Backup Strategies with Virtual Machines in VMware using Veeam

Posted on January 24, 2011

A recent tweet from @win2ksrv and then retweeted by @veeam reminded me that I was going to write about the most recent backup strategy that I’d put in place using Dell EqualLogic SANs, VMware and of course, veeam, it went like this:

What is everyone’s Veeam backup strategy? What do you backup to & how do you get it offsite? Where do you place Veeam itself?

The basic setup looks like this:

The Production site has a Dell EqualLogic array and a local NAS box (that’s the black thing), the backup site which is connected via a 25mbps internet-based VPN simply has a larger NAS box (it deals with multiple sites). VMware has been used to create all the file server disks (they are .vmdks) and veeam is installed in another virtual machine using appliance mode to access the SAN.

There are essentially two main risks that we want to mitigate against here:

  1. Accidental deletion / corruption of files
  2. Complete site wipeout (i.e. full blown disaster)

To deal with these risks there are three separate stages of backup in place:

1: EqualLogic Snapshots

Plain and simple, as you’d expect, the SAN takes snapshots once every three hours for about 8 days, this is the primary way of restoring individual files with granularity over the times required.

2: Local veeam Backups

Next, daily (well, nightly) veeam backups of the VMWare machines and their disks are taken – these are stored on the local NAS box for about 14 days. Veeam is configured to do a full backup every other Monday night.

3: Offsite veeam Backups

Then, once a week, a backup is taken offsite over the 25mb internet line. I won’t lie, the first time I did this it ran for 40 hours (which is what I expected for the amount of data in question), but veeam seems good at compressing data and in the advanced options you can specify what sort of storage you are backing up to (LAN/WAN etc) and veeam adjusts accordingly. I’m utilising the “synthetic full” features of veeam to perform a “full” backup once every month without clogging up the link for another 40 hours and so far things are going well!

But Steve, what are the NAS boxes? How much data?!

Fair enough:

  • the smaller, local, NAS boxes are Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-200r, they offer up about 5TB of storage once RAID’ed and have a single NIC – to be honest, I’m pretty unimpressed with them in terms of reliability, they seem to require a reboot every now if you use them “too much”, but since I’ve ONLY used them in the setup described above they’ve been okay. Update: don’t buy these if you have large backup files!
  • the large, central NAS box is an Iomega StorCenter ix12 – I’ve added some extra disks to it so at the moment it’s offering up 11TB RAID’ed – has room for 4 more disks – this thing has 4 NICs and has been CONSIDERABLY more reliable than the smaller nas boxes, but it is more pricey.
  • the backup consists of 12 virtual machines, all with local hard drives ranging from 10-40GB, the file servers are the same but each have 3 x 256GB file server shares on them, making the initial 40-hour offsite backup about 2TB in size in total.

What Others Are Saying

  1. win2ksrv January 24, 2011 at 14:55

    Great post. Exactly the response I’d hoped for when posing the question. Thanks for taking the time.

  2. Rick Vanover January 28, 2011 at 16:00

    Hi Steve, nice post. Would like to chat with you about Veeam. Please follow on Twitter @RickVanover or email me:

    Note: I work for Veeam Software.

  3. David Page February 15, 2011 at 22:51

    Steve, have very similar setup (just local storage on backup servers instead of NAS) and will be using your model as one for mine. Can you tell me if you’re using Direct SAN access or Virtual API access and why?

  4. David Page February 15, 2011 at 22:53

    Actually, I see you’re using it as a virtual machine in appliance mode,…I’m confused over which is better Direct SAN or the way you’re doing it.

    • Steve Dolphin February 21, 2011 at 15:30


      “Better” depends entirely on setup – I’m using a virtual appliance mode setup because my veeam box is a VM running on the same hardware as all my production systems, same hosts, same SAN access, everything.

      If I’d installed veeam on a standalone host which had access to the SAN via an additional NIC I’d probably have used “direct SAN access”.

      What’s your setup like?


      • David Page March 31, 2011 at 14:11

        Steve, my setup is two equallogic SAN’s, with replication setup over the WAN…and a VEEAM server in each location. The VEEAM servers have couple of TB of storage and backup tape drives. We’ve configured for Direct SAN access and got it working after fighting with the Microsoft ICSCSI controller on the VEEAM server. It’s dual homed (one iscsi to SAN the other ethernet to production net).

        My next step is to configure a model that uses snapshots from the SAN in conjunction with VEEAM to get the most bang for the buck in protection…

        • Steve Dolphin March 31, 2011 at 14:24

          Hi David,

          That’s interesting, so you’ve extended your SAN over the WAN as well then? What sort of backup speeds are you currently experiencing?


          • David Page March 31, 2011 at 21:45

            the backup speeds aren’t great but not unlike what you experienced…the first time it takes forever but once it’s only changed blocks its alot faster.

            Can you provide any guidance on LUN sizing strategy on the equallogic. We’ve traditionally done one LUN per VM, except for a large LUN for tech/dev/temp machines, but I’m finding that its hard to guess how much I need for snapshots.

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  7. Marcin August 22, 2012 at 18:08

    Hi Steve,

    Very good article. I’m thinking about deploying similar scenario for one of our organizations. I have a question for you. How do you take your backups offsite? Is it just veeam file copy job to offsite location? Do you have your Veeam backups set to 14 retention points and after that copy them to offsite location? Please let me know.

    Thank you Marcin

    • Steve Dolphin August 23, 2012 at 08:15

      Well when I wrote this article it was a giant pain to be honest, but since Veeam 6 has come out it’s all changed for the better – I should probably write another blog post, but in short veeam now utilises proxy servers: you put one with the offsite data store and one on site and they pass the data between each other pretty efficiently! I’ll e-mail you now…

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