Trilead offers administrators the ability to manage backup of both ESX(i) and Hyper-V infrastructure from a single point and with relative ease.

Virtualization can certainly save time and money by consolidating physical infrastructure and reducing support costs. However, it is easy to forget to back up your virtual machines - even those in a development or test environment.

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer

Products like VMware ESX(i) and Microsoft Hyper-V offer administrators a way to quickly virtualize their infrastructure but do not always come bundled with an effective backup solution. ESXi, while an otherwise tremendous free product, does not offer any built-in mechanism for VM backup.

While more free backup options exist for Hyper-V, most of these do not include support for VMware. The free edition, while sadly missing a CLI and scheduling feature, offers admins a quick and dirty way to get off the ground with ESXi backup.

Configuring an ESXi host in Trilead VM Explorer

Since there are several free options for Hyper-V backup we will instead focus on ESXi backup (as ESXi is another free product). Once you’ve installed VM Explorer you will need to add your ESXi host using the “Add Server” menu. You must specify the host type (ESXi 5 in this case), server IP address, username (usually root), and root password.

You can also specify an SSH port if you choose to enable SSH access, which is usually a good idea if your server is strictly a development machine. Once you’ve picked these settings you can “Test Connection” and verify that your settings work. If the test is successful, you should click “Add” and your server will now be added to VM Explorer’s host list.

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Add server

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Add server

Backing up an VMware ESXi host

After you’ve configured your host, navigate to the “Datacenter” tab and choose to “Backup a virtual machine.” Note that in the free version, the VM must be powered off before you start the backup. After you select the machine to back up, you will be presented with a menu of options, but don’t get too excited - the most powerful option, target selection, is not available in the free version.

Instead, you must backup to the local machine, so be sure to install VM Explorer on a PC that has local access to a big drive. You could also map a network drive, but I would not advise this as it is much more error-prone and slower.

You can choose the file system location for your backup and have VM Explorer manage the backup folder names based on the option you choose for how to handle the target directory’s existence.

However, the most useful option - incremental backup - is sadly not available in their free version, so you will have to commit to full backups each time. You may specify the number of backups to keep so that Trilead will manage the removal of stale backups.

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Backups to keep

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Backups to keep

Finally, choose to backup the host and watch it work its magic - be warned, however, that it can take a while, depending on disk and network latencies.

Other nifty features in VM Explorer

The free version of VM Explorer includes useful tools like a quick shell access (terminal) to your Hyper-V, ESXi, or Linux server, a history of tasks (backups), and a file explorer for your server. All of these functionalities are easily duplicated without VM Explorer, but it is nice to have a central “command” of your hypervisors in a single place - especially if you are managing a mix of Microsoft, VMWare, and Linux servers.

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - SSH

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - SSH

In addition, VM Explorer includes the “Backup Explorer,” which empowers you to view all of the backups you have made as they exist in the current backup directory structure. You can filter and sort backups according to date and VM name.

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Available Restores

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Available Restores

Limitations of free version

Trileadhaspublishedacomparisonofversions, but I think the most blatant limitation of Trilead VM Explorer free edition is the lack of a scheduler and command line interface. In the free version the scheduler is not enabled and you cannot access the executable via command line. These are egregious limitations that do diminish the value of the free version but I suppose that’s why there is a paid version.

There are ways around the lack of scheduler, though: you can manually back up the “whole VM” once a week and use another backup tool to back up the filesystem (or the interesting parts of the filesystem) on a more regular basis.

As noted, the free version also prohibits you from backing up a running VM, which may hinder the software’s usefulness as you may need to back up a VM that stays online. Moreover, VM Explorer does not allow you to back up to an external host - you can only back up to the local machine, which is great if the local machine has adequate storage but very poor if it does not. Network drives/NFS volumes are a potential way around this, but your mileage may vary.

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Free edition

Hyper-V and VMware backup - Trilead VM Explorer - Free edition


There’s a saying that beggars cannot be choosers, and the saying certainly holds for VM Explorer. While the free version is somewhat crippled by the limitations, it can still be a useful tool in backing up your development or test environment. The pro version is available for a reasonable fee if you decide you need the scheduling (or other) capabilities. My recommendation is to give Trilead’s product a shot and decide whether the free version will work for you.

You can also get a 10-day evaluation key for the pro version, but it’s largely unnecessary because the pro version works as expected. If you have a need to backup ESX(i), Hyper-V, and Linux servers to a single store, give Trilead’s product a try - after all, it is free!

  1. Trevor 11 years ago

    If I want to backup an ESXi 4 VM that has 1.8 TB provisioned for it, but most of it is empty, is the backup going to take 1.8 TB anyway?

  2. APEX IT 11 years ago

    Unfortunately, Yes. I am still working this out in my environment. I am backing up over a 1GB Network and my two server full (~800GB provisioned) backup is still running 10 hours later. It will switch to incremental once the full is taken, but whew, I wish I knew of a way to get it to backup only used data… Anyone with a hint on this?

  3. APEX IT 11 years ago

    There is a Thin Provisioning Support option when configuring the backup that will convert the backup to a thin disk, but when I attempt to check this box in my two ESXi Free environments it refuses to enable stating that ‘Thin provisioning support is only available if target host is ESX/ESXi’. I am running ESXi 5.0 in both environments.
    Not sure how to get this working. Anyone have any recommendations?

  4. Thomas Lawson 9 years ago

    We are having the same problem as APEX IT

    Please advise

    “Thin Provisioning support is only available if target host is ESX/ESXi.
    This option will be disabled”

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