Review: Veeam Backup & Replication

Veeam Backup & Replication v7 gives Windows Hyper-V administrators flexible control over how their virtual servers are backed up, replicated, and restored.
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Notice: Veeam is a 4sysops sponsor.

How is your company coming along with regard to building a private or hybrid cloud infrastructure? Have you virtualized many of your key services yet? If so, how are you backing up the VMs to ensure resiliency and high availability? Does your backup software offer the following features?

  • The need to perform offsite backups directly to a cloud service
  • The need to backup both Hyper-V and VMware ESX-based virtual machines
  • The need for in-VM data deduplication to maximize backup storage space
  • The need for recovery sandboxes on which to perform trial restores
  • The need for granular data recovery from virtualized instances of Exchange Server and SharePoint Server
  • The need for detailed backup and recovery statistics to ensure compliance with your SLAs, RTOs, and RPOs

The preceding list looks like a pretty tall order, doesn’t it? Not so fast. Veeam Backup & Replication v7 offers all of these features and more at a reasonable price.

Installing Veeam Backup & Replication ^

You can (and should) download a fully-functional 30-day evaluation version of the software. Here are my installation notes:

  • This is a database-driven Windows application. If you don't have a full instance of SQL Server available for Veeam, the installer will give you an instance of SQL Server 2008 R2 Express Edition
  • If you don't have any of the other runtime prerequisites on your Veeam backup server, the installer will load those for you transparently
  • The Veeam backup tool is a thick-client application

That last point might bother you if you are accustomed to Web-based tools. However, you should know that Veeam does sell an Enterprise Manager console that allows you to manage larger Veeam deployments via a Web browser.

You can set up a Windows Server or Windows client computer as a Veeam backup server. As we'll see in just a moment, you can delegate backup processing power to other machines by making them backup proxies.

Running your first backup bob ^

Once you install Veeam Backup & Replication, it's time to fire up the console and configure our environment. Here is the general workflow:

Add your backup infrastructure servers. As you can see in the screenshot below, Veeam Backup & Restore supports many different types of servers. With respect to VM hosts, the two options are Hyper-V and VMware. The Microsoft SMB3, Microsoft Windows, and Linux options denote servers that aren't hosting virtual machines but instead can be used as proxies and/or backup repositories.

Register hypervisors

We need to register our hypervisors as well as our supporting servers within Veeam.

Set up your backup repositories. We have many, many options for specifying our backup target(s), including Windows servers, Linux servers, or Common Internet File System (CIFS, also called SMB) file shares. Note that we can just as easily specify a cloud-based VM as a backup repository; the target does not need to be either physical or local.

Specify your backup proxies. In Veeam nomenclature, a backup proxy is a computer that offloads the processing required to back up and replicate virtual machines. Thus, you can have one Veeam backup server but multiple additional proxies that enable you to quickly take care of backing up and/or replicating your actual production VMs.

(Optionally) Create a WAN accelerator. Veeam has a cool WAN link acceleration feature that uses technologies like data deduplication, caching, compression, and TCP/IP optimization to make working with offsite VM backups super fast. As we'll see soon, you can actually connect to your backed-up VMs and work with them directly.

Creating an actual backup or replication job is easy; just click either Backup Job or Replication Job from the Ribbon interface. As you can see in the next screenshot, the software provides rich metadata for running backup and replication jobs. Incidentally, you can reanalyze that data at any time in the future by investigating the History tab.

Running VM backup

The interface provides detailed metadata concerning running VM backup or replication jobs.

It's important for you to understand that Veeam creates image-based, and not file-based backups. This gives you the ability to "tap into" those backed-up VMs at any time for maintenance or data recovery purposes.

As you would expect, VM replication means that you have one or more hot standby VMs on hand to fail over to in the event of a planned or unplanned outage.

Testing and restoring VMs, apps, and data ^

On the VM restoration side, Veeam is incredibly flexible. You can instantly restore a VM from a backup, or you can restore individual VM file components. In the screenshot below I created a "mashup" of the recovery options for both backups and replicas so you can see what's available:

VM recovery options

Veeam provides you with granular and manifold VM recovery options.

Veeam has two technologies, vPower and Virtual Lab, that bear a bit more discussion. A key component of any disaster recovery (DR) maintenance process is periodically verifying that your backups are valid.

Imagine if you were able to actually connect to and log into your VM backups--that's what you can do with the Veeam Virtual Lab feature. Isn't that cool?

The vPower technology enables you to do application- and file level restore from any backed up VM. As a matter of fact, installing Veeam Backup & Restore v7 gives you two additional tools that are designed for special cases:

  • Veeam Explorer for Exchange: You can open a backed-up Exchange information store and access individual mailbox items
  • Veeam Explorer for SharePoint: You can open a backed-up SharePoint content database and access individual list and library items

Being a SharePoint professional myself, I strongly appreciate the ability to tap into SharePoint content databases. Some of you know what a pain it is to try to recover list or library items by using only the built-in SharePoint recovery tools.

Veeam Explorer for SharePoint

Veeam Explorer for SharePoint is in itself reason to consider migrating your SharePoint farm to VMs!

Leveraging the Windows PowerShell interface ^

Veeam Backup & Replication v7 includes a robust PowerShell v2 interface. To gain access to their cmdlet library, you can either click PowerShell in the management application's main menu, or you can issue the following statement from any elevated PowerShell session:

Veeam put quite a bit of work into making Veeam Backup & Replication scriptable via Windows PowerShell. The snap-in includes 197 cmdlets as of this writing; this can be verified by running the following statement:

You can simply get a run of available cmdlets by running the following statement after you load the VeeamPssnapin module:

As a quick example, we can run the following cmdlet to retrieve a listing of all backup, replication, and VM copy jobs that are configured on the current Veeam backup server:

For grins, I show you the command output below.

Veeam PowerShell interface

If you already know PowerShell, then you'll be at home with the Veeam PowerShell interface.

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