Sunday, January 26, 2014

ESXi Free with Free Backup - Trilead VM Explorer to the Rescue

Aaaah virtualisation.
A blessing and a curse all in one.

So, you've got your ESXi free version up and running and are thinking that it's all pretty sweet.

But, just to be safe, you need to put in some level of redundancy without going to the expense of purchasing an essentials license which enables VM protection features.

I'll save you some time re "free" backup solutions for ESXi free edition.
Most of them don't work and have some limitations.

Veeam Backup and Replication (up to ESXi Free 5.1)

Head and shoulders above the rest is Veeam Backup and Replication.

This is a great bit of software that lets you backup up to 8 (I think) guests with compression all in a super fast fashion compared to datastore copies.

Great, you think. Well - here's the catch.
Veeam free works with ESXi free v5.1 only.

Running ESXi free 5.5?

Sorry - sucks to be you (in the eyes of VMWare).

So, what do you do?

Well Veeam is really quite good and if you have plans to grow to more ESXi hosts and want basic vCenter capabilities without the price tag, VMWare Essentials (non-plus version) used with Veeam might just be your best bet.

If you're not quite there yet however and just want VM image to disk backup, then Trilead VM Explorer is your next stop.

Trilead VM Explorer (ESXi 5.5)

Trilead VM Explorer took a while to find but was totally worth it.

This product works in a very similar manner to Veeam (installs on a windows guest) and is nice and straight forward to use (and is a comparatively tiny download compared to most others).

This free product supports compression (if VMWare guest tools are installed on respective guest), supports scheduled backups and copies nice and fast.

Basically this is your go-to app for cheap (free) and cheerful ESXi free 5.5 backups where you have a single stand-alone ESXi free host.

One thing you'll want to tweak is backup compression which significantly reduces the size of the backup image (if your guest isn't using much of its allocated storage).

By default this is disabled.

To enable, when setting your backup settings for a guest, under the Connection tab check Compress data during transfer and Keep data compressed at destination. File level restore will NOT be available.

Also, make sure you've got SSH enabled on your ESXi server as this will allow the Trilead agent to install which will speed up file copies significantly.

The only thing that's lacking in Trilead is scheduled backups (locked out in free version).

If only you could make GUI mouse-based Macro's somehow and schedule tasks...

Other Products
Here's a quick list of other products available that I quickly tested and why I decided against using them:

Unitrends Enterprise Backup
  • Requires agent install on every guest (annoying and clunky)
  • Runs as a Linux distro VM guest (i.e. you can't just run it on an existing support vm guest).

Thinware vBackup

  • Very verbose to implement a simple backup.
  • Requires download and pointers to VMWare add-ons with very little guidance as to how or why these are required.
  • Requires user to specify what method of copy is used for backup even though two are invalid against ESXi free.
  • Seems to fail a lot.

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