing up a virtual vCentre or SQL server that is responsible for the vCentre database.  Essentially what happens is that Veeam sends a ‘snapshot’ command to vCentre for creation of a VSS snapshot, but then cannot communicate with vCentre as it’s database is frozen.

To get around this issue you would add the ESXi host that held vCentre and your SQL database manually meaning that Veeam would communicate with the ESXi host directly and your backup would complete.

This caused issues where if you had DRS enabled and your vCentre or SQL moved your backups would fail.  So more often than not you would have to tie vCentre or SQL to a particular host which kind of defeated the purpose of HA.

So, whats changed, well in our environment, we recently upgraded to Veeam 6.1 with the following configuration.

Veeam Backup & Replication Enterprise v6.1

Veeam is a virtual server with 8 vCPU’s broken down into 2 virtual sockets and 4 cores per socket with 12GB of RAM

vCentre Server Standard v5.0.1

vCentre Server is again a virtual server with 2vCPU’s and 4GB RAM.

This has SQL 2008 R2 Standard installed locally holding the following databases:

– vCentre
– VMware Site Recovery Manager
– VMware Update Manager

SQL 2008 R2 Enterprise

SQL is a virtual machine and holds four instances.  A single instance contains the databases for:

– Veeam

Now you have an overview of the environment, lets create a couple of fresh Veeam jobs.

Backup Job 1 – vCentre

This contains vCentre directly added via the vSphere 5 Cluster, with Proxy Selection ‘Automatic’ and Advanced Settings left as default.

To avoid any confusion, ‘The Backup Proxy’ is this server.

Enable application-aware image processing is NOT selected.

Result is a success.

So what does this mean?  Well we don’t have ‘enable application-aware image processing’ selected.  This means that your SQL database might not be transactionally consistent which could result in data loss and that Veeam does not commit the transaction logs.  However, this can be overcome by creating a SQL maintenance plan, not elegant, but effective!

So essentially, the choice is yours, keep vCentre physical or tie vCentre to a particular ESXi host.  Both mean that vCentre isn’t protected by high availability.  Or do what I have explained and have to use a SQL maintenance plan.

For more information on Veeam Backup & Replication 6.1 please visit Veeam ESX Backup

Veeam Backup Free Edition for ESXi

We use Veeam Backup and Replication Enterprise alot when we deploy an vSphere solution for a client.

Normally, it’s for disk to disk backup and on occasions we use it to replicate backups across WAN links so that the client has ‘x’ days backups available in DR.

Veeam have a new edition which is worth a look, it’s called VeeamZip and is completely free!

It boasts the following features:

  • Backup on the fly
  • Restore individual guest files
  • Manage VM and Host files
  • Migrate VM’s between Hosts and Datastores