Altaro VM Backup provides flexible, powerful disaster recovery (DR) for your on-premises and cloud-based Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines (VMs). Learn what's new in version 7.6, released in March 2018.

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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I've used Altaro VM Backup for quite a few years. In fact, to get up to speed with the software if you're unfamiliar with it, please preread the following related 4sysops blog posts I wrote:

Outlining the solution ^

If you haven't heard of Altaro VM Backup, let me briefly describe the solution for you. In a nutshell, Altaro VM Backup is an enterprise-class VM disaster recovery tool without the enterprise-class learning curve.

VM Backup handles DR for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi hypervisors in exactly the same way. You can back up and restore to or from another site or the cloud. You can perform trial VM restores, or you can granularly restore individual files or Microsoft Exchange mailbox contents.

You can use an optional cloud management console to centralize your VM Backup infrastructure.

The default administration tool is a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) desktop application known for its speed and intuitive user interface; I show you a screenshot in the next figure.

Altaro VM Backup management console

Altaro VM Backup management console

Okay. Now let's review the new features Altaro added to VM Backup v7.6.

Continuous Data Protection (CDP) ^

One downside to restoring entire VMs is recovery point objective (RPO). If you backed up the VM last night at 11:00 p.m. then the restore you perform this morning at 11:00 a.m. involves potentially 12 hours of lost data.

Enter Altaro Continuous Data Protection (CDP). This new feature, available only for Hyper-V workloads as of this writing in May 2018, allows you to back up VMs as frequently as every five minutes. Obviously, this has a tremendous positive effect on your RPO metric. I show you the interface in the next screenshot:

Enabling CDP for my Hyper V VM

Enabling CDP for my Hyper V VM

Once enabled, CDP takes incremental restore points at the interval you specify. Of course, during a VM restore operation, VM Backup applies the restore points transparently. There is nothing special you need to do outside of specifying normal restore options.

Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) archiving ^

Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) archiving is a tiered data archival method that employs various cycles to store backups for preconfigured time intervals.

In VM Backup v7.6, we can now configure retention policy such that when a backup reaches its retention limit, it initiates GFS archiving using the following defaults:

  • 1 backup per week for 12 weeks
  • 1 backup per month for 12 months
  • 1 backup per year for 2 years

Once again, I show you the UI in the next screenshot.

Enabling GFS archiving

Enabling GFS archiving

Revised Change Block Tracking (CBT) for Windows Server 2012 (R2) ^

Normally, backup software needs to scan the entire VM to perform incremental backups. This obviously takes a lot more time than looking quickly only for recently changed blocks.

That's what CBT v2 does in Altaro VM Backup v7.6. The feature has existed in the product since version 6.5, but now Altaro fixed a bug that affected Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 VMs' capacity to use CBT.

As shown in the following screenshot, you enable CBT v2 in the management console from the Advanced Settingspage.

Enabling CBT v2

Enabling CBT v2

Concurrent operations on a single VM ^

As described in this Altaro knowledge base article, previous versions of Altaro VM Backup used serial processing for VM operations. This meant that, for example, an offsite copy to an Azure storage account could block scheduled backup or restore operations you need on that VM.

I'm sure that this new "concurrent operations" feature makes a lot of Altaro's customers very happy.

Wrap-up ^

As you probably know if you are already an Altaro VM Backup customer, upgrading to v7.6 means uninstalling your current version and running the new installer. Doing so retains your application settings, and your backups will be untouched.

Be aware that the management console doesn't run on Windows Server Core, and that two new management ports are required: TCP 35221 for Hyper-V environments and TCP 35106 for VMware environments.

If you are a new customer, you should know that your license cost includes one year of support and upgrades. For what Altaro calls "micro businesses," you can use the Free edition permanently at no charge.

The Free edition has the following features and limitations:

  • Maximum of two managed VMs per virtualization host
  • Maximum retention period of four weeks
  • Restore clone
  • Compression
  • Hot backups
  • Flexible backup scheduling

My industry friends who do disaster recovery for a living tell me they like Altaro VM Backup because they have a single learning curve to handle both Hyper-V and VMware environments. Finally, my friend Mike Robbins wrote a nice blog post outlining how to manage Altaro VM Backup with PowerShell.

This is a quality product, and I like it! You can download Altaro VM Backup here.

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