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Installing VMware Data Recovery 2.0 for virtual data center backup

Virtual data center backup is a priority for most IT shops. VMware Data Recovery 2.0 quickly backs up a vSphere 5 infrastructure at no additional cost.

VMware Data Recovery 2.0 makes virtual data center backup more simple, stable and scalable. But it still isn’t perfect.

Launched at the same time as vSphere 5, VMware Data Recovery (VDR) 2.0 is a free, VMware-only backup-and-recovery application targeted at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). It’s easy to install and way ahead of the old VMware Consolidated Backup tool.

VDR, included with vSphere Essentials Plus and higher editions, is completely virtualized -- comprised of a virtual appliance and vSphere Client plug-in -- so it deploys in minutes. Other advantages include:

  • Through the use of vCenter application programming interfaces, it can back up an entire virtual infrastructure with just a few clicks.
  • It backs up every virtual machine (VM), including powered-off VMs, no matter where they move.
  • It offers deduplication and compression of the backup data store to save disk space.
  • It can back up just the changed blocks of VM disk files, which makes backups tremendously faster after the first one.

In VMware Data Recovery 2.0, the virtual appliance uses the 64-bit CentOS 5.5 operating system for better scalability and stability. Unlike the previous version of VDR, swap files are no longer included in the backups, which save space and increases backup/recovery speed. You can also run integrity checks and reclaim operations in the background, which ensures that the backup repository database is cleaned up after old backups are removed.  And you can set up email reports.

But there are still issues with VMware Data Recovery 2.0. For example, each VDR appliance can back up a maximum of 100 VMs per vCenter Server, although you can connect up to 10 VDR appliances to protect a total of 1,000 VMs. Also, the virtual data store connected to the VDR appliance can only store 1 TB of deduplicated data. It’s a soft limitation, meaning backups won’t immediately stop after 1 TB, but performance may deteriorate. These VDR limitations, however, may not be a factor for SMBs.

Time to ditch VMware Consolidated Backup
Before VDR, VMware offered VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). At the time, traditional backup tools couldn’t recognize the Virtual Machine File System. VCB solved this virtual data center backup problem, using scripts in conjunction with a backup tool to replicate and save virtual infrastructure data.

Eventually, VCB was discontinued when VDR was released. So it’s time to switch, if you’re still using it. VMware recommends backup tools that use vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP), which enable centralized backups and reduced resource overhead when backups run. Beside VMware Data Recovery, virtual data center backup products that use VADP include, Veeam Inc. Backup & Replication and Quest Inc. vRanger. You may want to use third-party products if you need more scalability or multi-site replication.

VMware Data Recovery 2.0 installation
If you decide to run VMware Data Recovery, the installation and initial configuration is simple. First, download the VDR 2.0 installation ISO from VMware’s website and extract it using a third-party tool such as MagicISO or Nero. Alternatively, you can mount it on the vCenter Server VM and copy the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) virtual appliance directory and the VDRvSphereClientPlugIn. Then, deploy the OVF file.

The VDR appliance uses a virtual disk to house its Linux OS. If you want to use a virtual disk to store backups, create another one on the VDR appliance. You can use Raw Disk Mapping or a Common Internet File System format.

Power on the virtual appliance and use the VM remote control in the vSphere Client for access. From there, use the simple text interface to reset the password, configure the networking and set the correct time zone.

Next, install the VDR plug-in to the vSphere Client. To connect the vSphere plug-in to the VDR appliance, go to Solution and Applications > VMware Data Recovery. Next, type the name of the VDR server and enter the vCenter administrator username and password.

When you launch the VDR application, the setup wizard asks you to format the virtual disk that you created to save the backups. Next, mount the virtual disk. Finally, you are prompted to run a virtual data center backup.

The first backup can take some time, because you are copying entire virtual disks over the virtual network. Thanks to change block tracking and VADP, subsequent backups may only take seconds, because only modified blocks from the Virtual Machine Disk are transferred.

Virtual data center backup and restore
Backup and restore is easy with VMware Data Recovery 2.0. You can schedule it to run only when utilization is low. You also have the option to run backups during specific times.

VDR can back up the entire virtual infrastructure, but there are more granular controls,  such as backing up vCenter Server, data centers, folders, clusters, resource pools and VMs.

Ultimately, VMware Data Recovery isn’t marketed enough, nor does the VMware update it as much as I’d like. But it’s a solid backup tool for vSphere 5. And if you have less than 100 VMs, VMware Data Recovery is very useful for virtual data center backup.

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