How To Guy

Backing up vSphere with VMware Data Recovery

Did you know that VMware offers VMware Data Recovery (VDR), a virtual infrastructure backup and recovery solution? Many people don't, and they look toward third parties for a solution - or they try using their traditional physical backup vendors. However, the VMware backup solution is very capable and is included with the vSphere suite, starting with Essentials Plus.

Anytime something is "included," many people make the assumption that it's going to be a sub-par solution - the thinking goes, if it's free, it can't be good. But I assure you this is not the case with VDR, which is a robust virtualization data-protection solution that's ideal for virtual infrastructures that have less than 100 virtual machines (VMs).

VDR Features
The primary features that make this product such a good option include:

  • Easy to get running
  • Installs as a virtual appliance so the install is simple and no additional Windows OS license is required
  • There's integration with vCenter as a plug-in, so backups are managed inside the vSphere Client you're already using
  • Understands the virtual infrastructure and plays well with vCenter, even when VMs are VMotioned
  • Provides full and incremental backups
  • Provides image-level backups and individual file restore
  • Provides data de-duplication on disk
  • Includes Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service support so that applications and file systems can be quiesced while backups are taken
  • Works with any storage supported by vSphere
  • Runs backups when resource utilization is low and uses vSphere snapshots so there's no downtime or "backup window" required
  • It's free with vSphere Essentials Plus and above -
  • so you should at least consider it

Why Isn't Everyone Using VDR?
At this point, the logical question may be: "If VDR is as good as you say it is, then why isn't everyone using it?" That's a great question. Here are four reasons why, so far, VDR hasn't been widely adopted by the virtual world:

  • New features haven't been added quickly. While VDR has been out since May 2009 (almost two years now), it's still at version 1.2.
  • VDR isn't marketed as strongly as it should be. In my opinion, I just don't hear VMware pushing VDR one-tenth as much as I hear third-party vendors pushing their VMware backup solutions.
  • VDR needs replication. Third-party virtualization backup vendors typically offer or bundle a replication solution that gets your data off-site without having to use tape. So far, VDR doesn't offer this - but with host-based replication rumored to be coming soon from VMware, I'm hoping that this will complement VDR well.
  • There's a maximum of 100 VMs. The most important limitation of VDR is the 100-VM limit. This hard limit is set due to the limited scalability of VDR, and is the reason that you don't see VDR being used in large enterprises. Additionally, you wouldn't likely choose VDR at rapidly growing companies where the 100-VM limit may be exceeded in the next year. While you could use multiple VDR appliances and get around this limitation, it's not an ideal solution.

Give It a Try
VDR is an excellent backup and recovery solution for virtual infrastructures with less than 100 VMs (and with plans to hold at that limit going forward). The virtual appliance's easy install and quick configuration make it a pleasure to start using, for new and experienced admins alike. I hope that VMware will continue to improve VDR by offering expanded scalability and data replication. I offer you two recommendations: One, try out VDR for yourself with the free 60-day evaluation of vSphere, and two, keep watching my Virtualization Review.com How-To Guy blog for what I hope will be upcoming news on new VDR features.

About the Author

David Davis is a well-known virtualization and cloud computing expert, author, speaker, and analyst. David’s library of popular video training courses can be found at Pluralsight.com. To contact David about his speaking schedule and his latest project, go to VirtualizationSoftware.com.

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