Product Review: Vembu VMBackup 3.5.0.
Product: Vembu VMBackup 3.5.0.
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Vembu VMBackup, which is a part of the Vembu BDR Suite, is attempting to bring enterprise like features to the masses, at an affordable price. The software works across VMware, Hyper-V, and Physical server environments, and allows for application aware backups of Microsoft server products. The software even offers advanced features such as instant recovery, and hot backups that are designed to ensure zero VM downtime. Given the software’s rich feature set, I couldn’t resist taking it for a test drive.
The installation process is Wizard based, and is launched through an online installer. The wizard installs the following components:
- MySQL RDBMS (5.5.40)
- MySQL Connector (5.2.4)
- MongoDB (3.2.0)
- Vembu BDR (3.5.0)
The software also requires the Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable to be installed, but the setup wizard helps you to download this component so that you don’t have to go find it on the Internet. Over all, I found the installation process to be very simple and straightforward.
Creating a Backup
Once I finished the installation process, I launched the application’s Web interface and was taken to the screen shown in Figure A. As you can see in the figure, this screen is completely intuitive. I have worked with plenty of backup applications over the years that leave you guessing as to what you have to do to get started. I really appreciate that Vembu makes backup configuration such an obvious process.
Figure A: This is the screen that you see when you initially log into Vembu.
I decided to start the process by adding a Hyper-V server to the backup. I clicked the Add Hyper-V Server button and was taken to a screen asking me to select the server type. While there is nothing particularly unique about having to make such a selection, I really liked the way that this screen was laid out. As you can see in Figure B, the interface includes a progress indicator that guides you step by step through the process.
Figure B: I was asked to select a Hyper-V server.
The wizard then guided me through the process of deploying an agent to the Hyper-V server. At one point the installer did seem to get stuck, but I was able to get past the problem by simply refreshing my browser.
The Hyper-V backup process was relatively straightforward. I was a little bit surprised that Vembu BDR didn’t give me the option of backing up my Hyper-V host as a whole, but I was able to select the virtual machines that I wanted to back up, as shown in Figure C.
Figure C: Vembu BDR prompted me to select the virtual machines that I wanted to back up.
Before I could create my first backup, I had to modify the system service used by the Vembu agent on the remote machine. The service wasn’t starting because of a permissions problem, so I configured the service to use a different account for authentication. It was a simple fix, and everything seemed to work after that. I clicked my way through the remaining backup configuration screens, choosing the appropriate options along the way. Soon, my backup started.
For my initial test, I had decided to attempt backing up a single virtual machine from a Hyper-V server. I could have just as easily backed up more virtual machines, but stuck to backing up a single VM in the interest of time.
The scheduled backup completed successfully, so I decided to attempt a restoration. This is where I ran into some problems. When I clicked on the Recovery tab, I was presented with the screen shown in Figure D.
Figure D: This is what happened when I attempted a recovery.
As you can see in the figure above, Vembu acknowledges that the backup exists, but there are no clickable options on the screen. At that point, I didn’t know what to do, so I sent an Email to Vembu’s technical support and asked for help. I received a very prompt reply, and was told to clear by browser cache. Clearing my browser cache didn’t fix the problem, but using a different browser did. In case you are wondering, the previous figure resulted from trying to use Internet Explorer 11 (which was installed by default on the Windows Server that was running the Vembu software). I switched to the Microsoft Edge browser, and the problem went away. You can see interface as displayed by the Edge browser, in Figure E.
Figure E: The Microsoft Edge browser displayed the interface correctly.
At this point, I decided to try out some of the available recovery options. As you can see in Figure F, the software provides four different restore types – instant VM recovery, live recovery to Hyper-V server, file level recovery, and download.
Clicking on the Restore link provides access to four different restoration types. I experimented with various types of recovery and found that the recovery process worked as expected. An instant VM recovery worked flawlessly, but I did have to connect the newly restored VM to the new host server’s virtual switch before I could use the VM (which is to be expected).
I did however, experience one quirk. When I attempted a file level recovery, I received a message (I can’t remember the exact wording) telling me that my data had been mounted as a network drive. What I found was that the data was indeed available through Windows File Explorer, but only on the backup server. I had been accessing Vembu remotely from a Windows 10 desktop and my files were not available from my desktop machine. I don’t consider this to be a real problem, but it is something to be aware of before attempting a restoration.
Since my virtual machine backup hadn’t given me the option of backing up the physical host, I wanted to see what would be involved in creating a host backup. I went to the Backup menu, and chose the option to backup a physical server. Upon doing so, I was given the option of downloading one of two different types of clients – one for physical images, another for files and applications. I chose the Files and Applications client (which is called the Vembu Network Backup Client), and installed it onto my Hyper-V host.
I was initially a bit frustrated, because I couldn’t get the console to recognize the client and give me an option to backup the corresponding server. After doing a bit of research however, I discovered that the client comes with its own dedicated Web interface that runs directly on the server that needs to be backed up. You can see what this interface looks like in Figure G.
Figure G: There is a separate interface for backing up physical machines.
The next thing that I decided to try was creating an image backup of a physical server. I downloaded the image backup software and installed it onto one of my servers. For the most part, I found the process of installing and configuring the client software to be straightforward. However, I did have to install the Vembu ImageBackup Disk image driver onto my server, and doing so required me to reboot the server.
After the system rebooted and I reloaded the backup client, I was taken to a screen asking me which drives I wanted to back up. I was impressed with the list because it not only displayed my Windows volumes, but also the underlying hardware. My server runs Windows Storage Spaces, and the backup software was able to detect the disks within the storage pool that were being used by my volumes. You can see what this looks like in Figure H.
Figure H: The image backup software was able to detect the hardware in my storage pool.
I was also happy to discover that the image backup process contained an option for application aware processing. The software also contains an option to truncate logs following a successful backup.
Overall, the image backup process proved to be effortless. As you can see in Figure I, my backup completed without any issues.
Figure I: The image backup completed successfully.
The Vembu BDR Server also listed the freshly completed backup and provided me with options to restore or mount the backup, as shown in Figure J.
Figure J: The image backup was listed within the Vembu BDR console.
I decided to conclude the review by attempting a backup of a VMware server. I don’t normally run VMware in my lab, but I installed ESXi onto some spare hardware, and deployed a Windows Server 2012 virtual machine.
The Vembu BDR console’s Backup menu contains an option for backing up vSphere. I selected this option, and was prompted to add my VMware vSphere server. Adding my VMware server to the console was very simple to do. I supplied my server’s IP address and a set of authentication credentials. Upon doing so, Vembu BDR instantly located my VMware server. The console even provided me with a Backup Now link, as shown in Figure K.
Figure K: Vembu BDR instantly located my VMware server.
At this point, I went ahead and clicked the Backup Now link, shown in the figure above. Upon doing so, I was provided with the option to select the virtual machines that I wanted to back up. As was the case with the Hyper-V backup however, I was not given the option of backing up the parent partition. You can see what the selection process looks like in Figure L.
Figure L: Vembu BDR allows you to select the VMware virtual machines that you want to back up.
Upon selecting the virtual machine that I wanted to back up, I worked my way through the remainder of the backup configuration process. I found the process to be nearly identical to that used for configuring other types of backups. I always like it when a backup application works in a consistent manner across backup types.
The VMware backup completed successfully, and the Recovery tab provided me with the same recovery options that I had been given for the other backup types. You can see what this looks like in Figure M.
Figure M: The VMware backup is recoverable.
Overall Vembu BDR did exactly what it was supposed to do. It created reliable backups that I was able to restore without issue. I also applaud Vembu for bringing an enterprise like feature set to a relatively low cost backup application (https://www.vembu.com/vembu-bdr-suite-pricing/) that seems to be targeted to the SMB market.
Although I didn’t find any major bugs, I ran into a few minor quirks throughout my evaluation. There were also a few things (such as physical server backups) that were somewhat non-intuitive.
My overall opinion of Vembu BDR 3.5.0 is that while it seems to be a solid product, there was a bit of a learning curve. In all fairness, there is a learning curve associated with most of the backup products that I have used, so the learning curve should not act as a deterrent to trying Vembu. I do however, think that the product would benefit from centralized physical server backup scheduling, and from remote access to its virtual drive.
When I write a review for this site, it has become customary for me to assign a star rating. I decided to give this product a score of 4.5, which is a Gold award. There are a few areas in which I think the interface could be improved, and I also think that the documentation could be better. The fact remains however, that I didn’t encounter any bugs (assuming that I used a fully compatible browser), although I did not test every feature. I found that once I got past the interface and the browser issues, the software did exactly what it was supposed to do.
VirtualizationAdmin.com Rating 4.5/5