Review Altaro VM Backup for Hyper-V & VMware

Altaro has been known for quite some time for its ‘Altaro Hyper-V Backup’ solution which is targeted at the SMB-market using Hyper-V.The software has an easy to use interface and offers all features required by organizations in this market.

On September 9 Altaro released  version 6.0 of its backup solution . The major change is that Altaro now supports VMware vSphere as well!

The name of the product has been adjusted to reflect the VMware support. The backup solution is now called ‘Altaro VM Backup‘.

Some of the features are:

  • Support for Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008R2 and later
  • Support for VMware vSphere 5.0, 5.1, 5.5 and 6.0
  • Exchange Server Item-Level
  • ReverseDelta Incremental Backup Technology
  • Offsite Backup Replication
  • Compression and Encryption. Compression reduces the stored backup data to about 25%.
  • Instant File Level Restore
  • Sandbox Restore
  • Exchange and SQL support

I have been asked by Altaro to review the 6.0 version. This blog will reflect the features of the product and my experience on using the product.

In short: Many administrators hate their backup tool for various reasons. For example because of the complex user interface (too many option which are never used) or it does not work and generates errors.

Altaro VM Backup is not like that! I  like Altaro VM Backup very much. It is one of the very few products I worked with which is easy to install and simply works. No weird errors and the user nice looking interface speaks for itself. All tasks are performed using simple wizards.

Also important: Altaro VM Backup has an attractive price tag.

You can download an evaluation copy of Altaro VM Backup here. The evaluation can be used for 30 days. Altaro also has a free edition (forever) for 2 VMs per host.

A ten  minutes overview can be seen in this video.

Let us start with an overview of the product.

What is new in Altaro VM Backup 6.0

Besides added VMware support new features in version 6.0 are:

  1. Centralized Configuration and Management of Multiple Hosts
    With a user interface built for scalability, managing and configuring backup/restore jobs across multiple hosts has never been simpler. You can control all your VMs from one single console, without the need to manage configurations for individual hosts. More here.
  2. Host Level Concurrency for Faster Backups
    Added ability to run backups from multiple hosts concurrently, thus drastically reducing the time taken to backup multiple Host scenarios.
  3. Auto-upload Error Reports
    Generate and automatically submit Error Reports from the Altaro console directly to the support team for quick and easy assistance
  4. LiveChat embedded in the Altaro Console
    Get in touch with Altaro support team directly from within the application itself

This review is based on  Altaro VM Backup 6.0.3.2 which I installed in my testlab.

Altaro VM Backup components

Altaro VM Backup is made up of 4 different components :

  • The main application – Altaro VM Backup
  • The Hyper-V Host Agent 
  • The Remote Management Tools
  • The offsite copy utility – Altaro Offsite Server

userguide Deployment page copy_900x993

Installation process

The installation of Altaro VM Backup is very easy. Just run the installer, press Next a couple of times and you are done. No need to install all sorts of additional components. After the installation has finished, and the Altaro VM Backup programm has started, a connection has to be made to an Altaro VM Backup instance. That can be the one running on the server you just installed. Or an instance on a different server. Nice is that the port for this connection (35107) is shown in the userinterface.

In my review environment I connect to the instance running on ‘localhost’.

Next step is the setup of a connection to either a:

  • Hyper-V host or failover cluster
  • individual ESXi host (if vCenter Server is not available)
  • vCenter Server

screen1

 

I selected an ESXi host. Type in a friendly name, hostname and account and password to connect.Altaro requires port 443 and port 902 (vSphere VDDK) to be open. You can test the connection first. This will take about 10-15 seconds.

Once the connection with the host has been establised, a location to store the backup data is selected. This can either be a local disk (USB, eSATA, internal drive or iSCSI) or a network share.

For disaster recovery reasons a copy of the backup data can be stored on removable media (USB disk,RDX Cartridges ) or to another location. In that case the backup data will be replicated over a WAN-connection.

Data of VM’s which are stored on offsite backup storage are  secured  using a master encryption key.

As the initial transfer of a full backup set can consume a lot of time and bandwidth, Altaro supports seeding. You can store the backup data on removable media. Then transport this to the alternate location and copy it to the offsite storage location.

All future copies will be replicated over the WAN or internet connection

seeding

The next step is to assign a backup location to a virtual machine. Simply drag one or more virtual machines to a backup location and press Save Changes.

Next step is to create a backup. Select a virtual machine and press the button  Backup.

You can create several schedules.

As I did not install the VMware Tools in the virtual machine I got a nice alert saying an application consistent snapshot could not be made.

warning

Application consistent backup

Altaro support application consistent backups. This means that once the virtual machine has been restored, your application having VSS support will not be in some sort of corrupted state. Very important!

To truncate logfiles of applications like Exchange Server or SQL you  are required to install the ‘Altaro VM Tools’. This can be done remotely using the management console. The requirements are shown in the image below.

altaro-vm-tools

Backup verification

A backup is only useful when it can be successfully restored. Something which is easily forgotten by many people! Altaro VM Backup offers two methods to verify that data indeed can be restored successfully:

  1. verification by using checksums. This makes sure the data on the backup medium is the same data as when the backup was made.
  2. by an actual restore of the virtual machine on the hypervisor.

Both verification methods can be scheduled to automate this process.

Degradation and failure of storage devices is not uncommon, and the Backup Verification feature will allow you to compare the data on your drive to a checksum taken at the time of backup to verify the integrity of your data on disk, and restore peace-of-mind.The process is this:

1. at the time of the backup a checksum is stored in the backup data set. The checksum is the outcome of a  formula which uses properties of the files which are in the backup set at time of creation.
2. the Backup Verification jobs recalculates the checksum by using the properties of the data on the backup location and compares the recalculated checksum with the checksum stored on the backup disk. If these are the same the files on the backup disk are in a good health.

The Sandbox Restore feature will restore a copy of a virtual machine using a temporary name. The virtual NIC of the virtual machine is not connected to the virtual switch. Administrators can start the VM without disturbing the production VM to verify the backup is able to boot. Altaro does not offer a proxy virtual machine like competing products do to test  multiple virtual machines including the network connections.

Restoring files

There are three ways to restore files:

  1. Restore the complete virtual machine to the hypervisor host (the one it was installed on or a different host)
  2. Perform a file level restore
  3. Exchange Item Level Restore

I did a file level restore. The process is wizard driven and very simple. Select virtual machine, which backup set, which virtual hard disk which partition and finally the select files to be restored. Altaro VM Backup is unable to restore individual files back into the virtual machine. Instead files are restored to a folder on for example the Windows system Altaro was installed on. After restore the administrator needs to copy the files in the VM.

Notification of status of backup and restores can be sent using e-mail or being logged in the Windows event logs.

Licensing, editions and price

Altaro VM Backup is licensed per host. So the number of CPU-sockets in the host does not matter.

Altaro VM Backup 6.0 is available in three edition like in the 5.0 release.

  • Free edition which is limited to backup of 2 VM’s per host and has basic features.
  • Standard edition (€325 per host) which is limited to 5 VMs per host but no Hyper-V CSV support
  • Unlimited edition (€495 per host) with no limite on the number of VMs and has all features.

Feature overview

An overview of the features is available here.

 

Reports and dashboard

The reporting window has a  nice overview of status of backup, verification and restore jobs.

dashboard2

 

The dashboard provides a complete overview of backup jobs, offsite backup and the backup repository.

dashboard3

Altaro support

I did a bit of testing Altaro support. From the Altaro management console administrators can start a Live Chat session. Using Live Chat you can directly talk to an engineer. The service is available Monday through Friday 0900-2300 CET. Additionally you can call or sent an email. The telephone number and email address are displayed in the Help section of the Management Console.

Email support was very fast. I received answers even within an hour!

Documentation

Quick start guide

Conclusion

I am impressed by the simple to use interface of Altaro VM Backup. The product does what it is designed for. Highly recommended!

disclaimer 

I was paid by Altaro for writing this review. All opinions are mine and Altaro in no way influenced the content of this blog.

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