VMware Data Recovery is awesome!

I came across this application some time ago when we first upgraded to vSphere 4. At the time I thought, “I’ll have to take a look at that at some point”, and since then I’ve been testing each version as it’s been released, and playing around with it. We’re now at version 2.1, and I have to say, it’s fantastic! It also now has features that make it much more useable…

VMware add-on small apps to vSphere all the time, and this one has to be one of the most useful apps I’ve seen. Basically, it’s a pre-built VMware ready appliance that can perform backups and restorations of your VM’s. You can run backups to vDisks, NFS/CIFS shares, or Raw Device Mappings (RDM’s). On top of that, it’s really simple to set up, and provides deduplication of all your backup data.

Sounds good huh?

Well, what if I said, that by default, it also provides File Level Restore capabilities too? Well… it does… via a really simple tool. In fact, this tool is literally an executable file. You don’t even have to install it! Just run it, connect to your VDR appliance, and hey presto, you can mount any backup to a folder on your local disk, browse it, copy the files out that you need, and then unmount the backup. Simple!

Setting up VDR couldn’t be simpler either. Download the image from the VMware website (your licensed for it with Advanced and upwards versions of ESX/ESX(i) and any Essentials Plus and upwards kit). It comes with a copy of the FLR tools for Linux and Windows, the release notes for the current version, the appliance itself, and the vCenter plug-in you need to manage it.

Install the plugin, and deploy the OVF template using the vSphere client. Then, add some hard disks (up to 2 x 1TB disks in vDisk or RDM format, or 2 x 0.5TB CIFS shares are currently supported). Boot the appliance and open the console to it. Once it’s booted there’s a simple option to give the VDR appliance an IP and host name, follow this through. The rest will be done in the vSphere client.

Within the client (with the plug-in installed), navigate to Solutions and Applications -> VMware Data Recovery. Then, either choose your VDR appliance in the left pane, and double-click, or type its name or IP into the box in the right hand pane, and click connect. A short wizard will appear to configure some extra bits.

Supply a username and password to connect with, then click on each hard disk you added earlier and click format at the top of the screen. Depending on the size of your disks, this may take a while! You can also add a network share from this pane if needs be. You can click next in the mean time, and come back to configuring a backup job later on if it’s going to take a while!

Once the appliance is on the network, and has its disks formatted, all you need to do is set up a backup job and time window. So click on the backup tab, and click the “New” button in the top right. Give the backup job a name, choose the VM’s you want to back up, when to back them up, and then how many versions to keep in the store. Remember at this point that VDR uses incremental backups, so in theory you can keep a lot of backups, also remember that it’s going to deduplicate the backups, so there should be even less data if all of your servers run the same OS etc.

That’s about it…! Just run the backup and test it, to ensure its working ok, and job done! Restoring a VM couldn’t be simpler wither, just run through the wizard on the restore tab! Oh, and file level restore… simple.

As you can see, this appliance is very simple to use, configure and restore from. The next step is for VMware to add some sort of alerting from the appliance so that you know when VM’s haven’t been backed up etc. without logging into the console all the time… Once that’s done, this appliance will become truly fantastic!

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