Review of PHD Virtual Backup 5.4


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What is PHD Virtual Backup?

PHD Virtual Backup is a virtual server backup application that comes in two flavors – A version for Citrix XenServer and a version for VMWare ESXi.  This solution is geared toward a virtualized environment.  So, if you have a mix of physical and virtual servers you will need a combination of solutions if you are looking to backup both environments.

PHD Virtual offers a plugin for the vCenter client which allows the elusive single pane of glass for both the administration of your vSphere environment and backup.  Another feature is the ability to replicate data across physical hosts.  PHD Virtual accomplishes this by doing block level delta replication between data sets.

PHD Virtual Backup has all most of the features you’d expect in a modern virtual host backup application.

–        Block level backup to allow reduced space on your backup medium

–        Data deduplication for reduced backup time and addition disk space savings

–        File level restores of files within the guest file system

–        Backup to NFS and CIFS shares or local storage

PHD Virtual obviously adds its own take on these features we’ll focus on backup and restore.

Installation

Installation is pretty straight forward.  There’s a plug-in for vCenter and an OVF file for the virtual machine.  If you’ve deployed a virtual appliance and installed a plug-in for vCenter you will have no problems with this install.  However, I find it common with applications designed to work with either VMWare or Citrix that when you run it for the first time it asks for the “Hypervisor” address and credentials.  In the case of VMware it’s your vCenter’s address and credentials.

There are more than a couple of options for target backup resources.  PHD Virtual allows you to backup to NFS, CIFS, LUN and iSCSI targets.  Basically, any storage medium you can mount or access via the network on PHD Virtual’s VM can be used as a backup target.  It also has an exporter application that allows you to move backup files tape and yes this is still a critical enterprise need.

Note that some requirements that need to be taken into account.  PHD Virtual is using VMware’s vStorage API’s which are not available in ESXi free so you need a vCenter environment.  Also, if backing up 64-bit machines Intel VT or AMD-V is required.

Backup

As stated above PHD Virtual uses vStorage API’s to backup virtual machines.  It takes a snapshot of the target virtual disk and creates a disk based backup that’s then deduplicated.  I found this to be pretty straight forward and standard.  This is exactly one of the use cases for the vStorage API’s and will make support between the two vendors manageable.

Restore

You have basically two options for performing restores.  You can restore an entire Virtual Machine instance or individual files.  The process for restoring an entire virtual machine basically creates a newly named virtual machine in your vCenter directory.  You can of course select the target and name of the new virtual machine.  You then have to go in and verify the restored virtual machine is the desired version and manually delete and rename the restored machine.

Restoring individual files is enabled by basically restoring a VMDK and mounting that virtual disk via iSCSI and copying the files to your target directory.  This is a novel approach that works well.

Conclusion

PHD Virtual is a capable backup application for an all virtualized environment.  The single pane experience is nice for smaller environments and it’s not complicated to manage.  If you are in need of item level backups and restores for databases or mail you will need an additional backup solution.  Also, this application is focused on a virtual environment so, if you have physical servers like a vCenter server you will need an additional solution.

All in all this is a very nice niche backup application. You get a good deal of features that are simple to manage. If your use case supports it then it is a great solution.  If you are a larger enterprise you may be better served with a more general VM aware backup solution that has more advanced features.

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