8 gems in Veeam Availability Suite v8. Part 3: Quick Backup

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(note: this post also appears on the official Veeam blog)
Also available in this series:
Part 1: linux certificate-based authentication
Part 2: Quick Rollback
Part 4: support for vSphere tags
Part 5: Snapshot Hunter
Part 6: Tape Server
Part 7: Save as Default
Part 8: Hyper-V

Veeam Availability Suite v8 has been released and customers and partners are already upgrading their environments and exploring the several new features that have been added to this latest version of the software. There are many enhancements that are not part of the marketing activities, but nonetheless they all contribute to create every time an awesome version of the software.

I’ve created a list of my favourite 8 new technical features, my “gems”. In this series of posts, I will show you them and dive a little bit into their technical details. In this third episode, we will talk about Quick Backup.


Quick Backup

What you do when you need to quickly create a point in time copy of one of your virtual machines before a modification you are going to do? Usually, I’m pretty sure, you take a snapshot. Snapshots are indeed a good solution for this use case: they can be taken in few seconds, and if something goes wrong you can quickly revert to the previous state of the virtual machine. But at the same time, in more than one situation snapshots also have negative effects: the snapshot itself grows in size for the duration of testing. Not only the performances of the virtual machine I/O is degraded, but also the space on the datastore starts to be consumed excessively, and if for any reason the snapshot is forgotten, this can lead to serious issues. Finally, large snapshots may impact availability of production workloads due to excessive datastore I/O and VM stuns during snapshot commit.

For testing purposes, we definely suggest to use Veeam Virtual Labs capabilities, but this does not removes the need to take quickly a protection copy of a virtual machine. I hear you: a backup cannot even be compared with a snapshot in terms of execution time, and for daily operations you cannot afford to wait minutes or even hours before having a protection copy created, for example, with VeeamZIP. And you cannot even run an incremental backup, because maybe the job where that virtual machine is saved is comprised of many VMs, so it means you need to snapshot and save all of them just to protect one.

But Quick Backup is designed exactly to overcome these limits!

Here is how it works: when you start a Quick Backup, Veeam Backup & Replication searches through its catalog if there’s at least one restore point of the virtual machine, regardless the backup file where it is saved, alone or together with other VMs. If there’s even at least one restore point available, we are able to use this as the starting point for the Quick Backup, which creates an incremental backup of only the one or more virtual machines that you want to make a new backup of, among all VMs that might be present in the job. If the virtual machine is protected by multiple backup jobs, the one with the most recent restore point is  selected: the final result is a really quick operation, like the name implies.

The incremental backup produced by Quick Backup contains only the changed blocks ot the selected virtual machine. No destination folder or other paramenter is asked, as the existing job’s settings are used, and once the command is invoked the new incremental backup file is created in the same backup repository folder used for that Backup Job. And the best thing is when you run Quick Backup, your retention policy for the given job does not become skewed. Running Quick Backup will effectively add an extra restore point for the VM in question so that is not accounted by the retention policy settings of the corresponding job. The restore point will be removed as a part of normal retention policy processing, along with the restore point it is dependent upon.

There are two ways to invoke a Quick Backup. The first is via Veeam Backup & Replication console:

Quick backup via Veeam console

You browse the Virtual Machines node, select the virtual machine you want to protect, and on the contextual menu appearing with a right click you select Quick Backup.

Integration in vSphere Web Client

If Quick Backup is to be an alternative to a snapshot, it also needs to be as easily accessible as a snapshot command. So, in addition of having this option in the Veeam console, you can use Quick Backup directly from the VMware vSphere Web Client, making all protection operations extremely quick and easy like you would do with snapshots. Once you have configured Veeam to be integrated with the vSphere Web Client (you can learn how to accomplish this configuration by reading the corresponding section of the User Guide), the related Veeam commands will be directly available into the Web Client itself:

Quick backup in vSphere Web Client

As soon as you hit the Quick Backup command, the backup operation I described before starts, and you can directly track its progress from the Web Client tasks panel on the right:

Quick Backup in Recent Taks

Meanwhile, in Veeam Backup & Replication the most suitable backup job is selected and used as the source for Quick Backup:

Quick backup progress in Veeam console

But you can easily stay on the vSphere Web Client, and do other activities while the Quick Backup completes. In fact the same Tasks area will report the successful completion of the backup:

Quick Backup is completed

Now, with the new restore point created containing the most recent VM state, you will be able to work on the virtual machine with peace of mind, since you have a restore point available to revert to. And for the entire duration of your activities on this virtual machine, there will be no snapshot slowing its performances or consuming disk space on your datastores, or causing commit issues later. Win-win situation!