Virtual Appliance Simplifies VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V Backups

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-06-25

Unitrends Enterprise Backup version 6.3 will be able to back up physical and virtual systems hosted on either VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V infrastructure when it is released June 29. eWEEK Labs tested an early release candidate of Unitrends Enterprise Backup.

There are several other virtual backup appliances on the market; however, none yet run under Microsoft€™s Hyper-V virtualization platform. While virtual appliances from Arkeia, Zmanda and CA ARCserve Backup also prove easy to install, the lack of native support for Hyper-V means you may have to adopt VMware€™s ESX platform to run those products.

Unitrends Enterprise Backup, which will be available starting July 2, is licensed on a per-protected-resource (i.e., per socket/physical server or per-protected-terabyte) basis. Basic pricing is $995 per socket/resource or $5,495 per terabyte. However the company says that for a limited time the first four virtual machines will be free.

The company has extensive experience in the backup appliance realm and sells physical backup appliances as well, which formed the basis for the new product. Unitrends converted its physical appliance software into the virtual realm to create a virtual appliance that is compatible with their standard appliance offerings, yet provides additional flexibility when it comes to deployment. However, the company€™s latest offering is the first to run as a Hyper-V virtual machine, making it a usable backup solution for Microsoft shops that want to leverage their investments in Microsoft technology without being limited to just Microsoft components.

Unitrends Enterprise Backup Up Close 

I tested the release candidate version of Unitrends Enterprise Backup in a Hyper-V environment that also had VMware member ESX servers. As a virtual appliance, Unitrends Enterprise Backup proved easy to install, especially compared with setting up a physical appliance. The product will be available as a downloadable zip file that contains the virtual appliance file. I installed the Unitrends Enterprise Backup by importing the file into a virtual environment and then launching it as a virtual machine.

Once the file was installed, I was able to perform the basic configuration in minutes. The most important part of this was deploying the agents to the systems that will be backed up. Agent deployment was a mostly automated process with little hands-on activity on my part and wizards to guide the rest of the process.

The configuration offers several options, including defining backup sources, archive targets and types of VMs. Once installed, the primary Recovery console is accessed via a browser-based console that offers a variety of menu choices to access the various sections of the product. The initial console screen works like a dashboard, offering critical alert information, the status of systems backed up and to be backed up, and the last seven days of activity.

The management screen is broken out by tabs for status, backup, restore, archive, reports, settings, about and log-out. Clicking on one of those tabs launches the appropriate console, which is populated with submenus and wizards.

It was easy to schedule and execute backup jobs. Several backup options are available, including first-time backups, differential backups, incremental backups, selective and bare-metal backups. Backup choices are guided by selection screens that rely heavily on the €œnext€ button to advance, instead of having to click check boxes, answer wizard questions or provide other ancillary information.

I chose what I wanted to have backed up, scheduled it and then could forget about it. Reports and alerts keep you in the know, so I didn€™t have to check on the status of my backups.

I liked the integrated deduplication capabilities, which can significantly reduce the size of backups, depending upon how many duplicate files are contained in the backup and how aggressive the dedupe is set to. Another cool feature was the archiving function, which allowed me to move backups into archives, easing the transition from tier 1 storage to long-term storage, such as tape, optical or other removable media.

My data restoration jobs ran without a hitch. Unitrends Enterprise Backup offers something akin to a clock: You can select backup points and restore data from a specific point in time, working like a reversed snapshot. All I had to do was select a point in time on the clock and then execute the restoration based on the nearest restore point.

Extensive reporting capabilities round out the product, making it simple to audit backups, create logs, display usage and define locations of data sets.

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