Today, I'm going to introduce you to an easy-to use product that simplifies VMware VM backup and restore, and does so with rich data deduplication. It's called NAKIVO Backup & Replication. The new version v6 has been released recently.

As much as Microsoft wants us to use its Hyper-V hypervisor, the truth of the matter is that many of us are VMware vSphere/vCenter/ESXi shops instead. Having said that, how are you backing up your Windows-based virtual machines (VMs)? What kind of storage footprint are the backup images consuming?

NAKIVO feature overview ^

A picture's worth a thousand words, so feel free to study the following drawing I created for you while I explain each numeric annotation:

NAKIVO architecture

NAKIVO architecture

  • 1: You manage NAKIVO Backup & Replication using a web browser.
  • 2: The Transporter is a component that offloads the actual backup and replication "heavy lifting" from either your NAKIVO server or your VMware virtualization hosts. What's interesting is that usually only one Transporter per site is required.
  • 3: Back up your VMware VMs to a local or remote file share, or to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud as Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) instances
  • 4: Replication allows you to store warm standby copies of your mission-critical VMware VMs
Adding a Transporter

Adding a Transporter

NAKIVO installation and configuration ^

To set up my test environment, I began by registering at the NAKIVO website and downloading a fully-functional 15-day trial. You can actually deploy your NAKIVO Backup & Replication in one of five ways:

  • Windows installer
  • Linux installer
  • Pre-configured VMware virtual appliance
  • Network Attached Storage (NAS) installer
  • Pre-configured Amazon Machine Image (AMI)

The installation itself is simple and took less than five minutes on my Windows Server 2012 R2 member server.

NAKIVO Backup & Replication Installer for Windows

NAKIVO Backup & Replication Installer for Windows

If you accepted the default Web UI port, then point your web browser to https://localhost:4443 to connect to the NAKIVO web console. You'll be prompted to create an administrative user account before entering the Configuration interface.

Before we create a backup job, we need to add ESXi hosts to our inventory and define at least one backup repository and accompanying Transporter component. Adding VMware servers is easy: Navigate to the Inventory tab in Configuration, click Add New Server and specify (a) a DNS hostname or IP address; (b) VMware host admin credentials; and (c) optionally, an alternative web services port if you don't want to use the default (TCP 443).

Your copy already has a Transporter component installed; to create additional Windows Transporters, run the NAKIVO Backup & Replication installer on them, specifying only the Transporter to be installed. After that, return to the Director Web UI and add the new Transporter from the Transporters tab.

By default, a backup repository is created during installation. New backup repositories are simple to deploy as well. From the Web UI, navigate to the Backup repositories tab, click Create Backup Repository, and specify the target folder type (local or network) and which transporter you want to use.

Running a VM backup ^

Clicking Create a Backup Job kicks off the four-step New Backup Job Wizard, in which you specify:

  • which VMs you want to back up
  • which backup repository you want to use
  • how you want to schedule the backup (run on demand, run every day, and so on)
  • what backup options you need (retention, which transport you want to use, data deduplication, etc.)
The NAKIVO Backup & Replication dashboard

The NAKIVO Backup & Replication dashboard

I do want to give a shout-out to NAKIVO's outstanding data deduplication technology. It always frustrates me to use a backup platform that redundantly stores data when redundancy isn't needed. For instance, think of how much duplication you have across four Windows Server VMs in operating system files alone.

Data deduplication stores only a single instance of those redundant resources. Therefore, you save yourself a LOT of otherwise wasted space in your backup repositories.

Performing Recovery ^

NAKIVO Backup & Replication provides rich backup job metadata. You can instantly restore any of the following from your backup corpus:

  • Entire VMs
  • Individual files from a VM
  • Individual application artifacts (specifically, from either Active Directory or Exchange Server)
The File Recovery Wizard

The File Recovery Wizard

By the way, the New Replication Job Wizard operates in the same way the New Backup Job Wizard does. Here are the four steps:

  • choose which VMs you want to replicate
  • choose a target ESXi datastore to host your replicated VMs
  • define a replication schedule
  • specify replication options (thin provisioning, encryption, and so on)

For completeness, let me give you the three steps in the New Recovery Job Wizard:

  • select which VMs to recover based on a previously successful backup job
  • choose a target ESXi datastore (doesn't have to be the original VMware host)
  • specify recovery options (encryption, power on recovered VMs, etc.)

NAKIVO also offers a free version of NAKIVO Backup & Replication. The Free Edition allows you to perform ad-hoc backups of individual VMware virtual machines.

New features in v6 ^

NAKIVO has recently released v6 which offers interesting new features. The most notable one is that you can now also backup EC2 instances from Amazon’s cloud to a repository in the same region, a different region or to a local backup destination. NAKIVO Backup & Replication supports Linux and Windows instances.

Creating an Amazon EC2 backup job

Creating an Amazon EC2 backup job

The new Backup Copy jobs feature allows you to duplicate backups from one repository to another which ensures that you will never have to worry again about a corrupted backup.

NAKIVO Backup & Replication v6 now supports NFS shares as backup repositories. Previous versions only allowed you to store backups on Windows CIFS shares and local folders.

The web interface has been revamped and NAKIVO added the the ability to use localized date and time formats.

Licensing details and for further learning ^

Honestly, I think you'll find NAKIVO's pricing to be more competitive than, say, Veeam's. Check out NAKIVO's pricing page for details. All licenses are perpetual and include a one-year support and maintenance agreement. Price ranges from $199 per vSphere host CPU socket for the Pro Essentials version, up to $599 per socket for the Enterprise version.

In sum, the two things I like about NAKIVO Backup & Replication are (a) its easy to use, no-frills operation; and (b) its low price point, especially when compared to the competition.

I'll leave you with some hand-selected resources to help you learn more about the NAKIVO platform:

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