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.”


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. Read the rest of this entry »

PHD Virtual Backup (v 8)

Recently I got an opportunity to play around with Unitrends backup solution, which is still in beta. For those of who are not aware, PHD Virtual is now part of Unitrends. At first I was a bit skeptical because I have seen products being wasted after an acquisition. But in this case I think I am quite happy with the progress the product has made under the new name.

My goal is to share my views on my testing of the product and also try and explain the new architecture. Once you get a hang of it, its really simple and makes a lot of sense. In my initial attempt, I sort of screwed things up but that was mostly because I was being hasty and didn’t bother reading the few simple concepts.

Like in previous version, the one we will discuss here, version 8 revolves around the good ole VBA. However now the VBA does a lot more and has delivered on the promises in the past. For example: my previous complain was lack of single pane of glass to manage multiple VBAs, that’s no longer a problem here. In fact they went a step further and made it possible to manage VBAs that could be deployed in Citrix or even Hyper V environments.


In version 7, the concept of appliance roles was introduced and version 8 continues with this model. Each appliance can be dedicated to a single role or a single appliance can have multiple roles configured. So what are those roles?

Presentation (P) – The Presentation appliance is the appliance running the web-based interface you use to configure and manage your installation. Only one presentation appliance is necessary per installation, across all configured environments (including across all hypervisor types). All management and configuration of PHD Virtual Backup occurs through the Presentation Appliance’s web interface.
Management (M) – Each Environment requires one appliance designated as the Management Appliance. This appliance performs inventory and other hypervisor-specific tasks and manages the work of the Engine appliances. Each environment you add to your PHDVB deployment requires the IP address of one appliance to act as Management appliance. The Presentation Appliance can also be designated as a Management Appliance.


Engine (E) – Engine appliances perform the actual data processing and send data to their configured data stores. Engine is the most common role an appliance will take on in your deployment. Appliances with the Presentation and Management role can also be configured with the Engine appliance.


Note: As a general recommendation, you will need at least one Engine appliance for every 10 TB of source data you will protect (or every 1 TB of data if using XenServer or 5 TB is using CIFS backup storage).


So for any deployment you will need at least one VBA that has the P M and E roles. If the environment is small enough, a single VBA can host all those roles. And then add more engines as the environment grows. You can tell someone was thinking scaling. The latest version of the beta also incorporates a tutorial video that gives you a high level view of what the VBA roles may look like when laid down. This will also assist you in determining what will be ideal for your environment. I highly recommend you watch this before moving forward with the full configuration.


I am stealing a diagram from Unitrends documentation to explain how the roles can be laid out.

Deployment single hypervisor

Read the rest of this entry »

Recovery Management Suite

My last few posts have been about backups and DR and I have intensively covered PHD Virtual’s products and their capabilities. I have covered PHD Virtual backup, CloudHook (my review) and  just recently I also covered ReliableDR (my review). Just recently PHD virtual has released their Recovery Management Suite (RMS) that ties all these products together and delivers an extremely powerful solution that ranges from simple backups to a whole site failure (without making it an extremely complex undertaking).



So why is this such a big deal. There are various products out there with similar capabilities. And that is true. However I cant think of a single product that does all that RMS offers and still manages to keep it simple. For example lets take a look at SRM (not trying to talk trash but simply using it for comparison). The business centric view of ReliableDR, DR automation and the ease of use in a multi tenant environment for cloud providers sets this product in a league of its own. Now if we throw the other two products into the mix (Virtual backup and CloudHook), PHD Virtual starts to sound like a real complete solution. And it truly is. Did I point out that PHD virtual has its own replication mechanism that can be used to replicate date between sites?

I really like SRM too. However being a technologist I like to compare products and see where one serves a better purpose. Lets put SRM in the back seat for now and lets call on Veeam for change and see how some of its features stand against RMS. I am a big fan of Veeam backup and replication also. However there is some real planning that goes into setting up Veeam’s backup manager, proxies and repositories. In the case of PHDVB things are pretty simple. And once you tie in cloud storage things get even better. And just like Veeam PHDVB also offers support for multiple hypervisor, but the ReliableDR portion is what puts PHD Virtual’s products miles ahead of Veeam in my opinion.

For the first time, companies of all sizes have a unified, affordable solution that automates and assures recovery processes in order to reduce risk, decrease recovery times, and help sustain the business throughout any issues that might occur. PHD Virtual RMS is the only solution to offer comprehensive, integrated recovery that addresses the entire recovery continuum. IT provides unified data protection and disaster recovery capabilities delivered through integrated backup, replication, recovery and DR orchestration that is powerful, scalable, easy to use, and delivers immediate value “out-of-the-box”


Obviously nothing is life is perfect and so is the case with RMS and its components. There is room for improvement and I am more than certain that the improvement will come before you know it. I am saying this from experience. PHD Virtual has made tremendous amounts of changes and enhancements to their products over the last few years that could only compare to a handful of organizations. What may seem like the next logical step actually does happen at PHD Virtual. And I hope they maintain that trend. As a matter of fact, some of what I thought should have been included in the future releases of the products also made it. For example I wondered why all the PHD products weren’t being offered as a single solution that worked together like one.. tadaaaaa! So there, an organization that can keep a character like myself pretty satisfied has a lot to offer in years to come.

Some of the latest enhancements coming in the upcoming versions of RMS are as follow:

  • Automates the replication of backup data from a source Backup Data Store (BDS) to a remote BDS (including cloud storage).
  • Only changed data is moved from source BDS to archive BDS (bandwidth saver and more importantly data the cloud will not move from production, it will likely move from your primary BDS, hence not even touching your production load).
  • The archive BDS can have different retention policies than the source (I complained about this).
  • You can configure individual VMs to be replicated, or synch the entire BDS with the archive location.
  • You can configure multiple source BDS locations to be archived to a single archive BDS location.
  • The archive BDS supports global deduplication across all source BDS data
  • Configure a generic S3 backup target to leverage additional object storage platforms, other than Amazon, Rackspace, and Google (Yoooohooo! more options)
  • Certified Replica – Automating the testing of virtualized applications that have been replicated using PHD Virtual Backup
    • A new CertifiedReplica job exists in ReliableDR for configuration of recovery jobs against PHD VM replicas
    • These jobs can be used to automate complex recovery specifications for failover and testing of PHD VM replicas. What kinds of complex jobs? For example:
      • Boot orders
      • Network mapping for test and failover
      • Re-IP for Windows AND Linux (Unlike Veeam here you can re-IP linux machines :))
      • Application testing and other recovery tasks
    • Verification can be scheduled at intervals as frequently as every 4 hours
    • Hypervisor snapshots are used for CertifiedReplica recovery points and other testing/failover tasks, making the entire process storage agnostic

And lastly some rumors. I have heard that ‘Certified Backups’ are also in the works. Yes machines are taking over! Look at what certified backups have to offer if it makes it through.

  • Automating the testing of VMware virtualized applications directly from backups using Instant Recovery from PHD Virtual Backup
    • A new CertifiedBackup job that initiates Instant Recovery jobs within PHD Virtual Backup and automates boot orders, network reconfiguration, and other recovery tasks
    • These jobs can be used to automate VM recovery specifications for testing of PHD backups
    • When testing is complete, Instant Recovery sessions are terminated automatically
    • Verification can be scheduled at intervals as frequently as every 4 hours

When you look at all the capabilities tied into a single product, you have no choice but to give it a go. Like I mentioned earlier I like other products too but if you are looking for a single solution that addresses your backup and DR needs, you have to give RMS a go. It will be silly to overlook it. I hope VMware Veeam and other vendors try and come up with their versions of RMS as well (though it will be interesting to see VMware come up with a solution that supports other hypervisors also).

I have been asked a couple of times in the past if ReliableDR supports vCloud Director and the answer is YES, it does. Try RMS for free today.

CloudHook will hook you up – PHD Virtual 6.2

A few months ago I reviewed the backup tool from PHD Virtual for VMware. Yes, I specifically mentioned VMware because they have one for Citrix also. The company is on the verge of releasing their next major update 6.2 and I got an opportunity to do a sneak peak.

Last year I was completely new to PHD Virtual and had figure out all the moving parts, which weren’t many to be honest. The post from my last review is here. The one thing I loved about the product was its simplicity where I really didn’t have to sit down and figure out what was needed in order for it to work. I just followed the screen instruction and taadaaa!.. it worked.  So, I have huge expectations this year and won’t be going into the details of how to setup and install.


The overall procedure to do the install is still pretty much the same. You are working with two pieces here.

  1. VBA (appliance)
  2. Console (windows installer)

In order to get the backup tool going, you will install the console on a windows machine and deploy the VBA appliance. From that point some initial configurations are needed and you are all set to go. Configuration like the IP address for the VBA, storage to be used for backup, email notification, retention polices, write space etc.. What is write space? Good question, hold your horses.

You will also create your backup jobs here and kick off a manual or schedule a backup job.  All of this is pretty basic and I don’t plan on going into the details of how to complete these tasks. Once you have the VBA deployed, you will realize you don’t need anyone to blog about the how to steps. And if you really need that, click on the “question mark” on the top right of the console window and you will have access to all the help you will ever need. 


The documentation is embedded within the console and its pretty good and detailed. Read the rest of this entry »

PHD Virtual – Backup review

I have been sold on the idea of virtualization for a long long time now, for all the reasons that is common knowledge today. We all know them. Virtualization has opened up doors for all different types of development/enhancements in the last few years. One of the most important among all these is how we backup our all important data.

Not too long ago I got an opportunity to test drive PHD virtual’s Backup tool for vSphere version 5.4.2. They also have one for Citrix that I will not be discussing as I have not had a chance to look at that. To simply summarize what I think about the backup utility that PHD virtual makes for vSphere, I will say its a very good product and will help you sleep better at nights. However keep in mind that it only does virtual. So if you are looking for all in one solution that lets you backup both physical and VMs, you may want to look elsewhere. But wait, I would say you should still take a look at this for what it has to offer.

What is PHD Virtual backup?

PHD virtual backup is really a virtual appliance that runs in your pre-existing ESX/i cluster and helps you backup your environment. It is configured with 1GB or memory and single vCPU. It doesn’t stop there, it also helps you replicate the backup to another site or whatever your preference is. I wish I could say a few complicated things here and there but it’s really that simple. One thing I would like to point out is that PHD virtual has been evolving their backup tool for sometime now, at least since 2006. Bottom line – they are not new, but they are good.

The virtual appliance runs linux and is called the virtual backup appliance (VBA). This setup is designed with scalability in mind and allows you to have multiple VBAs running within the same vCenter. Now the backups rely on snapshots to work and we wont go into the details of that here. But just so that we don’t go on a freaked out state here, like most other good backup tools, the VBA will also delete the snapshot of the VMs. We obviously don’t want snapshots lying around. Once the snapshot has been taken, the data can be stored on a locally attached disk (locally attached to the appliance – a vmdk), a NFS or CIFS location. So there is that flexibility of where to store the data. Read the rest of this entry »