Unitrends Free – Review of the free edition

I have reviewed the Unitrends backup solution in the past. I have had some very good experience with it. The solution was licensed on a per socket basis and worked on both ESXi and Hyper-V. Unitrends have now announced the “Unitrend FreeTM” Edition, which is FREE.

FREE vSphere and Hyper-V VM Backup – Unlimited VMs and Sockets – Hypervisor level protection for vSphere and Hyper-V for up to 1TB of production VM data – there’s no tie to the number of VMs or sockets in the environment.”

Installation:

The installation process is pretty straightforward. But you will need at least one windows machine to launch the installation from. Basically, the windows installer (exe) needs to be executed from a machine running .Net framework 4.0. That will fire up the installation wizard that requires some very basic information (IP address of the new backup appliance etc). I have only tested this for the ESXi version. In the ESXi version, I provided by vCenter address and credentials and it was pretty much next next next from that point on.

What happens in the background is an appliance is deployed with the information you have provided. Once the wizard is complete, the appliance is up and ready to be accessed via the web using the IP address you have provided.

In case you are skeptical about this approach versus just having access to an OVA/OVF that you can deploy yourself. Imagine this, you work in an environment that has a separate backup team, as a virtualization engineer you will only have to provide them with an account that has permissions to deploy the appliance and turn it on without giving them access to anything else. They can simply use the installation wizard without ever hitting the vSphere client. For that use case that approach makes a lot of sense.

Configuration:

Once deployed you will be asked for some more configuration information. Like the time zone or NTP server, any SMTP configuration that you may need and lastly setting the password to access the web interface. Upon accessing the web interface, you basically have to do the following:

  1. Configure the storage of the appliance in the appliance tab. This is where you can allocate the amount of storage for instant recovery and regular backup jobs. Below is some good information to have on the instant recovery allocation.

‘If you want to use the instant recovery feature, you will need to allocate a percentage of your backup storage for instant recovery space. To recover a VM with this feature, at least twenty percent of the space used on the VM’s original disk must be allocated. Storage allocated to instant recovery is used only during an instant recovery job, and when you complete the job by tearing down the recovery object, the space is available for other instant recovery jobs.

Once storage is allocated to instant recovery, it cannot be used for backups. You can allocate backup storage at any time as long as sufficient space is available. However, if you do not allocate storage until after a VM fails, space might not be immediately available for instant recovery. In this situation, you can expand your appliance’s storage and use the newly configured storage for the instant recovery. “

storageconfig

 

  1. The second thing to configure is your protected asset. In my case I went ahead and added my vCenter that pulls all the information (hosts, VMs, template etc). The Unitrends documentation recommends that you add the individual hosts also so that the backup jobs continue to function in case of a vCenter outage.

Post configuration and reporting:

At this point you are ready to go to the backup menu and start creating your backup jobs. You can schedule them or even run them on demand like any other backup tool. This pretty straight forward. I went ahead and configured a couple of jobs and once the job was complete I started seeing the bar graphs below in the dashboard.

 

1stbackup

 

 

As your environment grows and you start backing up more data these quick glance type of information starts becoming more valuable. The screenshot below is from the same jobs running multiple times.

 

multiplejobs

 

 

If this isn’t enough information for you, the good ole reports tab is also available like before. Below is a screenshot from a quickly generated storage report to give you an idea of what your current storage looks like for backup. In today’s day and age, reporting is everything.

 

storagereport

 

 

What does 1TB really mean?

In case we forgot, we are getting all of this for FREE for up to 1TB of “unique” production VM data. Unique data and backup data are not the same. Below is some information regarding that from Unitrends documentation. 

“With Unitrends Community Edition, the amount of unique data is calculated by summing the size of the most recent full backup for each VM. In the diagram below there are five VMs on the virtual host, and the appliance has one full backup for each VM. Together these backups total 800 GB, which is the total amount of unique data. “

backupdata 

“The amount of backup storage you can use is not determined by the amount of unique data you can protect. In the diagram below, you can see multiple backups stored for each VM, taking up a total of 2.7 TB of backup storage. The most recent full backup of each VM is marked with a red box, indicating that they are counted towards the total unique data. It is not uncommon for the unique data to fluctuate slightly over time as the data on the VMs changes. “

uniquedata

Recovery:

The recovery of the VMs is just as straightforward like before. You have the option of doing full recovery of VMs and file level recovery for both Windows and Linux systems. There is also an instant recovery option like before that allows for the use of the recovered VM almost instantaneously as soon as the VM boots up.

One of the recovery options that I liked was the Audit mode. Audit mode is used for verifying that backups can be used to recover a virtual machine. This VM will have no network connectivity and runs on the disk image created on the appliance but utilizes the CPU and memory resources of the host. Because this is an audit mode, the original VM doesn’t need to be turned off and any changes made to this VM are not backed up as its sole purpose is to verify that data from the backups is retrievable.

Conclusion:

From my previous review I had very good impressions of the tool. The community edition makes this product even better. You can now test drive the product with up to 1 TB of PRODUCTION data and have all the nice features of the paid version. Also, one of the things I liked was the integration of the tool with the online community under the help menu. There are knowledgebase articles, tons of videos and everything you may or may not need to get going.

 

Onlinehelp

In the end I urge you to take this tool for a spin and test it out. It takes very little effort to deploy, configure and manage and costs absolutely nothing as long as you stay under the 1TB threshold. No credit card required, simply go and download.

Unitrends is of the few companies out there who have been listening to the community and have constantly been making their product better over the years and this iteration of the Virtual Backup is no exception.

So, who should not use this product? Infants and toddlers, because they have more important things in life.

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