As I have been exposed to Virtualization, Storage & Disaster recovery solutions for quite long, PHD Virtual has approached me to give a feedback on their latest PHD Virtual Backup and Replication v5.3.1 for VMware vSphere. As I had a couple of hours today, I decided to see what I can a accomplish in them messing around with PHD Virtual Backup and Replication v5.3.1 for VMware vSphere in my home lab. At this post I will document the features I like most of the product, what I believe missing as well a high level steps of how to use the product.
Let’s start with what I like about PHD Virtual Backup and Replication v5.3.1 for VMware vSphere. Being exposed to many of the other backup & replication solutions in the Virtualization market, I kinda was looking to what is different in this product from other products in the market that I have tried before. Below are few nice things that stand out in this product.
- PHD Virtual Backup and Replication v5.3.1 for VMware vSphere is one of the few backup & replication solutions that currently distributed as a Virtual Appliance. Actually beside VMware Data Recovery, I don’t remember testing any other backup solution that is distributed as a Virtual Appliance. In my opinion, this is a quite nice move from PHD Virtual as it save the customer from buying extra Windows Licenses for their backup software as well easy and speed the deployment of the backup solution. I believe virtual appliances is how every software will be supplied by vendors in the future, as it make it easy for the vendor to reduce the chances of having a less than optimum installation due to customers skipping steps during installation. I was able to get the Virtual Appliance installed and configured in less than 10 minutes in my home lab without even going through the manual. Yeah its in my home lab so it was that kinda of run that you do then try to figure out what you have done wrong. Even with that I was able to complete the simple setup in less than 10 minutes and started the backup of 2 VMs as well initiated the replication of one VM. The longest part of the full process was to load the appliance into my vSphere infrastructure which took about 5 minutes.
- PHD Virtual Backup & Replication for VMware vSphere is very light on resources. I mean the appliance it self does not use more than (1vCPU, 1GB of RAM) as configured by default which seemed to still perform quite well in my lab. I mean that seems to me less than what a bare Windows VM is normally assigned!
- PHD Virtual Backup and Replication for VMware vSphere management is well integrated within vCenter & vSphere Client. I loved it how you can go to the virtual machine in vCenter, right click it and then choose to back it up or replicate it. Check out the image below on how that look like.
- Source & Destination De-duplication is configured out of the box with PHD Virtual Backup & Replication for VMware vSphere. To be honest while I was not sure how I could test source De-dupe with the time I had I only could comment backup was quite fast within my lab limits. I was able to back up 20GB VMs within 3-6 minutes per run. It is important to mention my lab fully run on slow SATA drives as well smaller network gears. I believe the solution could performed much better if it was running with enterprise gears, though the measured performance was comparable to other solutions I had run in my lab as well performed a bit faster than some. While I was not able to verify source De-dupe in depth, I was able to look at the result of destination De-dupe. In my small environment with the backup of 4 windows VMs, I was able to achieve about 10:1 Dedupe ratio where the original backup size should be 100GB, but it end up being 10GB. Although I was quite happy with the Dedupe ratio I got as that a lot of disk space saving, looking at their site I don’t seem to hit as high as I could get as they promised about 25:1 Dedupe ratio which probably they could get closer to when doing a larger number of similar VM. I mean 25:1 Dedupe ratio would just be mind blowing if that can be achieved.
- The ability to backup VMs to standard compressed OVF format. This is a great feature if you consider tape backup or backup archiving as it get the backup in a standard compressed format that you don’t even require PHD Virtual Backup to restore it. Yes, this can be a great advantage if you compare it to other backup software that use De-Dupe datastore and leave you with no option to take backup to tape. Many of us might think tapes back up is going to be from the past in the near future, but hey everyday we are still proven wrong and it seems tape backup is still here for a while longer or at least till compliance experts catch up with the game of disk backup and Virtual Tape libraries. PHD Virtual like to call this feature PHD Virtual Open Export.
- Backup & Replication in a single product. PHD Virtual has combined both Backup & Replication into one product which basically combine them in the same price tag that seems to give a bit of cost saving than buying two products separately. Although they are not the first to combine both capabilities, it still a nice thing they have done!
- Data is checked both during the backup and restore processes ensuring data integrity. Self-healing is provided by automatically detecting and repairing corrupt data blocks which help ensure the validity of backup. PHD Virtual like to call this feature TrueRestore™ Technology
- Exchange Single mailbox restore/SQL DB Restore without having to restore full image. This feature become very handy if you have Exchange or SQL in your environment. For more on how to do that watch the videos on my following post: PHD Virtual backup & replication for vSphere installation and configuration
- Great Support. Some of you will wonder how I was able to evaluate their support in 2 hours. What I have done was to file a ticket with a problem related to a misconfiguration I have done on purpose with their replication. I was surprised to get an answer in less than 4 hours back in my mailbox with the resolution. I would call that a great support hoping that every customer get the same kind of response and I was not just lucky in there.
- Other standard Features: While the above features are what I kinda found interesting about the product, I thought its worth mentioning other features that is becoming standard in backup solutions today and is available in PHD Virtual backup & Replicaiton:
- File Level Restore: The ability to restore a single file from within an image backup
- Support for Changed Block Tracking(CBT)
- Application Consistent Backup using VSS
- Backup Scheduling
To find out more details about other features that i have missed in my review, you might want to watch the below video.
Below are few things I would like to see in future releases of PHD Virtual Backup & Replication for VMware vSphere, which were not there in the current release.
- Although PHD Virtual Backup and Replication for VMware vSphere install a vSphere Client Plugin, it did not have an icon on the home screen in vSphere Client. Yeah I might be crazy for some for even mentioning this, but hey most of us used to find an icon for plugin at the vSphere Client home screen & without it we would have to stumble across the vSphere client to find where to start the PHD Virtual backup from. It took me an extra minute to find this out, & it could make users experience a bit more polished and would not cost too much of development to do.
- The most frequent replication granularity allowed by the GUI at the moment is daily. This might not work for some customers who need to achieve a smaller RPO (Recovery Point Objective). Though its worth mentioning that PHD Virtual Backup has just added the replication in v5.3.1 as freebie to their backup software and hopefully it will be improved in future releases.
- I missed having features like InstantRestore where you can run the VMs directly from the backup without having to restore it back to disk. I believe with the way PHD Virtual Backup is taking the backup this should be possible to achieve in future releases.
If you like what you hear and decided on trying it out, then you might want to follow the instruction in my other post: PHD Virtual backup & replication for vSphere installation and configuration
After this review I have to encourage my readers to test different backup solution in their own environment and see what fit their requirements best before deciding on which backup solution to purchase. I believe PHD Virtual Backup & Replication for VMware vSphere is worth giving the chance to compete for being your backup solution for your Virtual environment specially in the SMB. That have been said every environment requirements is different and its up to you to test which backup solution fit your needs. If you have more than one backup solution that can fit your need, then you probably can obtain a better price by running it across the competition.
Hope this review help some one out there!
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Eiad Al-Aqqad, VCDX#89
VMware Canada PSO
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