If you are willing to learn some Linux, you may find Bacula Enterprise Edition is a powerful and flexible backup and recovery solution for your Windows infrastructure.

Timothy Warner

Timothy Warner is a Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Most Valuable Professional (MVP) who is based in Nashville, TN. Check out his Azure and Windows Server video training at Pluralsight, and feel free to reach out to Tim via Twitter.

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We Windows systems administrators are accustomed to working with closed-source, proprietary enterprise software. We pay good money for backup and recovery software such as Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM). But we can't be sure that (a) the software will not disappear overnight, and (b) we can rely on quality support from the vendor.

By contrast, some issues we may have with free and open-source software (FOSS) are:

  • Inconsistent updates
  • Missing and/or incomplete documentation
  • Lack of reliable support

We don't need to get into the high weeds with this distinction because today I'm going to teach you about Bacula Enterprise Edition. Bacula Systems offers a subscription licensing model that includes both the software and support services. In my view, the biggest advantage this product brings to the disaster recovery (DR) table is its extensibility: Bacula maintains plug-ins for practically every operating system and backup device known to our industry.

Let's get to work!

Basic architecture ^

Take a look at the following architectural diagram, provided courtesy of Bacula Systems:

Bacula Enterprise Edition architecture

Bacula Enterprise Edition architecture

Let me describe each major solution component:

  • Director: The "engine" that handles the backup, restore, and verification processes
  • Catalog: The database (SQLite, MySQL, or PostgreSQL) back-end that stores backup and restore job metadata
  • Consoles: Web, GUI, and command-line administration interfaces
  • Daemon/Client: Agent software for backup targets and storage devices

The idea here is that smaller shops can run Bacula Enterprise Edition on a single physical or virtual box, or you can create load-balanced clusters. Moreover, the modular client architecture should cover all of your backup targets and storage arrays.

The publicly available product documentation on the Bacula Systems website is scarce; I had better luck studying the Bacula Community Edition docs.

Product installation workflow ^

As I said at the beginning of this article, you need a little bit of Linux know-how to install Bacula Enterprise Edition because this is, indeed, Linux software.

For evaluation purposes, I suggest you download the trial edition ISO, which you can install quite easily on a virtual machine (VM) by accepting the default installation values. The trial edition Kickstart Guide is pretty well done.

As you can see in the next screenshot, the trial edition installer requires you to specify your new Bacula Enterprise Edition server's IP address. This will be important in a moment when we connect to the BWeb Management Suite administration console.

Bacula Enterprise Edition installation process

Bacula Enterprise Edition installation process

Storage configuration ^

The specific plug-ins available to you depend entirely on how you license the software. Bacula Systems uses a traditional subscription model; you need to request a quote customized to your environment.

Ultimately, the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) plug-in unlocks the ability for Bacula Enterprise to work with your network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) fabric.

As of this writing, the Bacula NDMP plug-in works with the following NAS devices:

  • EMC Celerra
  • Hitachi BlueArc
  • NetApp
  • Huawei OceanStor
  • EMC Isilon
  • EMC Unity

Of course, you can also connect to your tape autoloaders and virtual tape libraries. To add a storage advice, fire up the BWeb console, navigate to Configuration > Configure Bacula, and start the Configure a new storage resource wizard as shown in the next composite screenshot.

Configuring a new storage resource

Configuring a new storage resource

VM backup ^

Bacula Enterprise Edition supports all the major proprietary and open-source hypervisors:

  • Hyper-V
  • Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM)
  • Proxmox
  • VMware
  • Xen

When you license the appropriate plug-ins, Bacula provides you with the client (agent) software you can deploy however you normally do. In my test environment, I installed the Windows 64-bit agent on a Windows Server 2016 domain member file server.

At one point during installation, you'll need to supply the Director name, password, and IP address.

Retrieve this information from the BWeb console as I demonstrate in the following screenshot.

Deploying a Windows client

Deploying a Windows client

Once you've configured your physical and/or virtual machine clients, you are ready to define a backup policy and actually institute your DR strategy. As you would expect, Bacula Enterprise Edition supports data compression, encryption, and deduplication. You can back up your server clients along several different lines:

  • Full system ("bare metal")
  • Files and folders using VSS snapshots
  • Virtualization host with all metadata

I show you my progress in configuring a full-system backup of my Windows client in the next screenshot.

Configuring a backup job

Configuring a backup job

Database backup ^

Any line of business (LOB) system worth its salt uses one or more relational or non-relational databases for its storage. Accordingly, Bacula Enterprise Edition natively supports the following databases via its plug-in architecture:

  • Microsoft Active Directory
  • Microsoft Exchange Server
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • MySQL
  • Oracle Database
  • PostgreSQL
  • SAP and SAP HANA

You use the same interface to manage database backups and restores that you do for server backups and restores.

Cloud integration ^

Bacula Enterprise Edition integrates with both Microsoft Azure blob storage as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 storage. Bacula developed a technology they call Minimal Restore Cost (MRC), which basically involves keeping some of your cloud-based backups synchronized on premises such that cloud-based restore operations finish faster.

Wrap-up ^

As I see it, the main advantage Bacula Enterprise Edition offers the Windows systems administrator is great flexibility. This advantage will make Windows administrators who manage multi-platform, hybrid cloud, heterogeneous environments happy. The Linux server also offers good reliability, stability, and scalability.

Because Bacula Enterprise Edition is paid software and not FOSS, you receive reliable support as part of your subscription cost. The software is also updated and patched more regularly than its FOSS cousins.

The main disadvantages of Bacula Enterprise Edition are (a) the Linux requirement for the Director and (b) only customers get access to the advanced documentation. For example, try as I might, I could not find any instructions on how to configure Azure or AWS as a storage target.

Ultimately, I recommend you download the free 30-day trial so you can install the product on a test system and "kick the tires" for yourself. Notice that Bacula Systems offers support during the evaluation period.

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