Unitrends Free: a free and easy to use backup solution for VMware and Hyper-V

Unitrends recently released a beta of  a new and free backup solution: Unitrends Free. Unitrends Free can be used for backup & restore  of VMware and Hyper-V virtual machines. There are no restrictions in the number of virtual machines, CPU sockets, retention  nor the time for how long Unitrends Free can be used. The only restriction is the amount of unique data which can be stored: 1 TB.

Unitrends Free  is very well suited for small shops with limited budgets and looking for  some enterprise features. It is also a great solution for homelabs or demo environments.I am not aware of any free backup solution which offers instant recovery, support for cloud backup  and synthetic full backups all for free.

I installed the Unitrends Free in a Proof of Concept for a school. This school can use Microsoft software for very reduced prices. So they use Microsoft DPM for backup of virtual machines running on vSphere. DPM does a fine job for file level restores. But as DPM does not support image level backups it is not well suited for a quick and easy recovery of complete virtual machines. So for this school Unitrends Free is a good candidate  for backups of a limited number of virtual machines.

To download the Unitrends Free installer click here. For a chance at $1,500 or a Unitrends travel kit, download and register between May 12 – June 30.

Unitrends Free , current version 8.1, is a very easy to use backup and restore solution with some interesting features not available in other free offerings. The software is currently available as beta and expected to be general available in Q3 2015.

The features

Unitrends Free offers the features listed below:

  • support for VMware vSphere 5.0 and later. Mind the free vSphere Hypervisor product (ESXi free) is not supported. This is because of VMware restrictions.
  • support for Hyper-V Server 2012 and later
  • support for Windows Server 2012 or 2012 R2 with Hyper-V role enabled
  • Synthetic backup. These are created by taking a base full backup and superimposing the incremental backups on the full. Upon superimposing the incremental backups, a new recovery point is available which has the previous full and all subsequent changes rolled up into a new full backup. This backup is the synthetic full backup.
  • instant VM recovery. Allowing to run VMs stored at  the backup storage reducing downtime.
  • daily scheduling
  • incremental forever backups
  • Free 1 TB backup storage. The first 500 GB is free. Users of the product will receive  an additional 500 GB of diskspace after they signed up for the Unitrends Community Forum.
  • Verify backups
  • Store encrypted copy of the backup data in the cloud. This feature  is called ‘Backup Copy’.
  • Deduplication and compression. Tests showed that the reduction of consumed backup space can be around 50%.

Installation

Installation of Unitrends Free is a very easy process. You will need a Windows machine if the software is to be  installed on VMware vSphere. The requirement for the Windows machine is that .NET Framework 3.5 and 4.0 has to be installed. The same requirement applies for installation on Hyper-V servers.

The appliance itself uses about 83 GB of diskstorage. Also it requires two vCPU’s and 4 GB of internal memory. It is based on a Linux distribution (CentOS6).
The appliance is made available as an EXE installer. The EXE will upload the appliance virtual disk to an ESXi host or  Hyper-V host. The installation itself is very easy and straightforward. Enter the hostname  and credentials for vCenter or the ESXi/Hyper-V host, select datastore, supply the network for the appliance, IP-configuration for the appliance. The last step is creating a virtual disk to be used as backup target. The virtual disk can be a size of 128GB to 2 TB.
After the upload has finished the appliance  will start automatically. You then connect to it using a browser.Both Chrome and Firefox are supported by Unitrends Free. Internet Explorer is not supported, but some features might work.

You will then configure the time and date. When that is done you are ready to create backup jobs.
For backup of Hyper-V virtual machines you will need to install an agent of each Hyper-V server. Do that before creating the backup jobs.

Unique data versus stored backup

As mentioned earlier Unitrends Free is restricted to 1 TB of data. This is not 1 TB of backup data but 1 TB of unique data. To calculate the unique data the  appliance uses the size of the last full backup for each virtual machinebeing protected. So basically you can store much more data than the 1 TB.

unitrends-free

Recovery

Unitrends Free has three ways to recover data:
1. recovery of the complete virtual machine. This will perform a recovery of the virtual machine on production datastores. Data will be copied over from the backup repository of the ESXi datastore or Hyper-V volume. You can even restore from a backup copy located on cloud storage.
2. recovery of individual files. This is done by presenting the files via a CIFS share or via iSCSI. Adminstrators can then browse into the data and copy it over to the running VM.
3. instant recovery. This enables a quick recovery. Instead of copying over the data to a datastore, the virtual machine is started of the backup repository. Later the VM can be migrated to the production datastore using Storage vMotion.

The userinterface

The userinterface is very user friendly. It is based on HTML5. Besides the obvious menu items like protect, recover and jobs it also has a menu option called ‘reports’. Unitrends Free has a couple of nice  reports which shows status of backup jobs for example. The example screenshots below shows the protection summary and recover menu.

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Limitations

For VMware vSphere Unitrends Free has a couple of limitations. The following configurations are not supported:

  • VMs in a cluster configuration with a fault tolerant disk.
  • VMs with dynamic MAC addresses.
  • Independent and pass‐though disks. These disks are automatically excluded from backups.
  • Sparse disks.

For Hyper-V protection of Hyper‐V VMs in a cluster configuration is not available.

Cloud storage

An interesting feature of Unitrends Free is the ability to copy backup data to the cloud. This allows for offsite storage of backup data without the need for a tapedevice and tapehandling procedures. With the ever decreasing costs of cloud storage this is a very interesting feature. At the moment the supported cloud providers is limited. Only Google (Google Cloud and Google Storage Nearline) and Amazon S3 storage are supported. Google Nearline is a cheap alternative for the regular Google Cloud Storage. It is well suited for infrequently accessed data. Unitrends Free does not support Amazon Glacier which is the low cost offer of Amazon. The reason for this is that Amazon Glacier uses a different API. It would be nice if Glacier will be supported in the future.
The backup copy stored in the cloud can be encrypted to ensure only with access to the encryption key the data can be used.

Support

Support for the free edition is via the Unitrends Community Forum. This is why you get an additional 500 Gb of storage when you register for the community forum. This encourages users of Unitrends Free to help eachother with questions and anwers.

Final thoughts

Unitrends Free is an attractive free backup solution for small organizations. Free, easy to use graphical user interface and some handy features like Instant Recovery and support for cloud storage.
When the limit of 1 TB of data is reached and more storage capacity is required an upgrade can be performed to the full Unitrends Enterprise Backup solution. It does require a new installation of Unitrends Enterprise Backup but the backup data from Unitrends Free can be used by Unitrends Enterprise Backup.

More information

More information on Unitrends Free:
The administrators manual can be downloaded here.
The user community can be accessed here.

 

 

 

disclaimer:
Unitrends sponsored this blogpost. In no way Unitrends infuenced the content of this blog. 

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