Product Review: Altaro Hyper-V Backup
Product: Altaro Hyper-V Backup
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Although numerous backup applications exist for VMware, there are fewer options available to administrators who want to back up Hyper-V. One of the available backup solutions is Altaro Hyper-V Backup, which offers a whole slew of useful features at a modest price (there is even a free version). I decided to take Altaro Hyper-V Backup for a test drive to see how well it works.
I began the review process by downloading Altaro Hyper-V Backup from the Altaro Web site (http://www.altaro.com/hyper-v-backup/download.php). There were three things that I especially liked about the download process. First, the download was small – only about 32 MB in size. As such, I didn’t have to spend all afternoon waiting for a huge download to complete.
The second thing that I liked is that Altaro offers a free version of their software. If you download the trial version and you decide not to purchase the product, then you trial installation will automatically switch licensing models at the end of the trial period so that you can use the free version of the software indefinitely. The biggest limitation to the free version is that it can only be used to back up two VMs.
The third thing that I liked about the download is that it didn’t require an extensive registration process. I only had to provide my name and E-mail address. I write a lot of software reviews, and most of the time I have to provide a phone number before I am allowed to download evaluation software. This almost always results in an endless stream of sales calls. Altaro didn’t ask for a phone number, and for that I am grateful.
The Installation Process
Almost immediately after downloading the software, I received an E-mail message with helpful links to a getting started guide. While I appreciate receiving this type of information, I always like to attempt my reviews without using documentation so that I can get a feel for how easy or difficult the software is to use. As such, I went ahead and ran the file that I had downloaded.
Double clicking on the executable file launched a standard installation wizard. The wizard only asked me a couple of basic questions and completed the installation in less than a minute’s time.
Creating a Backup
For the purposes of this review, I installed Altaro Hyper-V Backup onto a server running Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V 3.0. This was a lab server with nine virtual machines on it. In the interest of time, I didn’t set out to back up all nine virtual machines, but I did start five of the VMs including:
- A Windows Server 2012 domain controller
- An Exchange 2013 server
- A SharePoint 2013 Server
- A Windows Server 2012 core server
- A Windows 8 Desktop
Once the VMs were all up and running, I opened the backup console and established a connection to the local server’s backup agent. You can see what the console looks like in Figure A.
Figure A: This is the Altaro Hyper-V Backup console.
As you can see in the figure above, Altaro Hyper-V Backup provides a number of different backup configuration options such as backup location, backup scheduling, and job notification. The software also offers other capabilities such as compression, encryption, and backups to an offsite location.
For the purposes of this review, I created a manual backup of five VMs and I wrote that backup to an external hard disk that I plugged into the server’s USB port. Setting up the backup was extremely easy, but I won’t bore you with the details of the backup process other than to say that it completed successfully and in a timely manner. The reason why I am not elaborating further is because any backup application should be able to make a backup. In my opinion, it’s the ability to recover from that backup that really matters.
Restoring a VM
The first restoration test that I wanted to perform was a full virtual machine restoration. For this test, I configured Altaro Hyper-V Backup to restore a VM as a clone so that my original VM would not be overwritten. You can see the restoration configuration in Figure B. As you can see in the figure, the software provides an option to disable the network card on the clone VM so as to avoid an IP address conflict.
Figure B: I initially attempted to restore a full VM.
As you can see in Figure C, the VM restored successfully. Figure D confirms that the VM clone was restored along with all of its snapshots, and that the VM started.
Figure C: The VM restored successfully.
Figure D: The VM’s snapshots were also restored and I was able to start the VM.
The next thing that I attempted was a granular restoration of a VM. Doing so is similar to creating a VM clone. The process works by performing a full restoration of the VM to an alternate location. After doing so, you are able to mount the restored VHD and then restore individual files and folders, as shown in Figure E.
Figure E: The software supports the restoration of individual files and folders within a VM.
Exchange Item Level Restore
In addition to being able to perform granular restoration of files and folders, Altaro Hyper-V Backup also supports item level restoration for Exchange Server. One of the VMs that I backed up was running Exchange Server 2013, so I decided to give this feature a try.
Before you can perform an item level restoration, the software requires you to restore the VM on which the mailbox database resides. You must also mount the recovered virtual hard disk just as was the case for a file level recovery. Once the virtual hard disk has been mounted, you can scan for Exchange database files, as shown in Figure F. After doing so, you can simply double click on a mailbox database and then browse the database for the item or items that you want to restore. As you can see in Figure G, I had no trouble browsing individual E-mail messages.
Figure F: You must scan for Exchange databases.
Figure G: You can restore individual items.
The Sandbox Restores feature allows you to perform test restorations so that you can evaluate the health of your backups. Probably the most unique aspect of the sandbox restoration feature is the fact that you can schedule sandbox restorations to happen automatically. Of course you also have the option of manually running a sandbox restore, as shown in Figure H.
Figure H: Sandbox restores can be performed manually or scheduled to run automatically.
Booting From the Backup Drive
One of the most useful features is the ability to boot a virtual machine directly from the backup, as shown in Figure I. This is useful in situations in which you simply cannot wait for a restoration to complete. You can get back online instantly by simply running the VM directly from your backup disk.
Figure I: You can boot a VM directly from backup.
The only real down side to this feature is that it only works if you created a backup without using compression or encryption.
As previously mentioned, Altaro offers a free edition of their software that is limited to backing up two VMs per Hyper-V host. The free version lacks some of the enterprise class features such as granular recovery and encryption.
The Standard Edition supports up to 5 VMs and sells for $395 per Hyper-V host. It has most of the same capabilities as the Unlimited Edition, but lacks cluster support and Exchange item level recovery.
The Unlimited Edition, which is the edition that this review is based on, sells for $585 per Hyper-V host and supports an unlimited number of VMs. You can see the full comparison of the various versions here.
When I write a review for this web site, it has become customary for me to rate the software on a scale from 0 to 5 (with 5 being the highest). I decided to give Altaro Hyper-V Backup a score of 4.8 i.e. VirtualizationAdmin.com Gold Award.
While there is no denying that there are more elaborate Hyper-V backup applications on the market, it is difficult to find one that is this easy to use or that gives you as many useful features for the price. Many of the Hyper-V backup applications that I have worked with are either way over complicated or they only offer the most basic recovery capabilities. Altaro Hyper-V Backup strikes a nice balance between cost, features, and simplicity.