SolarWinds MSP Backup Hyper-V or not to Hyper-V
I recently asked if it was better to backup virtual machines at the host level using SolarWinds MSP Backup or to install it to each guest VM and backup from there. I had a few conflicting recommendations so decided to fire up and lab and try it out for myself!
Here we have a Hyper-V host server called VMHOSTRECOVERY hosting two virtual servers. Server 2016 which is a domain controller and Server 2016 SQL a domain member SQL server. Both servers are supposed to be backed up using specific volume shadow copy writers which are special bits of code which can properly backup system states, SQL and exchange. Most database systems which have files constantly open and changing usually require special backup procedures.
I download and install the backup manager to the host and configure a backup. Here we can see each VM guest and its vhdx files are listed to be backed up. Looks like it will manage a backup of the vhdx files only since no agent gets installed to the guests.
I run a quick backup
Ok lets checkout the restore options, here I want to be able to restore files, system state, or individual SQL databases. By default we can only restore the vhdx files to previous versions.
Next to each vhdx file is an expand button, I press that and i’m prompted to install virtual drive.
Virtual drive can be downloaded here https://www.maxfocus.com/backup/downloads/additional-tools
Now clicking on the expand button next to each vhdx file expands the contents of that file showing the file system of the virtual machine. Here I attempt to restore a test file from the admin desktop.
I click Browse to select where to restore the file to and its only showing the local file system, the drives of the host machine not the guest! This means that any file you want to restore to the guest has to be restored to the host first then copied over to the guest. Humm I don’t like this at all!
Next I try and restore just the system state and an SQL database but there are no options for this. Instead I select the SQL guest which includes the vhdx file and click restore.
The VM is restored to its original state which is great if that’s what you want but most of the time you need to recover files and folders for users. Having to recover those to the host and copy them into the guest is an extra step but its not too bad for small restores. If you want to recover a failed active directory using just the system state then sorry, you cant do that. Want to restore a single SQL database? nope can’t do that.
If you want to reduce costs by running a hyper-v host backup then my advice is to only backup small domain member servers. If you need to backup domain controllers, SQL or Exchange servers then backup from the within the guests. Hyper-V backup wasn’t all I was expecting it to be but advancements will come in time, hopefully not too long.