Tag Archives: DR

Book Review – Manage Partitions with GParted How-to by Curtis Gedak

9823covI know I know, you are probably thinking to yourselves “Hey, isn’t this a virtualization blog, why are you writing about partitions and disk management”. ¬†Well the truth of the matter is that I’ve been using GParted to do partitioning for quite a while now and to be honest have always had great successes with it (meaning it’s saved my bacon a few times ūüôā ) ¬†Well, over the holidays I had the chance to check out a new book by Curtis Gedak titled Manage Partitions with GParted How-to and I’m glad I did!!!! ¬†Curtis Gedak has managed the GParted project for the past 4 years so you can safely assume that he has some pretty good knowledge on the topic at hand ūüôā

So, on to the actual book. ¬†It is broken down into a few key concepts (Must know, Should Know and Become an Expert). ¬†Honestly, when I first started reading this I thought it might be something that I would need to sit down with a copy of GParted loaded up in front of me, but in the end I just ended up reading it from cover to cover without even touching a computer. ¬† Each chapter is broken down into a few different sections; Getting Ready, How to do it, How it works, and There’s more. ¬†This type of writing style and organization makes it very easy to also use this as a reference book when¬†performing¬†GParted actions. ¬†The book takes you through every single action that can be performed within GParted; certainly check out the TOC here.

Throughout all my experiences with GParted I’ve been just sort of “using” the application, never really knowing what it is that is happening in the background. ¬†This book gives you the deep dive that you need in order to fully understand how partitions are laid out on a disk as well as a step by step guide in order to create, modify, resize, move, and manage your partitions in order to give you the most effective and efficient disk use possible.

Honestly, don’t take my word for it either, check it out. ¬†You can get a free chapter here where you can see for yourself the wealth of information and sharp illustrations. ¬†However if you do want to take my word, my word would say if you use GParted on a regular basis, or if you plan on starting to use it, this book would be great for you.

My first shot at a whitepaper!

This past year I was approached by PHD Virtual with the opportunity to possible author a whitepaper. ¬†Now I have never done anything like this before and honestly don’t consider myself to be the best writer in the world but I thought I’d give it a shot. ¬†I compared it to my quest of trying to improve at my presentation and public speaking skills, meaning I’ll never improve if I don’t put myself in those uncomfortable positions right? ¬†So armed with nothing I gave it a go and then end result is now published on their website. ¬†You can find the completed result titled ‘5 Steps for improving Virtual Backup & Data Recovery in Large Enterprises’ over in the whitepapers section of PHD Virtuals’ resources page.

All in all it was a great experience and took a lot more work than I initially though it would. ¬†Given then chance though, I’d most certainly do it again…Let me know what you think…but don’t be too harsh ūüôā

Unitrends Enterprise Backup – In the lab!!!

Unitrends has been inside the backup industry for over 20 years! ¬†That’s a long time to be a key player inside of one industry. ¬†How do they do it? ¬†By staying on top of the ever so changing nature of backup. ¬†That’s why I decided to do this sponsored review of Unitrends latest offering, Unitrends Enterprise Backup. ¬† Again, this review is sponsored but it most certainly contains my words and thoughts about the product. ¬†Now that that’s been cleared up let me say that they make it pretty easy for you evaluate the product yourself. ¬†Personally I went and grabbed a free NFR¬†license¬†that they offer to all Microsoft and VMware certificate holders. ¬†Even if you simply belong to a VMUG you can get yourself an NFR¬†license. ¬†While the Unitrends Enterprise Backups deployment route requires Hyper-V or VMware, the appliance itself can backup and¬†protect¬†both your physical and virtual environment, but for the purpose of this review I only tested on a virtual infrastructure.


This couldn’t have been easier!!! ¬†Unitrends has taken the virtual appliance route when it comes to installation, meaning a simple File->Deploy OVF Template and following a quick step wizard is all you really need to do to get Unitrends into your environment. ¬†This honestly took around 10 minutes from start to finish to deploy into my environment. ¬† Just be sure you meet the minimum system requirements (100GB free space, 2 CPUs, 4GB RAM) and deploy the appliance. ¬†There is one single appliance to deploy whether you plan on using the free, trial, NFR, or complete enterprise solution.


Once the appliance has been deployed into your environment it’s now time to get it configured and ready to go. ¬†Like most virtual appliances you must first configure IP and DNS settings inside of the VM console. ¬†Unitrends provides a nifty little console menu to simplify this operation. ¬†Once you have an IP configured the rest of the configuration can be done through the web¬†interface¬†by opening up a browser and pointing to the IP of your Unitrends appliance. ¬†Upon the first login to the appliance Unitrends displays a setup wizard which takes you through most all of the steps that you need to configure to get up and running. ¬†The steps of this process are outlined below

  • Accept EULA
  • Set Date/Time Parameters
  • Configure Hostname
  • Configure SMTP server
  • Change default console authentication (root password)
  • Add any additional administrative users to the system
  • Select an installation type – Just a note here you will have the option to either install as a local backup system or as a vault. ¬†The difference being that vault actually acts as a replication target for a local backup system, giving you the ability to replicate your locally backed up files to another Unitrends installation in an offsite location.
  • Add additional storage to the Unitrends system. ¬†If you left all of the defaults when deploying the defaults you should have roughly 80GB of storage to use as a backup target, here you can add additional storage to the appliance.
  • Install any required agents – If you are solely using this product to backup VMware VMs (or strictly current Windows OSes or Hyper-V) then this step can be skipped, however if you plan to backup any Linux or Mac OS based PHYSICAL systems then you have the option to deploy the agents needed at this time. ¬†As with most settings you can always do this later as well – I skipped this for the time being.
  • Add Client – In Unitrends terms a client is a server/computer that you want to protect. ¬†For the sake of protecting a VMware environment a client will be either your vCenter Server or ESXi host. ¬†Here is where I added my vCenter Server by providing the DNS name as well as credentials then clicking ‘Setup’. ¬†(Shown below)
  • Deduplication Options – You have the option here to disable the Unitrends software deduplication if you happen to be using a deduplication appliance or have deduplication enabled on your underlying storage array.

Honestly at this point you have all the configuration you need to start protecting your virtual environment with Unitrends.  Obviously there are a ton more settings and tweaks you can set in the Settings section of the application but I will concentrate more on the core functionality of the product rather than dive into each and every configuration setting.  Unitrends lays this functionality out in their top navigational menu, thus the rest of this review will follow the same structure.


The status section is there to do just what you would think, display the past, present, and future status of your backup system.  Not a whole lot to say about this section other than there are some really nice visualizations that let you see your future schedule for backups as well as the outcomes from previous backups.


Ok, here we go now into the meat and potatoes of this product; its’ ability to backup your virtual infrastructure. ¬†First off you will see a couple of tabs along the top after selecting Backup; 1-Time Backup and Schedule Backup. ¬†As you may have guessed one option performs a 1-time backup and the other allows you to assign a schedule. ¬†For the purposes of this review I will only go over the scheduled backup option.
The first step is to setup a schedule or modify an existing one. ¬†In my case I called this RPO 6 hours and set the Incremental Forever options to occur every 6 hours (brilliant eh? ūüôā ) ¬†Since I have selected my vCenter Server from the navigational menu i can see a list of potential VMs to protect in the list box to the left. ¬†This list is dependent and will change based on the item you select in the navigational menu, meaning if it was an Exchange server you may see storage groups or databases, SQL you would see databases, etc… ¬†Again in our case we are dealing¬†solely¬†with VMware so I see a list of VMs. ¬†One cool and useful feature is the ‘Auto Include New VMs’ option. ¬†This allows you to automatically include new VMs into a specified schedule as they are created and registered with vCenter without physically configuring the Unitrends appliance. ¬†A very cool feature to be able to protect those VMs that tend to just show up in your environment.
The Schedule column on the right hand side of the screen is where you define how and when you want your backups to occur. ¬†You will see here options around the minimum and maximum number of days to retain your backups as well as the backup strategy you wish to deploy. ¬†This strategy could be one of the following….
  • Incremental Forever – This strategy essentially performs a full backup on the target and then subsequently performs incremental backups from then on. ¬†Periodically (I think once every two weeks) the original full backup is¬†synchronized¬†and brought up to date using the ¬†incremental backups locally and differentials are generated for the retention points leading up to this. ¬†A great strategy to obtain a near continuous data protection strategy and speed up the time it takes to backup a virtual machine.
  • Full with¬†Incrementals¬†– Basically the same as Incremental Forever however giving you the ability to specify when the full backup occurs (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly). ¬†I believe in this option the full backups are performed on your production environment and not generated from incrementals.
  • Full with Differentials – This would be somewhat the reverse of Full with Incrementals meaning you will always have an up to date full backup, with differential files as your restore points.
  • Custom – you guessed it, play with it and tailor it to how you want it to be.

And guess what? ¬†You’re done! ¬†Depending on the configuration you’ve specified your backups and retention policies should kick off¬†immediately¬†and start protecting your VMs. ¬†The process of creating a backup job or schedule inside of Unitrends is very very simple. ¬†What I like most about this process is how it is laid out in the web interface. ¬†With the exception of advanced settings (SMTP and storage) all of the configuration and setup is done on one simple screen (See below).


So far we have installed, setup, and configured some backups jobs with Unitrends. ¬†Now is the time to put it to the test and do perhaps the most important function that backup solutions provide; the ability to restore. ¬†Unitrends offers a couple type of restores within their product; Restore a computer or Restore a system. ¬†Now these terms sound like they do essentially the same thing but they most certainly do not. ¬†Your most common type of operation and traditional restore is handled through restore a computer. ¬†This will restore a VM from your local backup¬†instance. ¬†The ‘Restore a System’ is actually a DR operation that will restore your system from either an archive or a replicated (vaulted) instance. ¬†I’ve mentioned the vault options earlier in this review and due to limited resources I can’t¬†efficiently¬†test this so for the case of this section I’ll walk through restoring a single VM from Unitrends.
First off if you select your vCenter in the navigation menu while in the restore section you should be presented with a nifty little screen.  What I like most about this is it is very easy to select your targeted restore time through either the visualizations provided or the Recovery Point Times table.  You then have a couple of options on how to restore.
Firstly is the ‘Next (Select Options)’ button. ¬†This is the route to take if your desire is to restore a complete VM. ¬†Once moving into the next screen you simply need to select a desired host and datastore, give your restored VM a name and you are off to the races. ¬†Another noteable and huge feature is Instant Recovery. ¬†This is the ability to publish the backup files directly to an ESX host and run your VM directly from the backup files themselves. ¬†An awesome feature that you may need to use if access is needed¬†immediately.
The second option, ‘Restore Selected Files’ ¬†allows you to perform a file level restore. ¬†In order to first do this you must click the ‘Create’ button in order to create an image to restore from. ¬†After this process is complete a network path will be displayed allowing you to connect by a couple of different methods. ¬†Through Windows you could simply browse or map to the selected path. ¬†Unitrends will also prevent this image as an iSCSI target allowing your end users to connect and restore any files they wish to an location they wish. ¬†Once completed be sure to click the ‘Tear Down’ button in order to unmount the image.


So now we are on to the Archive capabilities of Unitrends.  In order to use the archive features you need to have archive storage attached to your appliance.  I facilitated this by adding a second disk to the VM and configuring it under the Storage and Retention settings however it appears you can also use a NAS or iSCSI type solution as well.  So basically the archive capabilities allow you to take either all or portions of your local backups or local appliance directories and setup different retention schedules on them in order to preserve certain recovery points in a different location.
Again like most configuration that is done within Unitrends all of it is on one screen.  You can see from the screen shot that all that needs to be done is selecting what to archive, the type of backups (a lot of options in here), your archive target and some simple options on whether to compress and encrypt your archived data.  You also have the ability to test your archive settings before submitting the archive job in order to ensure you have enough space remaining on your targets.  Archives can be run both on demand as well as scheduled.  There targets can consist of attached vmdks, iSCSI targets, NAS devices as well as tape drives.


Although fairly self explanatory I wanted to touch on this section as I found it to be one of the real shining points around Unitrends Enterprise Backup.  As you can see in the screenshot below Unitrends has a ton of predefined reports that you can generate and view dealing with everything from the outcomes of your backup jobs to your deduplication savings to storage utilization to inidividual reports dealing with applications such as SQL server.


So there you have it! ¬†That in a nutshell is Unitrends Enterprise Backup. ¬†I can’t say that I have really truly done this application justice as there are a lot of features that I didn’t get a chance to test. ¬†Outside of this review Unitrends contains many features such as not only backing up your virtual infrastructure but your physical¬†presence¬†as well all from one interface. ¬†They have solutions for full application item recovery such as Exchange mailboxes and SQL databases and tables. ¬†Unitrends has a very solid, scaleable, easy to use system. ¬†One of the biggest high points for me is just the ease of use. ¬†Having most all of the configuration options for setting up backup jobs on one screen is a great feature allowing administrators to see the full scope of options and settings all at once. ¬†Another awesome thing about Unitrends is the free edition. ¬†Although limited to 4 VMs you get a fully functional product – no catch! ¬†Don’t believe me? ¬†Try it for yourself. ¬† Go grab a fully functional trial at Unitrends.com.

Happy New Sphere is back!!! Win a copy of Designing VMware Infrastructure by @TrainSignal and @Scott_lowe

It’s that special time a year again, a time for family, friends, laughter, food, fixing your sister-in-laws friends computer, oh, and giving! ¬†And that’s just what I want to do…GIVE! ¬†Back for a second year (that’s right, I have done something twice on this blog now) is my Happy New Sphere Giveaway! ¬†Last year we handed out a copy of Trainsignals VCP 5 Training and this year we have a copy of TrainSignals Designing VMware Infrastructure to place in somebody’s hands. ¬†If you haven’t already you can check out a previous review of this course that I’ve done. ¬†It’s full of great information that any VMware designer, architect, or even administrator should know. ¬†I thought this course was awesome! ¬† Also, to one lucky runner up we have a copy of “Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0” by Mike Laverick (blog/twitter) ¬†Because what’s a great design with a continuity/disaster recovery plan right? ¬†Actually, it’s because I have one sitting around here from the Toronto VMUG to give away!!!!!!

So, here’s the answer to the question everyone has been asking! ¬†How do I win? ¬†What does it take? ¬†Well, simply leave a comment on this post…Not really concerned about what is in it…leave your best design tip, what type of content you’d like to see on this blog in the coming year, your best #scottlowefact, a comment about either of the sponsors (Trainsignal or VMUG)…whatever you wish…

And wait, OMG a second entry!!! ¬†Yes, just help me spread the word about the contest by sending out the following tweet. ¬†That’s kind of a double edge sword as it actually decreases your chances of winning by the more people that sign up ūüôā ¬†Oh well, the price you pay for that precious second ballot! ¬†Honestly, don’t be too concerned, there was only like 60 entries last year…The tweet and hash tag is below!



I’ll leave the contest open for new entries up to January 4th. ¬†I’ll try to draw a winner sometime around then as well….don’t hold me to it though… ūüôā ¬†Either way, good luck and a big huge thanks goes out to Trainsignal and Angelo Luciani of the Toronto VMUG for graciously providing the prizes. ¬†Oh, and Happy New Sphere!!!!!

It’s #Veeam time again! – Backup & Replication 6.5 is here…Almost!

It’s that special, magical time again, time for yet another sweet release from Veeam. ¬†Now, it’s nothing new and shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that I just love Veeam releases and this one is no exception. ¬†Although a minor release they have squeezed a couple sets of new awesome functionality into the core product that can only continue to get more and more awesomesauce as time goes on. ¬†So with that said let’s have a look at a few of the features and enhancements that I find are crazy cool… ¬†Keep your eyes pealed as we should see this release come to life sometime this quarter!

vSphere 5.1 Support

First and¬†foremost¬†support for VMware’s recent release of vSphere 5.1 ¬†From what I’ve heard the platform and architecture inside of ESXi 5.1 has changed significantly making it quite the challenge for backup and replication vendors to get to the point where they can say their products are supported. ¬†It’s nice to see Veeam as one of those first supporters of vSphere 5.1

Full Support on Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8

Support for both backing up and running on Windows Server 2012! ¬†Meaning you can now take advantage of some of the new Windows Server 2012 features with your Veeam Server/Repositories on top. ¬†Think about it, you can now place your backups on the new deduped¬†file system¬†of Win 2012 and obtain deduplication across your Veeam jobs…pretty cool!

Veeam Explorer for Exchange

Although this was released to beta earlier as a¬†separate¬†application it’s now bundled into Veeam 6.5 as a feature set. ¬†Meaning you will see this crazy one-click mailbox item level restore awesomesauce inside of the core Veeam Backup and Replication. ¬†Oh, guess what? ¬†It’s also included in ALL Veeam B&R Editions – Including the free version! ¬†Apart from the inclusion of this in the core product they have also made a number of enhancements to it such as mailbox datastores are now auto detected and mounted and the ability to restore directly back to the original location is now available within the Enterprise¬†version¬†of Veeam B&R. ¬†On top of that, there is support for any offline edb file, meaning it could be used with existing backups or SAN snapshots. ¬†Nice!

Veeam Explorer for SAN Snapshots

I’m seeing a trend here with the Veeam Explorer for ___ ____ title! ¬†Although right now this is only supported with certain HP arrays and VSA’s containing the SANiQ storage functionality, ¬†this technology is pretty cool and I’m sure you will see the vendor array support expanded in the future. ¬†The ability to restore/run VMs directly from SAN Snapshots as well as restoring individual files is pretty crazy! ¬†Kudo’s to Veeam for building this in…and again, across all editions, including the free one!

The Core Product Enhancements

  • Veeam ONE integration – The release of B&R 6.5 is coupled with a release of the Veeam ONE product as well. ¬†With this they have added a tight integration between the two products allowing you to monitor and report on the health of your B&R infrastructure and jobs from with Veeam ONE. ¬†Don’t be¬†surprised¬†if you see a nice little ‘suite’ containing both products.
  • DR for your DR – Finally this is here! ¬†The ability to schedule, automate and run backups of the Veeam Backup server itself. ¬†You can now easily create backups of your Veeam configuration (containing infrastructure and job information) and restore them back to the same or another server. ¬†So when disaster hits it’s now easy to recover your disaster recovery solutions.
  • Engine Enhancements – the core has been updated to provide further¬†enhancements¬†to your deduplication and compression as well as¬†performance¬†gains when it comes to reverse¬†incremental s¬†and large files.
  • Recovery Enhancements – You can now do that ever so awesome 1 click file level recovery, but this time direct it right back to it’s original location. ¬†Suweeet!
  • Scheduling – ability to chain scripts is now available.
  • Management – More powershell cmdlets have been developed to support failover and failback for replicas as well as perform the new VeeamZip functionality!

So that’s all for now (all I know about) ūüôā ¬†Don’t delay, head on over to veeam.com and read up ¬†for yourself and check it out! ¬†Be sure to include your Exchange Admin on the Explorer for Exchange functionality – It’ll drive them crazy!!!! ¬†In a good way!


Backup and Replication by VMware – New in vSphere 5.1

There have been a slew of announcements coming out of VMworld in San Francisco this week and also a slew of new products and enhancements to existing products. ¬†During the show I was attempting to look at everything from an SMB point of view and a couple of products that really stuck out for me was that of the new vSphere Data Protection and vSphere Replication. ¬†Below are just a few thoughts around each product, what it has to offer and where it is packaged from within VMwares’¬†licensing¬†editions.

vSphere Data Protection

First off let’s explore vSphere Data Protection (vDP). ¬†There has been a lot of buzz during and even before the show around vDP and how VMware plans to position it. ¬†Working closely with EMC’s Avamar development team VMware have now packaged their own backup and recovery solution into vSphere 5.1, replacing, yet still supporting its’ predecessor VMware Data Recovery. ¬†In my opinion this is a great move for VMware. ¬†vDR was not gaining too much traction within the SMB or Enterprise market however I believe that vDP will. ¬†Why? ¬†Again, it’s built on top of EMCs Avamar backup and recovery technology therefore leveraging years of experience and ‘lessons learned’ which make the product more seasoned and production ready than vDR ever was. ¬†Also this complete solution is managed and embedded directly from within the new vSphere 5.1 Web Client. From within the same menus that you clone a VM, vMotion, perform power operations you can now apply backup policies and ensure your data is safe and protected. ¬†Simply install the backup appliance and you are good to go. ¬†Now vDP is not for everyone and as with any initial release (either on purpose or not) there are some limitations. ¬†A single vDP Appliance can scale up to 2TB of deduplicated storage or 100 VMs total. ¬†Certainly targeted at the SMB market. ¬†I’m excited to see what vDP has to offer and how widely it is adopted in the SMB space. ¬†vDP is bundled in with the Essentials Plus licensing and above.

vSphere Replication

Again this is nothing new. ¬†With the last release of Site Recovery Manager (SRM) vSphere Replication was included and provided users with the ability to perform replication on a per-VM basis without the need of shared storage or costly SAN replication functionality. ¬†The problem there was it was bundled with SRM, a product in which you probably already were utilizing that costly SAN replication technology anyways. ¬†Well, in vSphere 5.1 that has all changed. ¬†Although still available within SRM, vSphere Replication now is included within the Essentials Plus and above licensing. ¬†And on top of that there have been some new features and enhancements made to vSphere Replication – VSS Support, flexible RTO, and simplified management utilizing the new vSphere 5.1 web client are just a few. ¬†Again, there are some limitations. ¬†The biggest being that there is a 2TB limit (don’t take my word on this, I thought I heard it in the session but am trying to find data to back it up, i know there is most certainly a 500 VM limit) on the amount of data that you can replicate. ¬†If you need more than this you will have to purchase the full SRM suite, that being said, still a great alternative and great news for users in the SMB space.

So, a couple of products coming out of VMworld in the realm of data protection. ¬†I’m interested to see within the next year how many people adopt and use this products. ¬†There are no fancy features being offered that you might get with some of the more established third party products such as the ability to instantly restore your VMs, run VMs directly from backup, Re-IP VMs, etc… ¬†The 2TB lmiits imposed on the backup storage do not really bother me that much, however ¬†I would have loved to also see these bundled into at the very least the Essentials ROBO kits. ¬†It would have been a great way to protect those VMs running in a remote office where only one host resides and Essentials Plus didn’t really make sense. ¬†Only time will tell how widely adopted these products will be but this is certainly a great first step for VMware in my opinion. ¬†The ability to manage all of this from directly inside the web client is huge. ¬†And the ability to protect your virtualized environment with products from your virtualization vendor is even better. ¬†I’d love to hear from you, if you plan to use either vDP or vSphere Replication, if your using it now, or even any thoughts you may have on the releases or any other news coming out of VMworld for that matter…Let me know in the comments…