The necessity of virtual machine backup
A virtual machine (VM) is a computer system that runs in an isolated environment, with software emulating the full functionality of a hardware system. What can be done in a physical computer can also be done in a virtual machine.
The software used to create and manage virtual machines is hypervisor, and a hypervisor allows one host computer to support multiple VMs. There are type-1 and type-2 hypervisors, of which the type-1 hypervisor runs directly on the physical hardware without loading the underlying operating system, making them very efficient and secure, and therefore widely used in enterprise environments.
However, this does not mean that virtual machines under type-1 hypervisor (typically represented by VMware ESXi and Hyper-V) management do not need protection. In fact, the complexity of enterprise environments and the importance of business data emphasize the importance of VM backups.
After all, many factors such as hardware damage, computer virus attacks, manual errors, power outages, etc. can all lead to virtual machine failures and even business interruptions and loss of important data. To minimize the risk, it is crucial to create regular backups of your virtual machines.
Especially for organizations that rely heavily on virtualization, if VMware virtual machines are not backed up in a timely manner, the damage could be incalculable if something goes wrong. Only with reliable virtual machine backup solutions, can you ensure timely disaster recovery and business continuity in various situations.
Are there any built-in virtual machine backup solutions?
Then, how can we back up ESXi or Hyper-V virtual machines? In a broad sense, there are more than one built-in features for VM data protection. However, none of them is a true long-term “backup” option, so you may also need specialized solution to meet higher requirements.
Let’s first look at these backup options.
1. VM snapshots/checkpoints
The concept of snapshot in VMware and checkpoint in Hyper-V are similar. It captures the complete state and data of a virtual machine at a specific point in time, and works as a short-term rollback point before unsafe operations.
What needs to be noted is that snapshot cannot replace backup. It depends on the parent disk, and record incremental changes from a point in time. If the parent disk of a VM is deleted, you cannot restore it from a snapshot. Keeping a snapshot for too long will also affect VM performance. Simply put, it’s not recommended to use snapshot as regular backup means.
2. Copy/download VM files
Download VM files for archive or re-creation. You can upload the files and register an instantly usable new VM. For VMware, you can do this in ESXi Web Client.
3. Export VM templates
Create a OVF template for re-deploy. You will gain faster downloads since the OVF files are compressed, and supports exchange of virtual appliances across products and platforms.
4. Guest OS backup utility
The guest OS inside of virtual machines may include some backup options, such as Windows Backup and Restore. It allows you to customize what files to back up flexibly.
But apparently, this method only suitable for users that only have several virtual machines – you won’t want to operate the backup utility machine by machine.
*If you are running Hyper-V on Windows Server, you can use Windows Server Backup to create scheduled backup tasks of multiple Hyper-V VMs.
If none of these methods works well for you, then it is best to choose a reliable and professional VM backup solution.
Image-based virtual machine backup software for VMware and Hyper-V
VM backup products on the market typically allow image-level backups of all VMs from a single console, allowing you to centrally monitor all tasks and quickly restore specific VMs to a usable state when needed.
However, most enterprise-class products are expensive with a high technical barrier. It can be difficult for non-technical organizations or start-up businesses to pick a VMware backup solution that is easy to use and fits their budget.
Therefore, I’d like to introduce AOMEI Cyber Backup, the efficient and affordable Hyper-V & VMware backup software. It supports VMware ESXi 6.0 onward (both paid and free versions), as well as Hyper-V in Windows 8/8.1/10/11, Windows Server/Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 and later versions.
It can be installed on Windows or Linux system to deliver the following benefits:
Easy-to-use: Just one intuitive and concise web console to help you complete all operations with simple clicks.
Centralized backup: Simply add all devices you want to back up in a single console without installing Agent program on each VM. You can finish the setup in minutes and create image-based backup for multiple VMs at once.
Automated backup and retention: Set up a schedule to auto backup VMs daily, weekly, monthly. You can also create a retention policy to keep backups up to date and remove old versions intelligently.
Restore from any point: Recover VM from any full or incremental/differential backup point based on accurate data mapping and change block tracking. You can also choose in-place recovery, or restore to new location.
Backup scalability: AOMEI Cyber Backup offers both perpetual and yearly licenses at very affordable price, and you can choose a plan based on VM numbers (not tied to any host), or HOST numbers (unlimited VMs on each host).
Overall, AOMEI Cyber Backup is a good choice for small organizations and start-up businesses. It may not be the most feature-rich virtual machine backup software at this stage, but its cost effectiveness and ease of operation significantly lowers the barrier to enterprise data backup, making it simple for anyone, even a novice to protect virtual environments.