Generally speaking, the Hyper-V user-base - not to mention the wider VM user-base - is pretty big. Correspondingly, there are a lot of different backup solutions for it that have unique features, services, and more. However, it’s quite a surprise for a lot of people that you can actually back up your Hyper-V VMs natively if you’re using Windows Server 2012 or newer. Not only this, but it is a relatively simple process that requires little to no configuration. It’s not ideal to use as a main VM backup source, but can be useful as an additional, dedicated option in certain situations.
The tool itself is called Windows Server Backup and it can be installed as an additional feature from Server Manager. Both Windows Server Backup and other third party solutions are using snapshot technology to create these backups. A snapshot (or a checkpoint) is a state of the VM in a specific point in time, and it can store virtual disks state, RAM contents and VM-specific settings.
It is worth noting that the cloud backup is also possible with this tool, when configured properly. However, for the sake of showing the basics behind the process, we’ll focus more on the local VM backup process.
After launching Windows Server Backup, you’ll be able to right-click the “Local backup” line, and you’ll see a number of different options there, like “Backup once”, “Scheduled backup”, and more. Scheduling backups is somewhat more complicated, that’s why we’re going with “Backup once”.
- Choosing “Backup once” should bring you the first window of the backup setup process. In this part you’ll have to specify if you’re using scheduled backup or if you want to include other options. Going through several setup windows each time you want to create a backup is necessary because we’re not using any pre-configured options so far. Meaning that we can just click “Next” in this window.
- Second part of this process would give you an option to choose between backing up the entire server or choosing specific parts to back up. Since we’re aiming at backing up VMs only, we’re choosing “Custom backup” in this step.
- After choosing “Custom backup” and confirming it you’ll be prompted to choose the exact parts of your system that you want to create a backup of. Here we’re clicking on “Add items”, expanding the “Hyper-V” line and choosing the specific VM or VMs that we want to create a backup of.
- The setup process is pretty much finished with this step that’s prompting you to choose the location of your future backup. Confirming that should give you the ability to finally execute that backup.
However, a lot of users prefer to enact command prompts to create Hyper-V backup jobs, since the graphical interface that we’re using to create a backup above is able to support only one VM backup task at a time, and the task you’ve created with the graphical interface would completely overwrite all of the previous backup tasks.
A good example of a simple console command to create a backup of a VM called “Server 1” to a specific folder on disk C: would look like this:
wbadmin start backup –backupTarget:C: –hyperv:"Server 1"
Moreover, if you want to backup two or more VMs at once and to have backups saved in a network-shared folder (external NAS storage, basically), the command should look like this:
wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:\\192.168.2.15\HVMback: -hyperv:"TestVM01,TestVM02" -allowDeleteOldBackups -quiet
Or if you want to simply see the list of backups that are already created and registered within the system, you’ll have to input the following command:
wbadmin get versions
While Windows Server Backup is a solution that is simple, reliable and fast solution for Hyper-V backup purposes, there are several serious drawbacks to it, as well:
- It’s difficult to manage more than 3-5 Hyper-V installations;
- You can’t monitor backup progress and verify the backup consistency when using Windows Server Backup;
- Since VM backups most of the time are quite big and pose a significant challenge for your server, you’ll have to schedule them to avoid network and server overloads in the business hours and in general;
- There’s no way to automatically recover a specific file or a specific app state, everything has to be mounted and copy-pasted manually.
Windows Server Backup is a decent way of creating backups of your VMs, but it has some serious drawbacks that prevents it from being used as a primary backup solution – this role would still stay with third-party solutions. An example of such a solution is Bacula Enterprise’s Hyper-V backup software solution.
Bacula Enterprise’s Hyper-V backup solution is especially flexible, capable of providing a very high number of functions and options, including:
- Full VM backups on image-level;
- The ability to restore disk images;
- Backup encryption both in transit and at rest;
- Compression of Hyper-V VM backups;
- Complete Hyper-V VM image restoration;
- Fast restore speed for Hyper-V VMs;
- Choice of both command line and web based GUI’s.
Bacula Enterprise is a strong choice as a primary backup and recovery solution for your Hyper-V VMs. As a heavy-lifting enterprise solution, aimed at large organizations with large and complex data environments, Bacula offers a lot of different capabilities, especially in terms of customization, scalability, reliability and above all, security.