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VMware VM Backup Best Practices

VMware VM Backup Best PracticesThis article is designed to walk you through VMware VM backup best practices using the Virtual Dashboard available within NovaBACKUP software. Using the native "Change Block Tracking" (CBT) feature available through VMware, NovaBACKUP will allow you to do daily Differential or Incremental backups of VMware-based virtual machines. This technology detects what blocks of data are required to be backed up based on what changes were made to the virtual machine, that way you do not have to do a "Full" backup each time it executes.

It's important to note, that if backup jobs are not created properly within the NovaBACKUP Virtual Dashboard  for VMware VM backups, the backup retention function may not work properly. As a result, if you tried to setup VMware VM-based Differential or Incremental backup jobs using the NovaBACKUP Virtual Dashboard (NVD) in the past, and discovered that you were unable to setup your retention jobs, this article will help you get your retention working properly for these backups so that your destination storage device for your VMware VM backups do not fill up and leave you without adequate storage space.


This article assumes that you are starting from scratch in the NovaBACKUP Virtual Dashboard (NVD) as a new user and do not have anything set up currently. If you already have configuration data stored in the Virtual Dashboard, such as NVD backup jobs and Hypervisor settings, go ahead and do the following to remove that configured data to start from scratch as far as NVD configuration are concerned.

Step A. Exit out of the Virtual Dashboard and NovaBACKUP application if it is running currently.

Step B. Delete the NVD configuration data file: "C:\ProgramData\NovaStor\NovaStor NovaBACKUP\ClientStorage.xml".

Step C. Load NovaBACKUP software and launch the Virtual Dashboard function from the Home screen and the Virtual Dashboard will act as though it is the first time you have ever executed it to start from scratch for these instructions to pertain to you.

You will be prompted to add your VMware Hypervisor into the Virtual Dashboard.  You will then see a list of all VM's on that vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi/vSphere Server).  Select all of the VM's you would like to create VM backup jobs for.  In this case you will need to create two backup jobs for each Virtual Machine, one as a Full Backup and one as either a Differential or Incremental Backup.

Best Practices for VMware Backup using NovaBACKUP

STEP 1: Setup Your First Backup Job

In the Virtual Dashboard area select the VMware virtual machine that you would like to setup your first backup job on. This first backup job that you create will be a "Full" backup. This is the backup job that you intend to utilize most likely on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis to perform a full backup of the entire VM. Select the VM as one of your VM's to back up by clicking on the name of the virtual machine.  You will be taken to a screen which has a "Backup" button at the top and a "Replication" button to the right of that, this is your backup configuration screen for this one VMware VM that you selected.

STEP 2: Enable Change Block Tracking

At the bottom of this screen, click on the "Enables CBT" button, which stands for "Change Block Tracking." You will need to have CBT Enabled to move forward. After clicking the button you should see the slider at the bottom of the screen showing that CBT is Enabled.

STEP 3: Create Your First Full Backup

Now just click "Backup" at the top of the screen to create your first backup job.  The first backup job you create will need to be a "Full Backup." To setup a "Full Backup" job just specify the backup job type as "Full".  You will now set the "Destination" storage location for where this Full backup will be stored. It is important that you remember that path because we will re-use this exact same setting in Step 4.  Below the Destination field you will see a choice for Retention. Turn on Retention, as this will allow you to specify how many "Generations" (which is a count) of these "Full" backups to keep in place on your destination storage device before the oldest iterations are deleted automatically, in order to reclaim disk storage space.

STEP 4: Setup your Incremental or Differential Backup Jobs

In the Virtual Dashboard, select the same VMware virtual machine as previously used and create a second backup job. This time we will be creating either a "Differential" backup or an "Incremental" backup.  This is the backup job you would most likely utilize on a daily basis to only backup the changed or newly added files inside of this one VM.

Click the "Backup" button at the top of the screen and then fill in the details for this job. Be sure to specify either "Differential" or "Incremental" for the backup type.  Set the "Destination" field, which is the folder path for where this Differential or Incremental backup will be stored in to the same exact Destination folder as the "Full Backup" job utilized when you were in Step 3.  After setting the Destination field you will see the choice for enabling Retention, DO NOT enable the Retention feature.  The reason that we are not enabling Retention here is because it will not work here (keep reading as this is handle automatically for you based on your retention settings in step 3).  You can then set up how this job is to be scheduled on the last screen of the "Backup" job creation, most people want this type of job to be executed daily.

NOTE: Keep in mind that only one backup job can run at a time in NovaBACKUP and in the Virtual Dashboard so be careful with your scheduling. If setup properly your Differential or Incremental job should be quite a bit faster than a Full backup.  The log will show how long each type of job took so that you know how to best set up the scheduling for VM backup jobs.

STEP 5: Allow Your First Full Backup to Run Now

In the Virtual Dashboard, select the same VMware VM again and then select the "Full Backup" job that you created in Step 1-3 of this guide.  Tell this "Full Backup" job to run right now by clicking on the "Run Now" icon at the top of the screen.  Allow this "Full Backup" job to complete.  You will get a completion status in the main logs area of NovaBACKUP as well as in the Virtual Dashboard by looking at that VMware VM's actively running jobs screen.  NOTE: This "Full Backup" job is 100% required to complete successfully in order to continue to the next step.

STEP 6: Run Your Incremental or Differential Backup

In the Virtual Dashboard, select the "Differential" or "Incremental" backup job that you created in Step 4 and click "Run Now" to start and complete that job.  Allow the Differential or Incremental job that you created to complete.

The next time that your "Full Backup" job executes and completes, either by the scheduled time or when you run it manually with the "Run Now" function it will complete a new "Full Backup", then delete all stored Differential or Incremental backups in one action (this is why a separate retention is not needed for this type of backups), and then deletes the oldest Full backup that existed based on the Generation (Count) that you specified in the "Full Backup" job's "Retention" setting.  The Retention setting was specified in Step 3 of this guide.

If you would like to test NovaBACKUP to backup your VMware virtual machines, download NovaBACKUP Business Essentials now.