PHD Virtual Backup Product Review

Data protection is very important in this day and age so I have been evaluating many products that focus on protecting data for virtualized environments. Recently I had the chance the evaluate PHD Virtual Backup and Replication. This product stems from what used to be called esXpress back in the day. For those that have been around awhile will remember the name. So, I will give my take on the latest version of the product 5.4, after using it awhile.

PHD Virtual lets you download the product to evaluate for free for 15 days. I downloaded the product then licensed it with Enterprise instead of just using the trial license.  Installing the Backup Console and deploying the virtual backup appliance (VBA) is really simple to do.  You have to configure an IP address the first time the VBA boots and after it restarts the Backup console can be used from then on. The first time you open the Backup console, which requires you enter the vCenter server name along with the appropriate credentials, at a minimum you’ll need to configure the backup storage destination and credentials for vCenter again.

The backup storage destination can be a local VMDK, NFS, or CIFS. This plays a big role in the backup speed so choose wisely. By default the VBA is configured with minimal settings for vMEM and vCPU, which should be changed. Because the first backup will have to be a FULL on all the data with deduplication, CPU and memory will take a big hit. So, I would suggest configuring the VBA with 4gb or more of vMEM and at least 4 vCPU. Then after the first backup is completed reduce the settings to something that fits the load because by default change block tracking (CBT) is enabled. This will significantly reduce the load on the VBA and reduce the time it takes to backup the virtual machines after the first full.

At a high level PHD VBA is similar to the VMware Data Recovery (vDR) appliance in how it backups the virtual machine. A snapshot of the VM is created then the VM’s VMDK’s are mounted to the VBA and is backed up. When the VMDK is finished being backed up, it is reattached to the VM and the snapshot is removed. This is pretty much where the similarity ends though. With the PHD Virtual Backup and Replication software you get more features and management capabilities to handle larger environments than you would with vDR. I haven’t mentioned it yet but replication of your backup data is also available, built into the product, and managed from the same interface. So by configuring the replication functionality to send your backup data to a remote location disaster recovery is solved for all of the VMs backed up by the product.

Now more important than backup process is the restore process. The PHD VBA offers a couple ways of restoring the data. One is by creating an iSCSI target to the backup data for file level restores. The other way to restore data is by doing a full restoration of the virtual machine.  Both processes are wizard driving and simple to do. There is a little more work involved with the File Level Restore (FLR) because you’ll have to work with iSCSI. And finally if you need to export the backup data to tape PHD comes with an export utility.

So, if you were looking for a simple way to protect your virtual machines I would seriously check this solution out.

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