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Virtualization Vendor Profile: Altaro

SMB users of Hyper-V will soon get a new backup alternative.

Altaro, which previously focused on desktop-level backups, plans to release software in August it says will be simpler and cheaper than other offerings on the market for Microsoft’s hypervisor.

The product, Altaro Hyper-V Backup, released its fourth beta version Monday. It’s meant for small and home offices (SOHO) and small to midsized businesses (SMBs). Its three editions will include a freeware version, which can backup two to three VMs on a single host; a Standard version covering up to five or six VMs; and an Unlimited license with support for Cluster Shared Volumes. The product will top out, pricing-wise, at under $500, though specific pricing has not yet been finalized.

Features include:

  • “Hyper-V Aware” – Users don’t have to know which Virtual Hard Disks (VHDs), XML files, etc. make up a virtual machine – the administrator is given a list of VMs which can be right-clicked to initiate the backup process.
  • The ability to backup live VMs without restarting, otherwise known as hot backups.
  • The ability to restore VMs to same Hyper-V host but with a different name, also known as restoring clones.
  • Individual VMs or groups of VMs can be restored to different Hyper-V hosts than they were taken from.
  • Reverse Delta Incremental Backup – Normally, when changes to files are saved as part of a backup, the most recent changes exist in a delta file; delta files have to be ‘collapsed’ back with the original to re-create the most recent backup. This method saves the most recent backup as a full version, with previous backups saved as deltas, with the idea of speeding the restore process.

In the next beta, file-level backups and a feature called FireDrill which allows users to test restores will also be included.

The Hyper-V Backup product sprang out of Altaro’s workstation backup tool, development of which it does on Hyper-V. When the company went to backup Hyper-V, according to Altaro CEO David Vella, “we found two extremes – one was simplistic traditional file level backups where the administrator is expected to know what files make up the virtual machine, [and] the other extreme was totally focused on the enterprise. There’s a gap — we wanted to have all the features that the enterprise product had but make it easy to use and affordable to SMBs.”

The product is still sanding down some rough edges – CSV support was only recently added after engineers at Altaro “burned the midnight oil” to get it supported, according to Vella. The management console leaves a bit to be desired in the current version, according to some beta testers – users can browse and restore backups taken on other hosts using the Altaro Import Backup feature, but the dashboard will only show the backups taken on the current host. Finally, the product will not include replication, a common checklist item in data protection, until after its GA release.

Hans Vredevoort, a consultant based in the Netherlands, said he’s been beta testing the product for a couple of months and is considering it for his home lab. “It’s not an enterprise type backup product and I don’t think it’s intended to be,” he said. “This product can be installed in about five to ten minutes, it’s really that simple. You don’t need to reboot the server – after ten minutes, you start backing up your first virtual machine.”

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