My 5 reasons to choose Altaro Backup

Altaro, a small company offering backup solutions targeted towards SMBs and focused primarily on Microsoft Hyper-V Server, just made a step forward and added VMware support.

I had an opportunity to test the beta version of the new VMware backup solution and here are my 5 reasons why I like Altaro solution and business model. I have a long experience with using VMware Data Protection so I pick up those items that I see as real benefits for small installations. I will not only mention technical aspect but also some licencing for those of you who are responsible for keeping the budget.

This post is a tutorial-like flow of information I find interesting to me to focus for the environment I manage, which I captured during the course of playing around with the new version for VMware virtualized environments.

1. Backup technology Reverse Delta

Reverse Delta is Altaro proprietary backup deduplication technology. With Reverse Delta, the latest version of a file is always made available in its entirety and not as a delta file. This means that if you require the latest version of a file, it is possible to access it directly from your backup drive without having to rebuild the file from delta files. The delta files are only used if you want to build a previous version of the file, building one delta file at a time for each version as you travel back in time in the reverse direction (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1 - Altaro Reverse Delta
Figure 1 –  Reverse Delta

Older versions are restored by first restoring the latest one, than applying the previous delta over in order to rebuild the previous version, and then so on, always going one version further back in time.

2. Flexible architecture

Nowadays appliances are more and more used to simplify delivery and operation of applications. And this comes with a cost: dedicated resources (IP, server name, etc.) are needed. For small and medium size businesses often is not so easy to afford.

Altaro architecture solves exactly this situations and VM Backup uses installable components:

  • The main application,
  • Remote management tools,
  • Hyper-V host agent (for Hyper-V),
  • Offsite copy utility (Altaro Backup Server).

The main application contains the code that manages the backup and restores tasks. The install includes also the Altaro Remote Management Console. If you want to manage Altaro VM Backup from a different machine then you must install the Altaro Management Tools. If you want to make use of the off-site backup feature in Altaro Hyper-V Backup then you must install the Altaro Backup Server on a remote machine.

Hence, you can install all components on the same Windows (all versions since 2008 R2 are supported) machine or, depending on your environment complexity, you can separate components. If vCenter Server is using Windows platform, you can install Altaro VM backup on vCenter.

Hardware requirements are very low: 128MB RAM and 1GB Hard Disk space. You need to consider also an additional 75MB for each concurrent backup/restore.

3. Server based licensing

Altaro backup comes in three editions: Standard, Unlimited and a Free Edition. The only difference between the Standard and the Unlimited version is the amount of virtual machines you can back up. Standard edition is limited to 5 virtual machines where the Unlimited edition has no limitation.

The pricing is not calculated per CPU – instead it’s calculated by amount of hosts. If you have 2 servers, each with 2 sockets, you will have to buy 2 licenses. With products licensed based on CPU sockets you would have to buy 4 licenses.

The free version allows you to back up 2 VM’s per host; with some limitations like the restore is not possible on different host, no sandbox restore and no file level restore. But you can backup up for free 10 VMs, hosted on 5 hosts, 2 VMs on each.

4. It works for both Hyper-V and VMware

Yes, you can manage VM backups across all your Hyper-V and/or VMware hosts from a single interface, with the paid version (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 - Altaro VM Backup Dashboard
Figure 2 – Altaro VM Backup Dashboard

And yes, you will utilize the same backup/restore features:

  • Agentless (support for SQL and Exchange requires an agent though)
  • Reverse Delta technology
  • Restore on File System Level (for Windows VMs only)
  • Offsite replication using WAN acceleration to another Altaro backup server (no additional license required)
  • “Sandbox” Restore which allows you to either schedule, or manually run test drills to verify the integrity of your backup data
  • E-Mail based alerting

With Altaro VM Backup you can save Backups to a local drive or UNC share. You can save to single, multiple locations (swapped) or offsite (WAN) Altaro Backup Server. Backup destinations can be:

  • USB External Drives
  • eSATA External Drives
  • USB Flash Drives
  • Fileserver Network Shares using UNC Paths
  • NAS devices (Network Attached Storage) using UNC Paths
  • PC Internal Hard Drives (recommended only for evaluation purposes)
  • RDX Cartridges
  • Offsite

5. Easy to install and use

The installation kit (185MB) can be downloaded after a simple registration process (name and valid e-mail address only). It takes a couple of minutes to receive the mail with link to download.

The installation wizard is very straightforward: run, next, accept license agreement terms, next, next, next, finish.

The initial setup is also very easy if you use a quick setup option (see Figure 3):

Figure 3 - Quick Setup
Figure 3 – Quick Setup

In Step 1 you add the source: Hyper-V host(s), ESXi host(s) or vCenter (see Figure 4):

Figure 4 - Add host
Figure 4 – Add host

Then enter the credentials and test connection (see figure 5):

Figure 5 - Add credentials and test connection
Figure 5 – Add credentials and test connection

In step 2 you add the backup destination (see Figure 6):

Figure 6 - Add backup location
Figure 6 – Add backup location

And finally, in step 3 you add VMs to backup location with drag and drop and perform the initial backup (see Figure 7):

Figure 7 - Perform initial backup
Figure 7 – Perform initial backup

What’s next? Get and enter the license key, create the schedule backup and check the advanced settings.

And when a disaster happens and you need to restore, the backup is there. It is definitely a technical solution to consider if you ask me.

Well, this is it – the flavor important to me, from a short review I’ve conducted. I’m happy to listen to your comments and opinions on backup solutions for ESXi.

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Gica Livada

System Engineer at Catella Bank
Gica is working in Luxembourg as System Engineer and is former member of the VMware Centre of Excellence team from IBM Delivery Center in Brno, Czech Republic. He is passionate about virtualization and cloud technologies, holds multiple industry certifications from VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and he is also vExpert 2014 - 2017.

About Gica Livada

Gica is working in Luxembourg as System Engineer and is former member of the VMware Centre of Excellence team from IBM Delivery Center in Brno, Czech Republic. He is passionate about virtualization and cloud technologies, holds multiple industry certifications from VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and he is also vExpert 2014 - 2017.
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  1. You said “The only difference between the Standard and the Unlimited version is the amount of virtual machines you can back up.”

    That is not accurate. The other difference is that Standard is allowed if your servers are managed by vCenter. Managing with vCenter makes you a clustered environment and that forces you into the Unlimited edition.

    I discovered this after purchasing two Standard licenses for our small office. Quite disappointing since I only need to backup 2 VMs on one server and 1 on another server.

    Even if you use vSphere Essentials (like we do) which only costs $560 for 3 hosts you get forced into the Unlimited edition which costs more than three times what vSphere costs on a per-host basis. vSphere Essentials doesn’t support many clustering features but Altaro still considers it clustering so you can’t use the free or Standard version.

    That being said, Altaro VMBackup is a beautiful piece of software and as far as my experience goes it works extremely well. It’s just not priced well for companies that use vSphere Essentials.

  2. You are right! Indeed, vCenter is not supported in Free or Standard edition.
    Is it a problem in your use case to add individual hosts instead of vCenter? And, if you don’t need restores older than 4 weeks, why to not use the Free edition (max 2 VMs per host)?

  3. You can’t add them individually. As soon as you add a server managed by vCenter it adds all the servers managed by that vCenter. That means you also can’t a single vCenter managed server using the free license (I haven’t tested that but I’m 99% sure it’s true).

    One of my servers only has 4 VMs on it, only 2 are actually critical and 1 other is somewhat interesting for backup. The other server only has 1 VM on it. Nonetheless I will have to buy the Unlimited version of Altaro.

    Now my backup software will cost me nearly what I spent on the (used) server hardware, virtualization platform and Windows licenses (Action Pack) combined. I wish they had a pricing tier for VMware Essentials users. They’re still cheaper than a lot of their competitors though they’re a lot more expensive than Trilead’s solution (also MUCH nicer software than Trilead).

  4. What I can say, Steve, is that I had a good experience with Altaro support and I am confident they can advise you how to minimize the costs.

  5. Support was very nice but the end decision was that if you use vCenter to manage your hosts then you have to use the Unlimited edition for every host even if they host only has a single VM on it. That’s a big bummer for Essentials customers. 🙁

  6. Altaro has made good products for a long time. However, I recently had an issue with Altaro BackupFS and contacted support to seek help. While support is nice, I learned (to my dismay) that they are no longer actively developing Altaro BackupFS (and more than likely OopsBackup for that matter). This is disheartening, since I have yet to find another solution on the market with their ReverseDelta technology. I will miss the simplicity of their product and I would prefer to always have synonymy amongst my infrastructure (Altaro BackupFS for data, Altaro VMBackup for my VMs, 1 vendor), but I have decided to move to other solutions because of their lack of interest in their other products. Bvckup2 has proven to be a reasonable alternative for file backups (though, is not to scale for larger environments) and Veeam has been a solid player in VM backups for years.

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