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VMcom Backup

4 posts

Hi all,


in today's blog post we'll go through the process of browsing and restoring backups created with VMcom Backup Appliance. It is a very simple procedure so to keep things entertaining, I'll cover some background facts and trivia that are outside the scope of a typical guide.


Assuming you already have VMcom deployed, installed and have created your first backup, you might now wonder how to restore virtual machines and individual files in case something goes wrong. VMcom aims to keep things simple, yet fool-proof and offers some nice features that are easy to miss when reading a normal guide.


After you log in to VMcom, select Browse Backups left menu item. You should now see a list of virtual machines which have backups in the system. Please note that tenants with limited privileges can only see backups from their own backup jobs, master users like admin get to see everything. Click Browse button to see individual restore points and virtual disks.

backups list.png

You now have three options:

1. Browse and restore individual files

This is the safest option as it does not influence the original virtual machine in any way. Using the embedded file browser you can select files and folders to restore and VMcom will create a nice ZIP archive for you to download. Use ctrl+click (or cmd+click on Mac) to select multiple items.

file browser.png

This can also be handy for non-IT personnel in your company to retrieve older versions of their documents etc. Simply give them the most basic user role File Restore Operator and you can be sure they cannot mess up anything while having the ability to restore themselves. As an administrator I love to delegate these tasks to users and they like having the tools to perform them.


This feature is available for both Windows and Linux filesystems and does not require any agents or OS credentials.


2. Restore entire VM

This option is most useful when something is critically wrong with the primary virtual machine. Eg. kernel update fails, you cannot boot and you simply have to fix it now.


In order to make sure this type of restore is not used by accident, VMcom requires you to power off the original virtual machine in vSphere. To play on the safe side even more, it creates a snapshot of the current state before the restore operation begins. Should the restore fail or should you change your mind about this, you have 3 days to use the snapshot manager in vSphere client in order to safely revert this operation. After 3 days, the emergency snapshot is removed automatically. You may also delete it manually after you verify the restore has been successful.


Please note that the emergency snapshot can take up some space on the datastore which is why VMcom requires some additional free space to perform this operation.


3. Restore VM into a new location

The last option basically creates a new virtual machine from the selected backup. This operation should be always performed by the administrator and is disabled for tenant users.


If you have multiple vCenters or ESXi hosts configured in VMcom, it is even possible to restore to another vCenter or ESXi. The only limitation is free datastore space and supported virtual hardware. When restoring to the same host and network as the original, make sure virtual machines' IP addresses do not colide after you power up the new one :-)

restore to new loc.png

This restore method is preferred to the previous one as you can keep the original virtual machine running until the restore operation fully completes.



As you can see, VMcom aims to never disrupt the primary infrastructure. Even when you try to overwrite the original data, it creates an emergency snapshot. It does not require any OS changes, agents, additional services or credentials to do stuff inside your VMs.


The main message here is ease of use and robustness. Packed up in a nice web GUI.


If you like what you see, you can download a free trial and give it a go.

Hello everybody,


If you've read my last post, you should now have a freshly deployed instance of VMcom Backup Appliance.


Today, we're going to perform the initial settings and create our first backup. It should take no more than a pleasant couple of minutes. We're also going to get familiar with a very pretty, user-friendly web GUI.


Navigate your browser to the appliance's IP address or hostname and log in as admin with password pleasechangeme (unless you've already changed it to something more secure). You should see VMcom's Dashboard.

after login.png

The dark gray left menu navigates you though all of the functions. Still on the Dashboard, please note the four gray rectangles - they represent vital components of the application and will turn red in case there is something wrong. Also, you'll notice a short info bar giving you some useful hints about the application. At this point, it's telling you to add your VMware infrastructure, which is what we'll do right now.


Step 1: Add your vCenter or ESXi hosts

Click Manage infrastructure under the first gray rectagle or the corresponding left menu item. You will be directed to VMware Infrastructure screen where you can add your vSphere components. It is recommended to create a separate vSphere user for the appliance (check the VMcom Admin Guide for a list of required privileges). Please note that ESXi free is not supported as a backup source and you'll get an error if you try to add one. This is common for almost every backup application out there and can be one of the main reasons to upgrade your VMware license.

adding vcenter.png

Click save and the application will scan the vSphere inventory and cache its contents for faster browsing. The cache refreshes automatically every 20 minutes or after a successful restore operation.


Step 2: Add some storage for your backups

With VMcom, you can utilize local disks or iSCSI/FC/NFS datastores for storing backups. If this is the case, simply edit VMcom VM's settings and create a virtual disk on a corresponding datastore. Back in the VMcom GUI, click Backup Storage and turn such disks into deduplicated backup repositories by clicking the Create button.


If you plan to utilize a NFS/SMB storage or an external deduplication solution (HPE StoreOnce or similar) use one of the Add NFS Share or Add SMB Share buttons and fill in its connection details. The result should look something like this:

adding storage.png


Step 3: Create a Backup job

We are now ready to create a Backup job. Select the Backup Jobs left menu item and then Create vSphere Job. When creating the job, you need to decide whether to use VMware's quiescing function when creating snapshots for your backups. It is generally recommended for Windows VMs which can utilize VSS for application-consistent backups. Linux VMs usually ignore quiescing.


Personally, I disable quiescing for IO intensive VMs as it might cause the snapshot creating take longer than usual.


When finished, click Save. The Job will then appear in the list and you can expand its detailed setting by clicking the Open button in the Actions column.


Now it is time to select vSphere objects, that will be protected by this Job. Click the blue plus button in Selected Objects panel. Now you can browse your vSphere inventory and select any object you like - datacenter, cluster, host, folder, resource pool or VM. You can even select multiple objects if you like. When ready, click Save and check the list of Protected VMs.


Next, select a Target Storage for this backup. It will be one of the repositories created in step 2.

backup job.png


That's it. You can now schedule the Job to run periodically or simply run it manually. The scheduler is self-explanatory, so for simplicity let us simply click Run now and see the result.

backup run.png


Simple, right? Next time, we'll go through browsing backups and restoring. Thanks for reading!

In my previous blog post, I wrote a short introduction to the problematics of multitenant backup and restore.


Now it's time to get more technical. This is a step-by-step guide of obtaining and deploying the free version of VMcom Backup Appliance.


Obviously you could just follow the Admin guide or watch this 3 minute video of the entire process. I am, however, going to mention some technical trivia, which go beyond the scope of an ordinary guide.


Step 1: Download the free version

The first step is very simple. Obtain a free version of the application by filling the form at VMcom's download page. Immediately after submitting the form, a download link appears. The application is distributed in an Open Virtualization Appliance (OVA) format and has a size of cca 2 GB. Click the download link to store the OVA file to your computer.


Step 2: Deployment options

Next, you have to decide whether to deploy the application into your existing cluster or onto a standalone ESXi host. The first option is usually recommended for smaller environments (1 cluster for both management VMs and workload VMs).


For larger vSphere deployments, it might be a good idea to keep the backup solution completely separated. In that case, you might even dedicate a standalone physical host with ESXi free and plenty of disk space for your backups. This option is fully supported by VMcom.


Hardware recommendations for VMcom Backup host

VMcom Backup Appliance is not very picky about hardware. Any server capable of running ESXi will do.


However, if you plan to utilize local disks for storing backups, it is  recommended to equip the server with at least one SSD disk (or a couple of SSDs in RAID1) in order to boost deduplication performance. As for the capacity disks, all common options like RAID 5, 6 and 10 are supported.


Step 3: Deploy the appliance

Use your vSphere client or web client to complete this step. Select the Deploy OVF template from the File... menu (C# client) or Actions menu (web client) and follow the process. During this time, you will be asked to enter appliance's network and timezone settings. Make a note of the IP address, you are going to need it later.


Step 4: Adjust virtual hardware

After the deployment process has completed, edit the newly created VM's settings. Depending on your storage capacity demand, you might need to increase the virtual memory. Start with 1 GB RAM per 1 TB of storage space as a rule of thumb.


When using local disks for storing backups, create corresponding datastores in vSphere and provision the VMcom Backup Appliance VM with virtual disks on these datastores. Both thin- and thick- provisioning options are supported. Typically, you would create one small SSD backed virtual disk per each large HDD backed virtual disk. Small disks will serve as deduplication cache, large ones for storing backups.


When finished, power-on the VM.


About deduplication

VMcom utilizes global ZFS based deduplication mechanism with sha256 hashing and fletcher4 checksums. Block length can be set dynamically and defaults to 1 MB. Deduplication cache disks can be added and removed dynamically as well, so you may safely elect to add them later.


Both deduplication and compression features are optional and can be turned on or off dynamically.


Step 5: Adjust networking

If you've deployed the appliance using a vCenter Server and do not require more than one network interfaces, you may skip to Step 6.


When deploying to a standalone host, timezone and network settings entered in Step 3 are ignored and manual intervention is required. This is common for all virtual appliances that rely on virtual OVF environment to perform initial setup, as vCenter Server is required for the OVF environment to work.


Detailed explanation of this process is covered in the Admin guide.


Step 6: First login

Congratulations! You can now login to the appliance using your web browser. Just navigate to https://<appliance_ip_or_hostname> and approve the default SSL certificate and EULA.


Default username is admin with password pleasechangeme and as it suggests, your first homework is to change it to something a bit safer.


In the following post, we'll create our first backup together!

Virtualization has changed the way people utilize computing and storage resources. Multiple teams or even organizations now share physical hardware in order to maximize its utilization and efficiency. But what about backups?


If I'm allowed to create and manage VMs without worrying about the underlying hardware, I should be able to manage backups as well. Shoud I not? After all, VM's owners know best when to back up and when to restore.


Luckily, there is a solution: VMcom Backup Appliance.


It is a pre-installed virtual machine designed to back up and recover VMware VMs.


Coming from an ISP background, the VMcom Backup Appliance is highly multitenant. It enables the central administrator to create isolated (tenant) environments within a single appliance. Each tenant can then be assigned a set of privileges for backup and recovery of particular vSphere objects and a storage quota.


Using this arrangement, VM owners can manage their own backup plans, run on-demand backups and perform restores of both individual files and entire VMs. All this can be done using a fast, modern HTML5 interface while maintaining a single pane of glass management for vSphere administrators.


Learn more on this blog or at the VMcom website:


The solution is free for non-commercial use. There are no functional or capacity limitations of the free version. Any reason not to try it?