Altaro VM Backup review

This time I´m going to leave the box a little for what I use to write about in my blog. This time I´m going to talk about a product which lets us back up VM´s in an easy, fast and effective way. I came in contact with Altaro a few weeks back and that´s when I started looking into their solution ”VM Backup”. With VM backup you can back your Hyper-V servers but also your VMware servers. In this blog I will go through how to set it up, how to take backups of your Hyper-V servers, restoring a server and some other good stuff.

Installing the solution
To be able to install the solution, first make sure you have a server matching the system requirements which you can find here.
The installation process isn’t really that much to write about. The most exciting detail of the process is where I specify what folder to install to.
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I just moved on with the default path for my lab server.
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A couple of minutes later, VM Backup is installed and I´m ready to back up my servers.
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Start VM Backup and you will choose what to connect to. In this case I want to connect to the management console on this server. You could just as well install the console on your client and connect to a server instead. Check the system requirements for this here.
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Adding Hyper-V hosts
For this lab I had to set up a new Hyper-V host running Windows Server 2012 R2 core, a task that took about an hour with all the updates needed when booting from a quite old ISO. After the host had been installed and I had opened up the port 35108 on the host, it was time to get going and add the host to VM Backup.
The screen below is what you´ll see when you first start VM Backup, after having performed these steps you will come to the dashboard when starting instead. For this part I clicked ”Add Hyper-V / VMware Host”.
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Choose ”Microsoft Hyper-V” and click next.
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Type in the information about the host along with an account with administrative rights to install the agent on the host. Use ”Test connection” before clicking Next to make sure everything is OK.
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If everything went well, you should see something similar to what I see below, just another host name.
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Adding backup locations
The next step is to choose where to store the backups. For this lab I have added an extra disk to the backup server where I created a network share to which I will direct my backups.
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As you can see here, you can back up to network drives, a NAS, a file share, USB disk, iSCSI and other places. You can backup using a cloud server as well but that would require you to install an IaaS server in Azure for example. This server would then be added as an offsite server and you can backup your machines that way as well.
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I typed in the network share along with an account that has the rights to edit the share (add and remove files and folders). Now we´re ready to take a backup of my newly created VM.
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Taking a backup
The first thing to do when you go into ”Take Backup” from the menu is to set the backup location for your VM´s. In this case I had only one VM (a host with 4 GB ram isn´t the most attractive) so that´s what I want to take a backup of right now. I clicked ”Click here to set Backup Location” and choose my network share.
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Now when I click ”Take Backup” as seen below, the backup will be stored in this network share.
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Once the backup is underway, you can always go to the dashboard to see what´s happening in your environment at that given moment. In this case we can see that it´s busy transferring the files to the share.
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Setting up notifications
A good thing to set up is the notifications. Simply go into ”Notifications” from the menu and add a SMTP server of your choice. After clicking ”Send Test Email” a couple of times I had a few mails waiting for me in my mailbox. Now I will get a notification on every success and failure that takes place with my backup and restore operations.
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Backup schedules
Most likely you will want to set up backups on a schedule and to get you started there are two ready-made backup schedules that you can edit or just create your own. You can reach this function from ”Schedules” in the menu.
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What you see below is me that have clicked Edit (the pen) for the first schedule which will take weekly backups on Saturday and Sunday at 20.00 (8 PM). As you can see here you can also add an offsite copy if you have an offsite server in Azure for example.
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Retention policy
For this part I have taken a look at the retention policies in place which states how long to keep the backups that have been made. The default state says to keep backups for two weeks for both ”on-prem” servers and offsite servers. This is where you can choose to keep short term data on-prem and store long-term backups in Azure for example. Easy to set up and you can add new policies as well.
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Restoring VM´s
Now, taking backups is cool and necessary and it´s of course very nice to see it working out the way it should. But what if one of our super-admins accidently deletes a server? Then it would be very nice to be able to restore that server to make sure we´re up and running in as little time as possible. To show you the restore process, you can see my single VM which I just deleted from the host.
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The VM along with it´s VHDX etc. is gone and is no more among us. Time to get down to business and restore this server as soon as possible.
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Go into ”Restore” from the menu to get started. The first thing to do is to choose where you want to restore the server from. In this case I only have one location so the network share it is.
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Choose which VM to restore. And of course, TBVM01 is the one we want to restore.
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Now you can make a few changes. The first thing is to choose which backup you want to restore, the last backup or another backup from far back in time. In this case I would also like the VM to be restored with the original name and I also want to restore the VM to it´s original location. Since the server is deleted there is no need to disable the network card, I just want it up and running as soon as possible.
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And back to the dashboard again where we can see that the server is actually being restored.
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And let´s head back to the server where we can see that the server has been up and running for about a minute. The only problem I ran into is that the VHDX file wasn´t restored into it´s original location C:\VMs\TBVM01\Virtual Hard Disks\ so I had to create the Virtual Hard Disks folder and move the VHDX to that folder before I could start the VM. Took me about three extra seconds of work to make that change and I was then able to start the VM again.
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Summary
What you´ve seen here is how easy it is to get started with Altaro VM Backup and it´s really a matter of minutes from starting the installation to where you can start taking backups. The thing that took the longest time in this lab was to set up the Hyper-V host with a SSD disk, installing and updating Server 2012 R2 and creating the VM and that was still done in under an hour.
If you want to try it out yourself you can get a free license covering two VM´s from Altaro´s web site here.
So to summarize all of this, I really enjoyed trying this product out since it was very easy and intuitive with it´s easy to navigate user interface. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I´ll get back as soon as possible.

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