If you run a virtualized infrastructure, then disaster recovery planning is not optional. Vembu offers a free backup solution for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere environments.

Here's the situation: Your business is becoming increasingly invested in server virtualization. You began as a Hyper-V shop, and still have several Hyper-V hosts in the domain, but you've recently embraces VMware vSphere as well. Now it's time to plan for disaster recovery and VM replication...whoops. Your budget won't accommodate a potentially expensive software purchase. What can you do?

Vembu, an authorized Microsoft, VMware, and Red Hat technology partner, offers a free edition of their Vembu VMBackup v3.7.0 solution. This is the first time Vembu has offered a permanent, free license tier, so it's a big deal. I wrote a detailed review of their commercial BDR Suite product previously here at 4sysops. Today I want to focus on what value the free VMBackup tool gives you.

Trial version installation workflow ^

Although Vembu hosts a web page for VMBackup v3.7.0 Free Edition, the download link actually gives you the 30-day trial version of their BDR Suite.

Read the release notes (PDF link) to learn the Vembu BDR backup server system requirements. In a nutshell, you should have a 64-bit Windows Server or Ubuntu Linux server available with at least 16 GB RAM, a quad-core CPU, a 1-Gbps network link speed, and plenty of hard disk space for your backups.

The monolithic, 630-MB installer performs the following actions, some of which are shown in the following screenshot:

  • Defines a storage repository location (typically the largest disk volume on the server)
  • Deploys a web service and associated website
  • Attaches a PostgreSQL database to the Vembu web application
Vembu BDR suite installation

Vembu BDR suite installation

If you know in advance that you want to use the free edition permanently, then you have two options:

  • Allow 30 days to elapse, after all the trail paid version license will automatically convert to the free edition (make sure now to use paid version features)
  • Contact Vembu support and ask them to deactivate the paid edition features. You'll need to create a free Vembu Portal account

Backup features ^

Vembu VMBackup Free Edition can perform agentless backup of Hyper-V or vSphere virtual machines. On the VMware side, this means you can back up not only individual ESXi virtualization hosts, but also entire vCenter infrastructures. Pretty cool!

On the Hyper-V side, VMBackup can back up multiple Hyper-V VMs from the localhost and/or from Server Message Block (SMB) file shares. The product even backs up VMs that are stored in Windows Server failover cluster Cluster Shared Volumes (CSVs). You can exclude virtual disks from backups for both the VMware and Hyper-V scenarios.

The following image shows me backing up a ESXi VM by using the BDR Server web console:

Backing up a VM

Backing up a VM

The free license enables you to do full image backups of physical Windows Server computers. You can optionally back up individual physical disk or volumes (even over 2 TB in size) using either the MBR or GPT partition types.

The paid license unlocks features like automatic backup scheduling, retention policies, VM replication, failover and failback.

Recovery features ^

Vembu claims their VMBackup solution offers a recovery time objective (RTO) target of less than 15 minutes.

The free license enables you to permanently restore a backed-up VM to an ESXi or Hyper-V host as a VM. You also can perform instant file recovery of individual resources from a specific VM archive.

On the Microsoft front, Vembu lets you perform granular recovery of items from Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Active Directory, and SQL Server databases. That's an impressive feature for free software!

Speaking of the paid version, the paid license allows you to (almost) instantly recover backed-up VMs to KVM, ESXi, or Hyper-V servers as VMs. Significantly, the paid license allows you to replicate VMware or Hyper-V VMs offside to either your own offsite location or to the Vembu cloud. I show you the scaled-out Vembu architecture in the following screenshot.

VM backup to offsite and cloud targets

VM backup to offsite and cloud targets

With respect to physical Windows Server backups, Vembu VMBackup Free Edition supports bare metal recovery using the Vembu Recovery CD. You can also do individual disk- and file-level recovery.

Management features ^

The web-based management console is a standard component of Vembu BDR Suite, including free VMBackup. The free license grants you the ability to confgure reports and e-mail notifications. You can specify multiple data storage repositories, including SMB file shares as I said earlier.

You also can take advantage of Vembu's built-in compression and data deduplication, as well as end-to-end encryption.

The paid version includes automatic backup verification, WAN acceleration, bandwidth throttling, and WAN throttling.

Wrap-up ^

In my opinion, Vembu VMBackup v3.7.0 Free Edition offers quite a bit of value above and beyond what you get with, for instance, Windows Server Backup. If and when you're ready to move to the enterprise features, you can simply pay for and apply your paid version license and continue your VM disaster recovery work seamlessly.

Make sure to read my original Vembu BDR Suite product review for more details. As I normally do, I'll leave you with some references for further exploration:

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