Veeam Availability Console and standalone computers

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Veeam Availability Console has been designed for multiple use cases, and one of them is to manage large fleets of computers. But what about those standalone machines we have lying around? It could be the last physical server we have in the datacenter, or a laptop of a consultant that is always travelling around. How can we deal with those? I involved my family’s computers to find out.

Eating our own cooking

What a better way to test our products than use it for ourselves? So, since I have my own VAC complete lab, that I also used to write my new VAC book, I decided that I would have used the lab from now on also to manage my family’s computers.

First, I created a new “company”, called obviously Family. In this way, I can clearly identify my own machines and separate them from the test machines I also use, and also be able to manage my home computers via this dedicated account.

(you can see in the list of companies also some “resellers”, identified by the house with the sand color).

Installing the management agent

Veeam Availability Console installs on any remotely controlled computer two “agents”. This sometimes creates a bit of confusion when we talk about “the agent”, since people may not understand to which one we are referring to, but it’s really simple:

First, in order of installation, we have the Veeam Availability Console Communication Agent. This small software is the component responsible for connecting the machine to VAC. By using this control component, VAC can later optionally install the Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows, that is the backup software able to protect the computer itself. Usually, we refer to the first as the VAC Agent, while the second one is usually shortened as VAW, or Agent for Windows, implying “(Backup) Agent”.

When we speak about standalone computers, we may be in a situation that is the opposite of what I just described: the user like me is already protecting his computer with VAW, and nothing else. We need in this case to install the VAC Agent. This can be done by accessing the VAC portal as the company owner, go into Managed Computers, and hit the link Download Agent:

This starts the download of the VAC Agent installation file, that can be then executed locally in the standalone computer.

Configure the agent

The installation completes quickly, and leaves us with a new icon on the tray, with a tiny yellow warning sign that tells us that the client needs to be configured. So, we right click on the icon and select Agent Settings, which brings us to this box, where we set all the information needed to connect back to our VAC installation:

The Agent is now connected to VAC. But what does it means exactly? Let’s see.

Onboarding standalone computers in VAC

During the VAC agent configuration, we used a username belonging to the “Family” company, so we can expect that the agent will register itself inside this company. Where? Well, to find it, once we are back into VAC web interface, we go again into Managed Computers, Discovered Computers, and there is my MS Surface Pro 4:

Because the computer has VAW already installed, we do not need to install the Backup Agent, and we can see the machine already among the Discovered Backup Agents:

As you can see in the Activation column, the machine is not activated, which means it’s not managed by VAC. For this reason, some operations are not available, like the update of VAW:

Since this machine is in Unmanaged Mode, we can only monitor it and do few remote operations. In order to fully manage the machine, we need to first switch it to Managed Mode. This can be done via the Activation options:

Activation state will briefly change to “Installing License Key…” and the final state will be like this:

As you can see the Backup Policy is not changed at all. My laptop has its own configuration, where backups are sent over a NAS device in my home office. This policy is kept intact during the activation process. Now through VAC I can edit it and send changes to the remote VAW installation, but the policy itself will still be a custom one; if I want to apply a pre-created policy, I can replace it with one of the policies available into VAC.

The new Managed Mode is also visible in the client itself:

By default, the agent has been switched into read-only mode, so even the local admin has now limited access to VAW:

If I want, I can switch the agent into full admin access; again, via VAC.

Also, now I can finally upgrade VAW itself, by just sending the update command via the Web interface. All the update is done silently on the remote computer, and I can also control the progress via VAC by clicking into the Updating… text:

When the update is completed I can see that VAW is now up to date.

And now, even without connecting to the computer or configuring email notifications, I can check all my family’s computers remotely, and see the status of their backups, when it was last executed, if it was successful, even how much free space is left on the repository where they are stored: