Unitrends announces VM Backup Essentials (vBE)

If you’re working for an Enterprise with your workloads based purely on VMware vSphere, then there’s a new launch from Unitrends that you may be interested in looking at for your virtual backup / business continuity solution that I have learned about.

vBE (short for VM Backup Essentials), converges enterprise-grade backup software, ransomware detection, and cloud continuity into a powerful, easy-to-use, all-in-one platform boasting the following features:

  • Total Protection – No limits on the number of virtual machines that can be protected on a host
  • No License Tiering – No tiering of licenses based on the number of cores in the CPU socket.
  • Only License what you need! – Only occupied sockets require a license, but ALL occupied sockets of the host must be licensed to protect its virtual machines.
  • Infinite retention!– Retention is directly proportional to the amount of storage that can be provided by the customer for backup. The license has no limits on retention.
  • Replication to the Cloud – Site-to-site replication is not supported at this time. vBE does support replication to the cloud – both hyperscale clouds such as AWS, Google and Rackspace as well as clouds pur­pose-built for DRaaS services.
  • Advanced Ransomware Protection– New ransomware variants are emerging every day and your ransomware protection needs to evolve to keep up.

Unitrends are billing vBE as an “all-in-one solution” that provides a disruptive approach to backup. It offers complete vertical integration (including the cloud), fast time to value and an all-in-one solution provided by a single vendor with industry-leading customer service. vBE includes all the software and features you would find in an enterprise-level data protection and recovery solution. vBE includes operating system, security, backup software, WAN acceleration, replication, cloud integration, and archiving. Continue Reading


Some other TimeMachine exclusions

In my other post on the topic I excluded my local Mail app files from my TimeMachine backups because they were tripping over McAfee AntiVirus. I thought that it might be sensible to add a few other exclusions to trim down the total amount backed up and reduce the impact of frequent TM backups on my laptop.

201511324_151165-CapturFilesAs you can see, my total backup size is about 380Gb. Included in that are a fair few transient / temporary files that aren’t needed as well as some files that are backed up elsewhere anyway plus a handful of things that maybe I don’t need or want to back up.


Really, you want to keep them? I thought not. They include the browser caches for Safari and Firefox amongst other things.

  1. Click the “+” button.
  2. In the finder window that’s displayed, press Cmd + Shift + G.
  3. Enter ~/Library/Caches in to the path field and click Go.
  4. Click Exclude.


You can download them again, right?

  1. Click the “+” button.
  2. In the finder window that’s displayed, select your Downloads folder.
  3. Click Exclude.


  1. Click the “+” button.
  2. In the finder window that’s displayed, press Cmd + Shift + G.
  3. Enter ~/.Trash in to the path field and click Go.
  4. Click Exclude.

Virtual Machines

This is a choice really. The VMs that I have can easily be rebuilt.

  1. Click the “+” button.
  2. In the finder window that’s displayed, select Documents / Virtual Machines.
  3. Click Exclude.

Sleep File

It’s a bit like the Windows hibernation file.

  1. Click the “+” button.
  2. In the finder window that’s displayed, press Cmd + Shift + G.
  3. Enter /var/vm in to the path field and click Go.
  4. Click Exclude.


That’s better! TM is backing up 40Gb less than before and fewer of the transient files that really aren’t needed but change often.

201511324_171126-CapturFilesI could go further and exclude my Dropbox folder and iTunes Media too (as they’re stored elsewhere if I need them). That would shave another 200+Gb off.


Infected email breaking OSX TimeMachine backups

Having been away from home a lot recently, it had been a while since my laptop had been backed up by TimeMachine. After a few attempts though it got a bit annoying as McAfee kept interrupting the process. The problem seemed to be that the backups contained infected emails:

201511324_151187-CapturFilesMcAfee was blocking TM from writing infected emails to the backup drive.

As it turns out, I recalled fixing this once before (although I never blogged about it). So how could it have come unpicked? Looking at my TM backup exclusions, the exclusion that I added was still in place:

201511324_151132-CapturFilesBut my whole mail folder should be more than 8KB!… Then it clicked. I hadn’t done a TM backup since updating to OSX El Capitan.

After clicking the “+” button to add a new rule, I navigated to my mail folder.

  1. In the finder window, hit Cmd + Shift + G.
  2. Enter ~/Library/Mail
  3. Click Go

Aha! There’s now a “V3” folder…


I selected it and clicked “Exclude”. Bingo! 5.5Gb sounds more like it.

201511324_151165-CapturFilesAnd like that, TimeMachine works again.


Unitrends Free – Review: Part 2

In Part 1 of this review, I walked through the deployment and initial configuration of the Unitrends Free backup appliance.

I’m now going to touch briefly on some of the other features of the product before summarising my thoughts.


There’s no point taking backups if they don’t work, right? Well there are a few options available here. The first of them is a file level recovery. This mounts a VM’s backed up disks as file shares on the backup appliance. To test it, I created a couple of test VMs to backup and selected to restore from one.



A file level recovery “job” is started and a share is created using the backup job number.




It’s pretty easy to browse to the share and the required files could be recovered from there.


Another restore option is an Instant Recovery. This creates a new virtual machine from the stored backups for a VM. Again, I tried it out on my test VM. The first step is to select the backup that you want to restore from.



Next up are the recovery options. I’ve selected “Audit Mode”. This creates a virtual machine that runs from a disk image located on the backup appliance. The intention is that it allows you to test if a recovery is possible without putting the VM back in to your virtual datacenter. The VM in Audit Mode will have no network connectivity.



It took a few minutes to create and boot up but it worked. Note that the VM has no network connectivity.




And here is the VM that got created in vCenter during the restore:


Some minor issues

There were a couple of little annoyances that cropped up during my testing. They may already have been fixed and none of them are major. Firstly, when trying to configure SMTP settings, each time the configuration dialog is opened, a new email recipient row is added – even if that’s not what I opened it for. And you can’t close the window until you remove the row (or add an email address).



Quite a few of my VM backups failed several times to begin with so I checked to see if there were any software updates via the update feature. Lucky me, there were.



But after closing the dialog and reopening it, they were gone. I had to reboot the appliance to get them to show up again. After applying the updates my backups were more reliable (although one of my Active Directory servers still refused to backup).

Do you recall the NTP settings that I made when first configuring the appliance? If not, here’s a reminder:


I used my own, local NTP server. It’s open and reachable from the network that I installed the Unitrends appliance to. But, when I viewed the appliance options… not there.



I noticed this due to the discrepancy between the times that I thought I had configured backup jobs to run and the time that they were running. Fortunately, changing the options via this dialog worked.

The initial installation and configuration only allows you to specify a primary DNS server. Personally, I’d prefer it if I could specify a secondary DNS server at installation time. You can add one later though.


Finally, it’d be nice if the backup jobs could clean up after themselves. When there is a backup failure, vCenter gets littered with lots of messages like this:



It’s easy to fix manually of course, by annoying. I might see if I can schedule a vRO workflow to take care of it.

My Thoughts

It’s not perfect (what software ever is). Aside from the issues I had above, the only other thing that bothers me a little is the installer. It’s delivered as a single .EXE file that is 2.2Gb in size. The process, once the file is open, is fine but it can take a while to open a file that big. Possibly, given who is likely to use Unitrends Free, it might be the simplest option. It’s just not the quickest.

As far as features go, the important ones are there. VMs can be backed up and restored. Individual files on a VM can be easily recovered as well. If you have a small Virtual Infrastructure, the sizing limitations aren’t likely to be an issue. And if you get bigger, it’s not unreasonable to pay for more features and capabilities.

On the whole, kicking the tyres on Unitrends Free has been a pleasurable experience. It was fairly easy to setup and use without having to read the manual.


Unitrends Free – Review: Part 1

I was asked to give a new, free backup tool a quick road-test recently.

Unitrends have had an Enterprise version of their backup software for some time. And, as I’ve used it a bit in my lab with an NFR license in the past I was only too happy to give Unitrends Free a go.


As a free edition, you expect a basic set of features. The goal of such offerings is normally to get you hooked, but wanting more.

Unitrends Free offers the following features:

  • Backup from VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Unlimited VMs and host CPU sockets supported
  • Instant VM recovery (allows you to run a VM directly from the backup files) – this feature also allows for recovery verification testing and use of backups for test and development purposes
  • Unlimited incremental backups (subject to storage space of course)
  • Free forum support

There are limits however. For instance, backups are scheduled daily. You can choose the time and you can choose the days but they’re once per day. Storage is space is also limited, up to 1TB of data is supported. These limitations position the product as ideal for PoCs, labs, smaller deployments (such as for small businesses) etc. For more features and dedicated support, of course there’s the Enterprise version.


To download Unitrends Free, a simple registration form needs completing on the Unitrends site. The software is offered as a pre-built appliance (there’s one download for VMware and one for Hyper-V) only that is comprised of a single file. There are also users guides and release notes files available.


As you’d expect with a solution that’s based on a Virtual Appliance, there aren’t many steps involved in getting it deployed and running. In keeping with a growing number of products that provide some form of installer to deploy their solution, Unitrends Free is packaged in such a way as to make deployment straighforward. The supplied single executable (.EXE file) can be run from a Windows desktop or server as long as you can reach your virtual infrastructure from it.

1. Once the installer starts, you’re presented with a prompt for login credentials to vCenter or an ESXi server.


2. I pointed the installer at my vCenter server and was next asked to choose a host and a datastore and supply IP address details (note that it’s sensible to have a DNS entry created prior to deployment).


3. You’re given the option to create some storage for backups to reside on during deployment. It’s turned on by default but I upped the default 128Gb to something more sensible.


4. That’s it for now and deployment commences.



5. A quick check in vCenter reveals the created appliance.


That’s all that’s required to install the appliance. However, it does require some basic configuration before it can be used.

Initial Configuration

1. Clicking Finish in the installer fires up a web browser pointed at the new appliance where you’re greeted by a License Agreement.


2. You’re then greeted by a configuration wizard. The first stage is setting the date and time. I chose to use my local NTP server, although this later transpired to be an issue.


3. The second stage is setting the hostname (note that it’s set to VMware_CE_UEB on deployment) and password for the root account.


4. Finally, the SMTP configuration is required.


Once these configurations are saved, the appliance should be all set to go. Except we need to define what needs protecting and to setup some backup jobs.

Backup Protection

What use is a backup appliance without any backup jobs? When you first hit the appliance’s dashboard, there’s a popup displayed containing a couple of tasks that help you to get started. The first of these is registering a host (to protect).


Since we already know that I’m using vCenter, let’s protect that and all of its VMs by clicking on “Register a Host”.


The details required are fairly straightforward. As part of the process of adding the host, a quick inventory is performed. Now we’re ready to create a backup job.

This is accomplished either from the same popup or via the “jobs” option on the left of the dashboard.


Step 1 of creating a backup job is choosing what you’re going to backup. I selected my vCenter server and then excluded the Unitrends appliance – it’d be interesting to find out if it’s intelligent enough to do that by itself later.

Step 2 is defining the schedule etc. This is all fairly simple to accomplish. In theory, that’s my lab VMs protected.

Fast forward to Part 2 to find out how I got on with the backups and my thoughts on the solution as a whole.


Updating Crashplan on ARM based QNAP

Last month I wrote a quick overview of the process to install Crashplan on and ARM based QNAP NAS. Six weeks (ish) later and it’s still going ok. Or, at least I thought it was…

Periodically, the makers of Crashplan update their software. Nothing surprising about that except that as the ARM based QNAPs aren’t an officially supported device (that I’m aware of), the automatic update doesn’t work and the backup engine on my QNAP kept stopping.

The upgrade itself is pretty straightforward however.


To get the software on the NAS updated, you first have to download the QPKG file from this thread on the QNAP forum.

Once you’ve saved it onto your QNAP device (I put it in the “Public” share but the location isn’t too important), the update can be performed very simply via an SSH session to the NAS:

[text][/share/Public] # sh ./CrashPlan_3.6.4_31_arm-x19.qpkg
Install QNAP package on TS-NAS…
913+1 records in
913+1 records out
19203+1 records in
19203+1 records out
CrashPlan 3.6.3_30 is already installed. Setup will now perform package upgrading.
Stopping CrashPlan…
kill: Could not kill pid ‘14842’: No such process
Link service start/stop script: crashplan.sh
Set QPKG information in /etc/config/qpkg.conf
Cleaning /tmp/*.jna files…
Cleaning /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/CrashPlan/tmp/ files…
Starting CrashPlan…
Using interface: eth0 ( – This can be changed in the web interface!
CrashPlan 3.6.4_31 has been installed in /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/CrashPlan.[/text]

That’s literally all you need to do to get your backups running again.

Client Software

Of course though, to configure and manage backups etc on your headless QNAP NAS, you need a client installed somewhere and that will need updating too.

In my case, the client software is on my MacBookPro. Downloading and installing the updated client software is a doddle so I’m not going to go in to any further detail there. However, the update process does wipe out the setting that points the client at your QNAP NAS.

To remake that setting, I had to edit the file /Applications/CrashPlan.app/Contents/Resources/Java/conf/ui.properties and uncomment the line that read:


and replace the IP address with the one from my NAS.


Job done!


Installing Crashplan on ARM based QNAP

The downside of living in the boonies in the UK is that the broadband speeds can be a little on the rubbish side. When I moved to my current house 4 years ago, I knew I’d be giving up good internet for for something a bit lacking. I just didn’t think it would take so long to get something better going. This is yesterday’s speedtest:


Since a nice man from BT is due to visit tomorrow to sort me out with that “something better”, I can finally take advantage of some of the cloud offerings that really haven’t been practical until now. Foremost amongst these offerings for me is the ability to backup all of the photos and files that my family and I have created or acquired over the years. They are all stored on a 4-year old QNAP NAS.

Super! I thought that I’d slip Crashplan on to the NAS and set it to backup overnight. Give it a few weeks and the backups would be up to date. A weight off my mind.

Except that getting it all running wasn’t totally straightforward…

JRE Needed

Crashplan has been packaged as a QNAP QPKG file and is available to download from the QNAP forum here. It has a dependency on Java however and so a supported JRE must be installed and enabled before it can even be installed. There is one available for ARM based QNAPs in the AppCenter. However, after installing it I couldn’t confirm that it was running for some reason. Connecting via SSH and executing “java -version” didn’t have the desired results.

It seems that I wasn’t the only one to hit this issue. Instead of installing the package directly through the AppCenter though it is possible to download the package and then install it manually. Simply select the package in AppCenter and click the download link.



Once downloaded, use the “Install Manually” option in AppCenter and select the unzipped file you just downloaded.


With that done, checking the java version again yielded the desired result:

[text][~] # java -version
java version "1.8.0" Java(TM) SE Embedded Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0-b132, headless)
Java HotSpot(TM) Embedded Client VM (build 25.0-b70, mixed mode)[/text]

Wrong JRE?

With the JRE installed, I thought that this would be fairly easy. Again using “Install Manually” in the AppCenter, I gave my NAS the Crashplan QPKG. It failed.

Just in case it would give me some more information, I copied the QPKG file to a share on the NAS and tried via the command line:

[text][/share/Public] # sh ./CrashPlan_3.6.3_30_arm-x19.qpkg
Install QNAP package on TS-NAS…
917+1 records in
917+1 records out
19288+1 records in
19288+1 records out
CrashPlan 3.6.3_30 installation failed. The following QPKG must be installed and enabled: JRE >= 1.6.
Installation Abort.[/text]

Hmm. But we have a JRE. What’s up? It’s tenuous, but the error message suggests that the JRE QPKG can’t be found, it’s not complaining that Java itself isn’t present.

Tenuous but true as it turns out. I did a little experimentation. There is a file on the NAS that contains details about the packages installed. It can be found at /etc/config/qpkg.conf.

I used vi to edit the file and replaced this section:

Name = JRE_ARM
Version = 8.0.1
Author = Optimus
QPKG_File = JRE_ARM.qpkg
Date = 2014-08-30
Shell = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM/jre.sh
Install_Path = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM
RC_Number = 101
Enable = TRUE
Status = complete[/text]

With the following:

Name = JRE
Version = 8.0.1
Author = Optimus
QPKG_File = JRE_ARM.qpkg
Date = 2014-08-30
Shell = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM/jre.sh
Install_Path = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM
RC_Number = 101
Enable = TRUE
Status = complete[/text]


Once the AppCenter page was refreshed, “JRE_ARM” had been replaced by “JRE”. And this time, Crashplan installed correctly:

[text][/etc/config] # sh /share/Public/CrashPlan_3.6.3_30_arm-x19.qpkg
Install QNAP package on TS-NAS…
917+1 records in
917+1 records out
19288+1 records in
19288+1 records out
Starting CrashPlan once to generate config files…
CrashPlan is disabled.
Forcing startup…
Cleaning /tmp/*.jna files…
Cleaning /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/CrashPlan/tmp/ files…
Starting CrashPlan…
Link service start/stop script: crashplan.sh
Set QPKG information in /etc/config/qpkg.conf
CrashPlan 3.6.3_30 has been installed in /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/CrashPlan.[/text]


All that remained was to set the correct IP address on my NAS for Crashplan to listen on and then I could connect and configure it via the client software on my laptop.

CapturFiles-201408242_220865The only thing now is to wait for my broadband to be upgraded tomorrow…



“Cloud” Backups

An increasing number of vendors are beginning to offer backup solutions where your data ends up being stored on some cloud storage platform or other (e.g. Amazon S3). As with any new technology, some people will lap it up, some will keep a curious eye on it and others will eschew it completely. Which are you? Are you likely to adopt it or not?

dlt-tapeI think the answer to that is not cut and dried. Think for a minute about why you’d want your backups to end up on a cloud storage platform. In years past, backups ended up on tape cartridges. Most sensible organizations would then store those tapes offsite and hopefully not need them again until the data expired. Of course, if you did need to perform a restore it meant getting the tape back etc. I’ve been in this industry long enough to have had to do that.

The point anyway is that backup data conventionally got stored offsite so that it was available if the worst happened. That is the concept behind cloud backups too. The only difference is that the medium has changed. So instead of your backups ending up on tape, they end up on someone else’s server effectively. You don’t know where exactly but you rely on the resilience of your chosen cloud storage provider to safeguard that data.

Is It a Good Idea?

In my view, it’s neat solution to something that used to take up a good deal of time for me or one of my colleagues a few years ago. The whole process is automated once setup. Of course it may not be the right solution for everyone for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Available Bandwidth – If your sitting on the end of a slow link to the internet then trying to push many GBs or even TBs of data to a cloud storage provider every day is going to be a non-starter.
  • Volume of Data – Related to the above, how much data do you backup, how often and how often does it change. The first backup will typically take the longest to complete but subsequent ones will be quicker. Partly though this will depend on the mechanisms the backup vendor are using to minimise the volume of data being transmitted. Different vendors are likely to have different approaches here.
  • Legal / Compliance / Security – If you’re storing your data on someone else’s infrastructure you naturally want it to be secure. I’m not saying that the cloud isn’t secure but is it the right place for exceedingly valuable or sensitive data? You wouldn’t keep the Crown Jewels in a Big Yellow storage facility.
  • You may even have a Disaster Recovery facility and backup directly to that.

As with everything in IT, the answer is that it depends. I suspect that the majority of takers for cloud backups will be SMBs and medium sized enterprises although I’m always happy to be proved wrong about such predictions. I doubt that cloud backups are going to be a rapidly passing fad but it remains to be seen whether they will see massive adoption. Still, cool technology all the same.

So, what’s my interest? Well, I’ve been working on a project recently to create and support the infrastructure elements of a software prototype. This modest infrastructure is sitting away in a data center that I’ve never been to and could not easily access. It’s quite a simple setup, it’s documented and we have all of the installation files and source code secured offsite. The infrastructure itself though represents many hours of effort and all of the application server configurations are not completely automated. If we were to lose the infrastructure or the data center…

Of course we’re running backups locally but the backup destination is just a VMDK on the same datastore as all of the VMs – not very resilient. On a semi-regular basis I have transferred the VMDK to a cloud storage provider but it’s been a manual process so I thought I’d take this opportunity to try out a couple of different backup solutions and see how they help out. Over the next few weeks I’ll post a couple of reviews.


What’s New in PHD Virtual Backup 5.3

I’ve just been catching up on some blog feeds and emails that I haven’t had a chance to read in recent weeks. Apparently PHD Virtual dropped version 5.3 of their backup and replication product on the world.

It’s now more efficient and each Virtual Backup Appliance (VBA) can handle 8 concurrent backup / restore operations.

The replication features of the product look handy too with the ability to use a portable drive to “seed” replicated servers thus minimising the amount of WAN traffic transmitted.

There’s a “What’s New” 7 minute video on YouTube that explains all of these bits that I just watched. Now I just need to find some time to run it up in the lab!



Veeam Surebackup

Everybody is talking about it. If I asked my brother-in-law (an advertising creative) he’d probably say that this is a good marketing strategy. It certainly works on me anyway – I’m as curious a hell! Like everyone else who’s been talking about it, I registered to find out more. Some have specualted about features or approaches (VirtualisedReality) and some (the SLOG), better connected than me, may find out more.

Actually I registered a few hours ago now but something has been bugging me. The big reveal is due on March 22nd. There are still 9 days of February to go. Doing the maths, 22 + 9 does not equal 23 (see the image below). It’s a lot closer to 32. Perhaps Veeam have a small code problem? I’d hope not and I think not.

Having had a look at the page source,

it looks like the countdown is configured to run until March 15th. I’m guessing that there will be more revealed or some change to their site around that time. I wait in eager anticipation.

Update (20/02/2010): Found a tweet from @veeam this morning:

RT: @veeam: RT @mpoore: New Post: Veeam Surebackup http://bit.ly/bAVtum <- Good detective work…the countdown will be changed for March 22 (OOPS) 😉