Review of Altaro Hyper-V Backup for Windows 2012 – v3.5

Altaro is a relative small but rapidly growing company which has a focus on developing backup software for Microsoft platforms. One of the backup solutions which  Altaro sells is Hyper-V Backup able to backup and restore VMs  on Hyper-V hosts. Soon to be released is Altaro Hyper-V Backup for Windows  2012. This blog posting will give information on this latest software. I used version currently in beta in my test lab. This will support :

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V role enabled
  • Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V role enabled
  • Hyper-V Server 2012

Altaro Hyper-V Backup is targeted at the small and medium-sized businesses and small offices. It delivers a cost-effective, simple to use, fast  software for Hyper-V with all the features expected of a backup tool and some more; the ability to recover a VM from backup media without a timely restore which is unique for it’s price and the market Altaro focusses on.

The current Altaro Hyper-V Backup version 3 is available in three editions. A free edition, Standard edition and Unlimited edition. In most cases the Unlimited edition will be prefered  as this is the only edition which supports Clustered Shared Volumes. It also allows backup of an unlimited number of virtual machines. It is expected that Altaro Hyper-V Backup for Windows 2012 will be available in  the same three editions.

The software is licensed per Hyper-V host and costs Euro 345,- per host for the unlimited edition.

The software comes in a 14 MB executable. Before setup you will need to install Microsoft .NET 3.5. On Windows Server 2012 this can be installed using a few mouse clicks in the ‘Add Roles and features’ wizard selecting ‘.NET Framework 3.5 Features’. Installation of Altaro Hyper-V Backup is very simple using a few mouse clicks. The whole process takes a minute or so. After installation has finished two tiles are added to the Windows Server 2012 Start Menu: Altaro Backup Service Controller and the Altaro Management Console.

The Service Controller allows you to stop and start the Backup service. It also allows to switch to the Secondary Backup Drive. This could be needed if the data on the primary backup drive is lost.

Altaro Management Console is used for management of backup jobs and restores. It has a very easy to use interface. All features are easy accessable on the left hand part of the screen. Very handy is the display of status of the most recent action in the upper right corner of the screen.

When multiple Hyper-V servers are used in a cluster, the Altaro master controller runs on the node where the Management Console has been installed. All other Hyper-V servers run the Altaro Background Agent. The master controller configures and controls all the Altaro Background Agents on the cluster. Agents can be deployed from the console.

Backup operation
Backup data can be stored on various disk targets; Hard disks locally to the server, attached usb-drives and also Windows shares. Also RDX cartridges are supported. These are removable 2,5” hard disks in a cartridge.  Backup to tape  is not support. To protect the backup data a feature named ‘Backup Drive Mirroring’ is available. This allows to replicate backup data to another drive or share. Support for backup storage to the cloud is not supported.

Altaro Hyper-V Backup is able to detect changes in the Hyper-V virtual disk file commited since the last backup. So only the changed blocks will be transferred to backup media reducing the amount of time and disk space on the backup media.

Microsoft VSS is used to create application consistent backups. This means applications flushes outstanding writes to disk as soon as the backup of the VM starts.

Replication of the backup data to the mirror drive is not incremental. All the data of the backup file is transferred each time a bit has changed in the primary backup media. For large data this could cause issues if data is transferred over a WAN connection used for business applications as well. Synchronization is performed daily at a fixed time. It is not possible to exclude certain days for synchronization or use different schedules.

Status of the replication can be viewed in the Dashboard screen. It is not possible to add an entry in the event log or sent an email for status of replication.

Notification about the status of the backup job can be added to Altaro eventlog or send by email. Altaro Hyper-V Backup does not write to the Windows Server Event logs.

Various backup schedules can be set. An immediate backup of a VM with a single click is not possible. A schedule must  be created to perform such a backup.

Restore operations
Two types of restores can be performed. A restore of one or multiple VHD/VHDX files when the VM has been lost. Or a File Level restore to restore individual files of a virtual machine. In this case the virtual disk files are restored to a temporary folder. Each virtual disk will be mapped to a drive of the Hyper-V host where Altaro is installed. Then files can be copy/paste from the drive to the virtual machine using Windows Explorer. It is not possible restore individual files from the backup media to the target virtual machine. The reason for that is the lack of an Altaro backup agent in the VM.

Boot from Backup Drive.
This feature allows you to temporary boot a virtual machine directly from the backup drive without having to do a full restore. This allows you to get the VM up and running in a very short amount of time. The feature is very similar to Veeam Instant VM Recovery. Mind the feature is experimental in the Beta release. Also all backup and restore procedures for all VMs will be disabled while to VM using Boot from Backup Drive feature is booted.

Fire Drill
The fire drill feature allows to plan and execute test restores. This feature will restore a VM and run it as a clone on a Hyper-V server. After the restore the administrator can manually check if the restore has been successful. A Fire Drill restore can either initiated manually or scheduled. Altaro Hyper-V Backup is limited to reporting if the restore test was successful or failed. It is not able to check if the virtual machine is running or application services are operational. This is due to the fact that the restored VM is not attached to the network. So the main purpose of the fire drill is to automatically detect if backup media is good enough for a restore.

Altaro Hyper-V Backup does it job well and is fits  perfect in those environments where a simple to use, cost effective Hyper-V backup tool with no frills is needed. During testing I did not encounter any issue in the beta version of the product. I was impressed by the Boot from Backup drive feature. The user interface is very easy to use and I did not need to read the manual to make full use of the product.

Hans Vredevoort of also reviewed Altaro Hyper-V Backup. See his blogposting here.

Known issues in the beta version are listedf here.

If you like to evaluate the software yourself; Altaro has a great contest. Altaro are giving away two Nexus 7’s to a couple of lucky testers of their Hyper-V backup for Windows  2012 Beta.

For full info check out the contest page

We also had the chance to review the beta last week, check it out here

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