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Virtual machine back up licensing challenges

Recently, I chatted with a sys admin about his experience with VM migrations and management challenges. His primary goal right now is creating backup copies of his VMs as part of his disaster recovery plan. The biggest hurdle? Licensing. Or rather, the cost of licensing, because he wants to avoid the cost of treating each VM like a physical box.

Right now, he’s backing up the VMs that don’t need to be online 24/7 by shutting down his guest OSes, backing up the virtual hard disks using Backup Exec, and restarting. Costs are less for backing up in this fashion, because it only takes one Backup Exec license to backup the files on the host.

But for his mission critical VMs, he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. Take the VM offline, install the Backup Exec Client and pay the license fee for *each* VM (which could get pretty expensive pretty quickly), or… don’t back up.

He’s starting to research snapshots as a lower-cost solution for his mission-critical VMs, but when I last checked in hadn’t gotten too far in the process. Any suggestions? Leave a comment and I’ll pass your suggestions along.

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With credit to Kix1979 for creating this list in a recent thread on VMTN, here is a list of free scripts or versions of utilities to provide hot backups: Vizioncore's esxRanger phd's esXpress Mittell's free backup script - aeXia Virtual Solution Box vcbMounter (local host) vcbMounter (VCB component) TechArchSolutions has a script as well
I am in stage 1 of research for DR in my organization. I came across esXpress V3 and so far I have no complaints. The backup targets can be local SAN or ftp servers. It took 1\2 hour to configure and that was it.
Microsoft Virtual Server 2007 R2 SP1 (or is it 2?) will add a new feature to VSS (Volume Snapshot Service) to allow you to take snapshots of a running virtual server
I had the same challenge with 4 ESX Servers and Virtual Infrastructure - my solution is ESXRanger from Vizioncore ( and it was the perfect solution for my needs. And after one disaster (VMFS volume where all guests were running) has been destroyed and the restore worked fine for all systems (Windows Domain Controllers, Web sServers, SQL DB Server, Linux and Novell) I trust in it. Restore of 44 Systems took about 7 hours till all was up and running as before.