If you’re new to Hyper-V and wondering how to back up your virtual machines (VMs), there are different ways you can approach the task. But like most things—some options are better than others.
Below are the most common ways Hyper-V users attempt to preserve data on their VMs, with one caveat: Some of these methods should not be relied upon as your sole backup strategy. But they do serve a purpose, and they can be useful in the right situation.
Hyper-V: How To Backup Virtual Machines
Hyper-V comes with its own administrative tool, called Hyper-V Manager. However, this tool has limitations and, oftentimes, you will have to invest a considerable amount of time and effort into writing backup scripts which you will have to implement yourself.
Unless you’re prepared for that, you may have to come up with another solution. So if you don’t own any other tools that can help you do backups, you’ll have to work with what you have: checkpoints.
1. Create checkpoints.
Essentially, a checkpoint represents the state of a VM at a particular point in time. (VMWare calls this same concept a snapshot.) When you create a checkpoint, you’re setting a kind of placeholder you can revert back to in case you need to restore the VM for any reason. However, the data inside the VM does not progress past the checkpoint, which means you’ll revert back to old data. For example, in the hours that elapsed between the time you took the checkpoint and the time you need to revert back to it, you may have modified the data—all of which will be lost when you revert back.
Since you’re not actually creating a copy of the virtual machine—which is a requirement for a backup—checkpoints aren’t considered a good solution. Plus, you can’t restore the data to an alternative host, which isn’t ideal either as it doesn’t fully safeguard the data.
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2. Export the virtual machine.
If you don’t have any additional backup tools, another option is to export the virtual machine. Exporting means you’re creating a new VM with the same configuration as the original. (Basically, you’re copying it.) You could then save the VM to the local host or network, and import when you need it. Directions for importing/exporting virtual machines using Hyper-V Manager can be found here.
Exporting is a viable backup method if nothing else is available. But it comes with limitations. Most notably, there’s no way to automate exports. So you’ll have to remember to manually run them, or write and maintain scripts for scheduling (which is a fair amount of work).
3. Restore to an alternate host.
If you’ve purchased System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), Microsoft’s virtual machine management tool, you now have a better option: to restore. When you restore, you’re reverting the state of the VM to its earlier version. (It’s essentially an enhanced version of checkpoints.) SCVMM allows you to restore whole systems and individual files alike; it can also restore the virtual machine to any available host. (Note that the first two options do not offer the ability to cherry-pick individual files for restoring).
Because SCVMM lacks a complete feature set around backup process, a restore is still a fairly complex task. That brings us to option 4.
4. Use a third-party backup solution.
Third-party products (like 5nine Manager Datacenter, Veeam and others) give you the ability to perform real backups fast with ease and flexibility. You have more control over how, when and where your backups take place without having to deal with the complexities associated with the manual process.
5nine Manager Datacenter was specifically designed to simplify Hyper-V backup and management tasks. This robust software allows you to:
- Backup to Azure. Free up your local storage capacity and maintain business continuity.
- Perform both full and incremental Hyper-V backups, so you can choose to backup an entire VM or just the information that was changed. Incremental backups help optimize your resources and can be done without any service interruptions.
- Reduce the size of your Hyper-V backup files. This saves disc space and decreases recovery time.
- Schedule your backup jobs. Tailor your recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) to meet your needs, scheduling backups either by date and time, or periodically (for example, every six hours).
- Quickly restore Hyper-V VMs. In case of a failure or malfunction, your virtual machine can easily be restored to the same storage location or anywhere else you choose.
- Easily manage your backup retention policies. Define the backups that will be stored and set the number of Hyper-V checkpoints.
- Monitor and manage replication. Create VM replicas and store them at alternate sites. Continuous replication, monitoring and alerting helps prevent downtime and reduces the likelihood of other disruptions.
5. Don’t Overpay for a Backup-only Solution.
Using a very expensive backup-only product is usually overkill for most Hyper-V users. Most Hyper-V users that buy backup-only products don’t end up using 80% of the features offered.