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VMware backup tools and strategies for small businesses

Virtualization has trickled down to small businesses, presenting IT pros with new challenges. Choosing the proper VMware backup tools and strategies is one such obstacle.

One of the crucial responsibilities for IT administrators in small VMware shops is implementing VMware backup tools...

and strategies.

As with physical servers, it's important to effectively back up virtual guests. But your backup tools and strategies will depend on your flavor of VMware virtualization: the vSphere Hypervisor or Essentials.

Backup tools and strategies for the VMware vSphere Hypervisor

If you've opted for the free version of ESXi, the VMware vSphere Hypervisor, you're very limited -- not only when it comes to backup tools, but also around vMotion and High Availability.

That's not to say the VMware vSphere Hypervisor can't be a good fit for your business. I have implemented this product for some single entrepreneurs and self-employed folks who have smaller amounts of data and only require only a scripted or online backup tool.

But I struggle with devising a backup strategy for most of those situations. If your business is really small, you probably don't need a hypervisor. You should just rely on one or two physical servers with a stable tape- or disk-based backup product.

Backup tools and strategies for VMware Essentials

A couple of years ago, VMware started offering Essentials, a slimmed-down version of ESX or ESXi hypervisor, targeted at the small business market.

This offering comes in two editions: Essentials and Essentials Plus. Both have the same maximum server and socket count, with licenses for three hosts containing a maximum of two processors with six cores. But the Plus package offers a few more add-on products, including VMware Data Recovery and vMotion. It also costs about $3,000 more, so the cost justification comes down to how much flexibility you need.

Essentials comes with vCenter Server, which allows for third-party backup tools. Products from Veeam Software Inc., PHD Virtual Technologies and Quest Software Inc., for example, are robust, scalable and fairly priced for small businesses.

If you have the Essentials Plus package, I highly recommend VMware Data Recovery, which replaced the VMware Consolidated Backup product. VMware Data Recovery is still improving but it may be a solid backup tool for your small infrastructure. You can always opt for some of the third-party backup products mentioned above if VMware Data Recovery doesn't fulfill your needs.

Other VMware backup strategies

When evaluating VMware backup tools and strategies, you should consider stability, flexibility, support and administration factors. A basic PowerShell or Perl script may be right for you, for instance. And you can implement a script at almost no additional cost. Plus, you can completely tailor it to your needs.

Another consideration is that your current OS backup software may already support virtual machine backups. CommVault and Symantec, for example, can perform backups for both types of infrastructures.

There are definite advantages to this approach, because these tools provide a consolidated, single-pane interface for backing up physical and virtual machines, as well as core guest-disk files. They also offer easier licensing models, centralized storage repositories (tape- or disk-based) and centralized scheduling for all of your data center backups.

This was last published in June 2011

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