Product Review: Vembu BDR
Product: Vembu BDR
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The capabilities of a backup product are measured by a number of factors. For example, some backup products are designed to backup file servers. Others have the ability to backup only application servers such as SQL and Exchange Servers. Ideally one would always want to look for a backup solution which can backup from file servers to application servers and also provide a number of other backup and restore options. When it comes to providing the recommendations for a backup solution, there are many important aspects of the backup solution I always take into consideration. I always check whether:
- the backup solution is simple to setup and manage
- the solution is capable of performing backups of file servers and enterprise applications such as SQL and Exchange
- it provides the ability to create multiple backup schedules
- it provides a built-in database to store backup metadata for reporting purposes and to reduce the licensing cost
- it provides a mechanism to verify the backups before they are stored
Apart from providing reporting and alerting through email, the backup solution should also provide the options to restore individual items such as restoring a single item e.g. an email or database from Exchange and SQL Servers. You should also look for a backup product which is flexible enough to store the backup copies at an off-site location so you can restore the business continuity in case a disaster strikes at the production site.
Since most of the backup solutions fail to provide all capabilities in one product, I really liked Vembu BDR since it provides all these capabilities in one product. Vembu BDR is an affordable and easy to use backup solution that not only helps you backup file servers, Exchange and SQL Servers, disk as images but also provides you an easy to use, menu driven web interface, which can be accessed from any other computer on the network. If you are looking for a small to midsized backup solution, Vembu BDR seems to be the perfect choice. While other options might be more suitable for larger environments, Vembu BDR can still be deployed if planned appropriately.
Installing and Configuring Vembu BDR
Vembu BDR is simple to install on Windows computers. I did not have to spend much time to get it up and running. The product ships with two components; Vembu BDR Server and Vembu BDR Client. Vembu BDR Server component is responsible for keeping the backup copies, provides the central reporting and helps in initiating the restores. The Vembu BDR Client component is used to configure the backup schedules on the destination servers. It also performs the backup as per the backup schedules defined and then stores the backup copies on the Vembu BDR Server.
It is important to understand that you would require a working Internet connection to install the Vembu BDR Server and Client components. The good thing about installing the product from the Internet is that you will always be pulling the latest libraries from the Vembu storage hosted at Amazon S3. Another good thing about Vembu BDR is that it ships with its own database that is configured automatically during the installation whereas most of the backup products require a database to be prepared before the product can be installed.
I installed Vembu BDR Server component on a Windows Server 2012 R2 with 8 GB of RAM. The first time you open Vembu BDR Server Web Console, you will be required to enter the login credentials, set the time zone and disk configuration for storing the backups. These are the minimum tasks you need to perform on the Vembu BDR Server so clients running Vembu BDR Client can communicate to Vembu BDR Server and store the backup copies.
You can store backup copies in any storage devices like Direct-attached storage (DAS), Network-attached storage (NAS), and Storage area network (SAN). All you need to do is to launch Vembu BDR Server Web Console from the browser and then click on the Repository Management to add the storage devices as shown in the screenshot below:
A very good thing about Vembu BDR is that it uses the next available disks configured for storing the backup data if the current disk runs out of space! This is one of the several great features of Vembu BDR.
As to installing Vembu BDR Clients on servers, all you need to do is to install Vembu BDR Client on the target server. After installing, just click on the Vembu BDR Client desktop shortcut, connect to Vembu BDR Server and then create the backup schedules.
Additionally I was curious to know if I could manage a server from any other computer on the network. Since both the Vembu BDR Server and Client use https protocol, you can access them from any other computer on the network.
Supported Backup Types
Vembu BDR supports different types of backup including:
- Disk Image backups
- File backups, Outlook Backups
- Application backups (Exchange Server, SQL, MySQL, SharePoint, etc.)
The backup options are available for you to select through the Vembu BDR Client web interface as shown in the screenshot below.
Disk Image Backup and Restore
The Disk Image Backup helps you backup disks on a Vembu BDR Client as images. To create the Disk Image backup, all you need to do is select “Disk Image” sub-menu from the Backup menu and then proceed with selecting the disks you want to include in the backup schedule as shown in the screenshot below:
Another good thing about Vembu BDR is that it provides you with the steps necessary to proceed with a task. As you can see in the screenshot above, when creating a backup schedule for Disk Image, it provides you with the necessary steps to create a successful backup schedule.
In Step 1, you provide the name of the backup schedule. Step 2 asks you to select the list of disks that are going to be part of this backup schedule. Step 3 is to select the Vembu BDR Server. Step 4 is to define the schedule. Step 5 allows you to define the retention policies for this particular backup schedule and Step 6 provides advanced backup options.
As to retention policy at Step 5, Vembu BDR provides the backup retention policy for both current day and week. Retention policy for the current day is very useful for servers that frequently update the data in order to keep multiple backup copies per day.
It is worth noting that Vembu BDR is well programed to notify you of any recommendations. While most of the backup products fail to provide you with suggestions, Vembu BDR shows you important messages when creating a backup schedule. For example, when you prepare for Disk Image Backup, Vembu BDR Client will show you its recommendation for including the System Partition in the backup so the backed up image can be bootable as shown in the screenshot below:
Booting from a backed up image is advantageous when you want to restore the business services as quickly as possible.
On a side note, let's assume a backup schedule you just created is hosting mission-critical applications and you want to use all the possible options to make sure the backup schedule runs whenever the Vembu BDR Client starts, or retry the backup operation in case of any network failures between the Vembu BDR client and Vembu BDR Server. In Step 6, you can see two options “Advanced Options” and “Application Aware Options”. The Advanced Option helps you achieve the above scenario as shown in the screenshot below:
As to restoring from a Disk Image backup, all you need to do is to launch the Vembu BDR Server console, click on the “List of Clients” from the Server Management menu, and then click on the client to show you the list of backup schedules. Once you see the backup schedules, click on the restore action as shown in the red circle of the screenshot below:
When it comes to restore a Disk Image Backup, Vembu BDR provides you the multiple recovery choices such as booting to Windows Image, downloading Image file on the local computer, mounting the virtual device, restoring disk/partitions, etc. as shown in the screenshot below:
SQL & Exchange Server Backup and Restore
As stated earlier, a backup solution should also provide backup and restore support for enterprise applications such as SQL and Exchange. Vembu BDR does a very good job in backing up SQL and Exchange server databases. It is because Vembu BDR provides you with the ability to select the SQL databases you want to backup and then using the flexible Vembu BDR Web console you can restore the databases to the same or an alternate computer.
Backing up SQL Server is very similar to backing up Disk Image except you are required to add the SQL Databases you want to backup. You would also need to make sure that you have added the SQL Server instances before creating a backup schedule for the SQL Server.
To start with SQL Server backup, click on the “Backup” menu and then select the “MS SQL Server” as shown in the screenshot below:
It is not necessarily true that you need to log on to the SQL Server computer to create the backup schedule. As long as Vembu BDR Client is installed and working on the SQL Server, you can also launch Vembu BDR Client web interface from another computer using IE or similar browser.
When you click on the “MS SQL Server” sub-menu, Vembu web interface will ask you to select the SQL Server instance. In case you need to add an SQL Instance, you can always do so by clicking the “Add SQL Server Instance” as shown in the screenshot below:
Once SQL Server instance is selected, Vembu BDR Client will provide you with steps to create a backup schedule for the SQL Server as shown in the screenshot below:
Similar to Disk Image backup, Vembu BDR Client provides you with the necessary steps. All you need to do is to give the backup schedule a name, select the databases you want to backup, and then define backup schedules. A good thing I noticed about Vembu BDR is that it gives you the flexibility of selecting the right databases by providing four options;
- “Select All Databases for this schedule”
- “Select All FULL Recovery Model databases”
- “Select All SIMPLE Recovery Model Databases”
- “Select All BULK_LOGGED Recovery Model databases”
In case you need to include databases of your choice, you can select “Let me manually choose databases” option and then put a checkmark in front of the database. Apart from selecting the Full Backups, you can also choose to enable Incremental backups as shown in the screenshot above.
Apart from providing the necessary steps Vembu BDR also provides necessary help for any given option. At any point in time, if you need to know more about an option, just click the yellow “?” icon shown in front of the step.
You might be wondering if there is also a retention policy that you can define for the SQL Server backups? Yes, you can. You can configure the retention policies for Full and Incremental backups by clicking the “Advanced Settings” button located on the schedule page as shown in the screenshot above. When you click on the “Advanced Settings”, you are provided with the below options:
For SQL Server backup schedules, Vembu BDR Client would require a temporary location to store the backed up data before transferring these backup copies to Vembu BDR Server. This is a good practice for a backup product. Vembu BDR Client is ensuring that it wraps up the backup copies locally by verifying the integrity of the backup (if you selected “Read and Verify the Integrity of the backup on completion” option as shown in the screenshot above). and then storing the backup copies at the Vembu BDR Server. This ensures that Vembu BDR Client is storing the consistent and verified backup copies at Vembu BDR Server.
As to restoring SQL databases, you can invoke restore action either from Vembu BDR Server or Client. In any case, you are provided with multiple restore points as shown in the red circle in the screenshot below:
Note that restoring SQL Databases on the Vembu BDR Client provides you with more options as opposed to restoring on Vembu BDR Server. When restoring from Vembu BDR client, the source can be Vembu BDR Server or a local folder if you have already restored the data in a local folder. Similarly, you can select individual databases to restore. You can also have options to apply the restored database directly to SQL Server as shown in the screenshot below:
For Exchange Server backups, it is similar to creating a backup schedule for SQL Databases except backup schedule for Exchange Server provides “Synthetic Full Backup” option as explained in the below screenshot taken from the Vembu BDR help:
As for Exchange Server restore, you can either perform Exchange Server restore from Vembu BDR Server or Client. To restore a single item or mail from the Exchange database, you would be required to install the Exchange MailBox Plugin from the Vembu BDR Client installation directory. Depending on the version of the Exchange Server you are running, you would need to follow the steps from the Vembu BDR documentation. For Exchange Server 2007/2010/2013, you would need to run AddPermissionForMailBox.bat file as shown in the screenshot below.
Let's assume that after setting up a backup schedule for Exchange Server, you get a call from your CIO that somehow he/she deleted a couple of important emails. Vembu BDR allows you to restore specific email items either by restoring from a PST file or restoring from EDB file.
To proceed with restoring specific email items, all you need to do is to click on “Restore” menu and then click on “Exchange Mail Level Restore” sub-menu. Once clicked, the Exchange mail level restore window will appear as shown in the screenshot below:
Before you can restore specific emails from the PST file, you would be required to restore the user mailbox to an alternate location. Once done, provide the location of the restored PST file/folder and then restore the individual emails.
Before you can proceed with restoring specific email items using “Restore from EDB” option, you need to have a couple of requirements in place as shown in “Requirements” section of the screenshot below.
Identifying Backup Issues Quickly
The general idea behind implementing a backup solution is to identify the issues with backups promptly. It is important to note that a successful backup product should provide the options to report failures with the backups through console as well as email alerts. Vembu BDR does a very good job in providing a comprehensive summary of backup status from all Vembu BDR Clients and can also send backup failure/success reports via email. All you need to do is go to Vembu BDR Server web interface, go to “Reports” menu and then select “Server Dashboard”. When you click “Server Dashboard” sub-menu, it will show you the backup status for each Vembu BDR client as shown in the screenshot below:
You can also select to show you the “Successful” or “Incomplete” backups. While the Server Dashboard shows you the backup reports for all servers, the Backup Status Report sub-menu located in the “Reports” menu shows the status of each backup from all clients Vembu BDR Server has processed as shown in the figure below.
Another good thing to note about Vembu BDR reporting is that you can create the necessary filters based on your requirement and then process the filters to create the report based on the criteria you have set in the filter. When you click on the Filter button, it brings you to the Filter Window as shown in the screenshot below:
Once you have created the filter, all you need to do is select the filter from the list and then process the filter to show you the status of the backup. This not only helps to find the issues with the Windows Image, SQL and Exchange Server backups quickly, but it also allows to save time by filtering the failure and success backups with a few clicks.
It is worth noting that reporting is also available at the Vembu BDR Client. Providing reporting functionality at the client side has several benefits. One of the benefits is that you don’t need to log on to the Vembu BDR Server to look for the status of each backup schedule for a specific client. All you can do is to log on to a client, launch Vembu BDR Client and then click on the “Reports” menu to show you reports for the backup schedules managed by the Vembu BDR Client on this server as shown in the screenshot below:
Disabling Vembu BDR
Vembu BDR supports disabling backup operations for a client with a simple approach. In many of the backup products you need to go through several steps in order to disable the backups for a server. But with Vembu BDR, disabling the backup operation for a client is very easy. All you need to do is go to the Vembu BDR Client and stop the service from the Taskbar as shown in the screenshot below:
Documentations and Blog
It is easy to setup and configure Vembu BDR backup product. All the necessary documents on how to configure the product and backup schedules for applications are readily available. For this review I followed the documentation provided to me. I also used some online guides available at https://www.vembu.com/try/#resources to walk me through the setup and configuration process of Vembu BDR in my test lab. Additionally Vembu maintains a blog at: https://www.vembu.com/blog
Support and Pricing
I have heard from different sources that the response time on support from Vembu BDR is fantastic. All queries are addressed within 15 minutes and all technicians are knowledgeable about the product.
Vembu BDR product is a very cost effective solution. By default, users get a trial period of one month. After that, BDR users need to login/sign up to Vembu Portal, register and update their payment information. Once the backups are processed, the users will be charged by the end of that particular month. You can check on buying options here: https://www.vembu.com/buy. Considering the high-end backup features included in the product I think the price is very reasonable.
My Final Thoughts
Vembu BDR is a great backup solution providing a lot of good backup options at a reasonable price. I was pleased to see that it includes such great features as creating multiple backup schedules, support for different application backups, restoring individual mail items, configuring multiple backup servers per client, and so on.
I liked the product, as it was very easy to setup and more than easy to identify the issues using Vembu BDR reporting at both server and client level. Furthermore there are many different types of backup supported by Vembu BDR. It was really easy to process the restore of an important item from the client side rather than opening the web interface at the server side. I would recommend this product as an affordable and feature-rich backup solution and I’ve given it WindowsNetworking.com Gold Award with a rating of 4.9 out of 5.
MSExchange.org Rating 4.9/5