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Windows Server 2019

How to backup a Windows 2019 file server cluster

A cluster ensures high availability but does not protect against accidental data loss. For example, if a user (or malware) deletes a file from a Microsoft Windows file server cluster, you want to be able to restore that data. So, backup for data on clusters is still necessary. But also, it can save much time for the Windows operating system to have a full backup. Imagine that one of the cluster member servers has a hardware issue and needs to be replaced. You could manually install Windows, install all updates, install all the drivers, join the cluster again and then remove the old cluster member, or you could simply do a bare metal restore with Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows.

Backup and restore of physical Windows clusters is supported by Veeam Backup & Replication with Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows. It can backup Windows clusters with shared disks (e.g., a classic file-server cluster) or shared nothing clusters like Microsoft Exchange DAG or SQL Always-On clusters. In this article I will show how to backup a file server cluster with a shared disk. Earlier blog post ( How to create a file server cluster with Windows 2019) show the setup of the system.

The backup of a cluster requires three steps:

  1. Creating a protection group
  2. Creating a backup job
  3. Starting the backup job

Create a protection group

A Veeam Backup & Replication protection group is a logical unit to group multiple machines to one logical unit. But it’s not only used for grouping, it manages the agent deployment to the computers. Go to the inventory and select “physical and cloud infrastructure” to create a new protection group. After defining a name, you need to choose the type “Microsoft Active Directory objects”.

In the next step, select the cluster object. In my case, it’s “WFC2019”

Only add the Active Directory cluster here. You don’t need to add the nodes here. You can also find the cluster object in Active Directory Users and Computers

As I run my cluster as a virtual machine (VM), I do not want to exclude VMs from processing.

In the next step, you must specify a user that has local administrator privileges. In my lab I simplified everything by using the domain administrator

It is always a good idea to test the credentials. This ensures that no problems (e.g., firewall issues) occur during agent deployment.

The options page is more interesting. Veeam regularly scans for changes and then deploys or updates the agent automatically.

The distribution server is the machine that deploys the agents. In most cases, the backup server is also fine as distribution server. Reasons for dedicated distribution servers would be if you have branch office deployments or when you plan to deploy a hundred or more agents.

On large servers we recommend installing the change block tracking driver for better incremental backup performance. Keep in mind that the driver requires a reboot during installation and updates.

In the advanced settings, you can find a setting that is particularly relevant from a performance perspective: Backup I/O control. It throttles the agent if the server has too high of a load.

You can reboot directly from the Veeam Backup & Replication console.

After the installation has succeeded and no reboots are pending anymore, the rescan shows that everything’s okay.

Create a backup job

The second step is to create a backup job. Just go to the jobs section in “home” and select to create a new backup job for a Windows computer. At the first step, select the type “failover cluster”.

Give a name to the backup job and add the protection group created earlier.

I want to back up everything (e.g., the entire computer)

Then, select how long you want to store the backups and where you want to store them. The next section, “guest processing,” is more interesting. Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows always does backups based on VSS snapshots. That means that the backup is always consistent from a file-level perspective. For application servers (e.g., SQL, Microsoft Exchange) you might want to configure log shipping settings. For this simple file-server example no additional configuration is needed.

Finally, you can configure a backup schedule.

Run the backup job

Running a Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows backup job is the same as a classic VM backup job. The only thing you might notice is that a cluster backup does not use per-host-backup-chains if you configured your repository to “per-VM backup files”.  All the data from the cluster members of one job is stored in one backup chain.

Another thing to note is that the failover of a cluster does not result in a new full backup. There is not even a change-block-tracking reset (e.g., CBT-reset) in most failover situations. A failover cluster backup always does block-level backup (e.g., image-level backup). Of course, you can do single-item or file-level restore from block level backups.

During the backup, Veeam will also collect the recovery media data. This data is required for a bare-metal or full-cluster restore.

Next steps and restore

After a successful backup, you can do restores. The user interface offers all the options that are available for Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows restores. In most cases, the restores will be file-level or application restores. For Windows failover clusters, the restore of Microsoft Exchange and SQL is possible (and is not shown in the screenshot because it’s a file server). For non-clustered systems, there are additional options for Microsoft Active Directory, SharePoint and Oracle databases.

Download Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows below and give this flow a try.


This article was provided by our service partner : veeam.com

How to create a file server cluster with Windows 2019

High Availability of data and applications has been an important topic in IT for decades. One of the critical services in many companies is the file servers, which serve file shares where users or applications store their data. If the file server is offline, then people cannot work. Downtime means additional costs, which organizations try to avoid. Windows Server 2019 (and earlier versions) allow you to create highly available file services.

Prerequisites

Before we can start with the file server cluster configuration, the file server role must be installed and permissions must be set in Active Directory for the failover cluster computer object.

There are two ways to install the file server role on the two cluster nodes:

  • Via the Add Roles and Features Wizard of the server manager
  • Via PowerShell

In Server manager, click Add roles and features and follow the wizard. Select the File Server role and install it. A reboot is not required.

server 2019 cluster 1

As an alternative, you can use the following PowerShell command to install the file server feature:

Install-WindowsFeature -Name FS-FileServer

server 2019 cluster 2

To avoid errors at later steps, first configure Active Directory permissions for the failover cluster computer object. The computer object of the cluster (in my case, WFC2019) must have the Create Computer Objects permissions in the Active Directory Organizational Unit (OU).

If you forget about this, the role will fail to start later. Errors and event IDs 1069, 1205 and 1254 will show up in the Windows event log and failover cluster manager.

Open the Active Directory Users and Computers console and switch to Advanced Features in the View menu.

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Go the OU where your cluster object is located (in my case the OU is Blog). Go to the Security tab (in properties) and click Advanced.

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In the new window click Add and select your cluster computer object as principal (in my case WFC2019).

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In the Permissions list select Create Computer objects

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Click OK in all windows to confirm everything

Configure the file server cluster role

Because all pre-requisites are now met, we can configure the file server cluster role. Open the Failover Cluster manager and add the role to your cluster (right-click on Roles of your cluster -> configure role -> and select the File Server role).

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We will create a file server for general use as we plan to host file shares for end users.

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In the next step we define how clients can access the file server cluster. Select a name for your file server and assign an additional IP address.

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Use the storage configured earlier.

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After you finish the wizard, you can see the File Server role up and running in the Failover Cluster Manager. If you see errors here, check the create computer objects permissions described earlier.

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A new Active Directory object also appears in Active Directory Users and Computers, including a new DNS entry

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Now it’s time to create file shares for users. You can right-click on the file server role or use the actions panel on the right hand side.

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I select the SMB Share  Quick as I plan a general purpose file server for end users.

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I also keep the default permissions because this is just an example. After you have finished the wizard, the new file share is ready to use.

In the following video I show the advances of a continuous available file share. The upload of the file will continue even during a cluster failover. The client is a Windows 10 1809. I upload an iso to the file share I created earlier. My upload speed it about 10-20Mbit/s WAN connection. During failover to a different cluster node, the upload stops for some seconds. After successful failover it continues uploading the ISO file.

Next steps and backup

As soon as the file server contains data, it is also time to think about backing up the file server. Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows can back up Windows failover clusters with shared disks. We also recommend doing backups of the entire system of the cluster. This also backs up the operating systems of the cluster members and helps to speed up restore of a failed cluster node because you don’t need to search for drivers, etc. in case of a restore.

 


This article was provided by our service partner : Veeam

vSan

How policy based backups will benefit you

With VMworld 2019 right around the corner, we wanted to share a recap on some of the powerful things that VMware has in their armoury and also discuss how Veeam can leverage this to enhance your Availability.

This week VMware announced vSAN 6.7 Update 3. This release seems to have a heavy focus on simplifying data center management while improving overall performance. A few things that stood out to me with this release included:

  • Cleaner, simpler UI for capacity management: 6.7 Update 3 has color-coding, consumption breakdown, and usable capacity analysis for better capacity planning allowing administrators to more easily understand the consumption breakdown.
  • Storage Policy changes now occur in batches. This ensures that all policy changes complete successfully, and free capacity is not exhausted.
  • iSCSI LUNs presented from vSAN can now be resized without the need to take the volume offline, preventing application disruption.
  • SCSI-3 persistent reservations (SCSI-3 PR) allow for native support for Windows Server Failover Clusters (WSFC) requiring a shared disk.

Veeam is listed in the vSAN HCL for vSAN Partner Solutions and can protect and restore VMs. The certification for the new Update 3 release is also well on its way to being complete.

Another interesting point to mention is the Windows Server Failover Clusters (WSFC). While these are seen as VMDKs, they are not applicable to the data protection APIs used for data protection tasks. This is where the Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows comes in with the ability to protect those failover clusters in the best possible way.

What is SPBM?

Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM) is the vSphere administrator’s answer to control within their environments. This framework allows them to overcome upfront storage provisioning challenges, such as capacity planning, differentiated service levels and managing capacity resources in a much better and efficient way. All of this is achieved by defining a set of policies within vSphere for the storage layer. These storage policies optimise the provisioning process of VMs by provisioning specific datastores at scale, which in turn will remove the headaches between vSphere admins and storage admins.

However, this is not a closed group between the storage and virtualisation admins. It also allows Veeam to hook into certain areas to provide better Availability for your virtualised workloads.

SPBM spans all storage offerings from VMware, traditional VMFS/NFS datastore as well as vSAN and Virtual Volumes, allowing policies to overarch any type of environment leveraging whatever type of storage that is required or in place.

What can Veeam do?

Veeam can leverage these policies to better protect virtual workloads, by utilising vSphere tags on old and newly created virtual machines and having specific jobs setup in Veeam Backup & Replication with specific schedules and settings that are required to meet the SLA of those workloads.

Veeam will also back up any virtual machine that has an SPBM policy assigned to it, as well as protect the data. It will also protect the policy, so if you had to restore the whole virtual machine, the policy would be available as part of the restore process.

Automate IT

Gone are the days of the backup admin adding and removing virtual machines from a backup job, so let’s spend time on the interesting and exciting things that provide much more benefit to your IT systems investment.

With vSphere tags, you can create logical groupings within your VMware environment based on any characteristic that is required. Once this is done, you are able to migrate those tags into Veeam Backup & Replication and create backup jobs based on vSphere tags. You can also create your own set of vSphere tags to assign to your virtual machine workloads based on how often you need to back up or replicate your data, providing a granular approach to the Availability of your infrastructure.

VMware Snapshots – The vSAN way

In vSAN 6.0, VMware introduced vSAN Sparse Snapshots. The snapshot implementation for vSAN provides significantly better I/O performance. The good news for Veeam customers is if you are using the traditional VMFS or the newer vSAN sparse snapshots the display and output are the same — a backup containing your data. The benefits are incredible from a performance and methodology point of view when it comes to the sparse snapshot way and can play a huge role in achieving your backup windows.

The difference between the “traditional” and the new snapshot methodology that both vSAN as well as Virtual Volumes leverage is that a traditional VMFS snapshot is using Redo logs which, when working with high I/O workloads, could cause performance hits when committing those changes back to the VM disk. The vSAN way is much more similar to a shared storage system and a Copy On Write snapshot. This means that there is no commitment after a backup job has released a snapshot, meaning that I/O can continue to run as the business needs.

There are lots of other integrations between Veeam and VMware but I feel that this is still the number one touch point where a vSphere and Backup Admin can really make their life easier by using policy-based backups using Veeam.


This article was provided by our service partner : veeam.com

healthcare backup

Healthcare backup vs record retention

Healthcare overspends on long term backup retention

There is a dramatic range of perspective on how long hospitals should keep their backups: some keep theirs for 30 days while others keep their backups forever. Many assume the long retention is due to regulatory requirements, but that is not actually the case. Retention times longer than needed have significant cost implications and lead to capital spending 50-70% higher than necessary. At a time when hospitals are concerned with optimization and cost reduction across the board, this is a topic that merits further exploration and inspection.

Based on research to date and a review of all relevant regulations, we find:

  • There is no additional value in backups older than 90 days.
  • Significant savings can be achieved through reduced backup retention of 60-90 days.
  • Longer backup retention times impose unnecessary capital costs by as much as 70% and hinder migration to more cost-effective architectures.
  • Email retention can be greatly shortened to reduce liability and cost through set policy.

Let’s explore these points in more details.

What are the relevant regulations?

HIPAA mandates that Covered Entities and Business Associates have backup and recovery procedures for Patient Health Information (PHI) to avoid loss of data. Nothing regarding duration is specified (CFR 164.306CFR 164.308). State regulations govern how long PHI must be retained, usually ranging from six to 25 years, sometimes longer.

The retention regulations refer to the PHI records themselves, not the backups thereof. This is an important distinction and a source of confusion and debate. In the absence of deeper understanding, hospitals often opt for long term backup retention, which has significant cost implications without commensurate value.

How do we translate applicable regulations into policy?

There are actually two policies at play: PHI retention and Backup retention. PHI retention should be the responsibility of data governance and/or application data owners. Backup retention is IT policy that governs the recoverability of systems and data.

I have yet to encounter a hospital that actively purges PHI when permitted by regulations. There’s good reason not to: older records still have value as part of analytics datasets but only if they are present in live systems. If PHI is never purged, records in backups from one year ago will also be present in backups from last night. So, what value exists in the backups from one year ago, or even six months ago?

Keeping backups long term increases the capital requirements, complexity of data protection systems, and limits hospitals’ abilities to transition to new data protection architectures that offer a lower TCO, all without mitigating additional risk or adding additional value.

What is the right backup retention period for hospital systems?

Most agree that the right answer is 60-90 days. Thirty days may expose some risk from undesirable system changes that require going further back at the system (if not the data) level; examples given include changes that later caused a boot error. Beyond 90 days, it’s very difficult to identify scenarios where the data or systems would be valuable.

What about legacy applications?

Most hospitals have a list of legacy applications that contain older PHI that was not imported into the current primary EMR system or other replacement application. The applications exist purely for reference purposes, and they often have other challenges such as legacy operating systems and lack of support, which increases risk.

For PHI that only exists in legacy systems, we have only two choices: keep those aging apps in service or migrate those records to a more modern platform that replicates the interfaces and data structures. Hospitals that have pursued this path have been very successful reducing risk by decommissioning legacy applications, using solutions from HarmonyMediquantCITI, and Legacy Data Access.

What about email?

Hospitals have a great deal of freedom to define their email policies. Most agree that PHI should not be in email and actively prevent it by policy and process. Without PHI in email, each hospital can define whatever email retention policy they wish.

Most hospitals do not restrict how long emails can be retained, though many do restrict the ultimate size of user mailboxes. There is a trend, however, often led by legal to reduce the history of email. It is often phased in gradually: one year they will cut off the email history at ten years, then to eight or six and so on.

It takes a great deal of collaboration and unity among senior leaders to effect such changes, but the objectives align the interests of legal, finance, and IT. Legal reduces discoverable information; finance reduces cost and risk; and IT reduces the complexity and weight of infrastructure.

The shortest email history I have encountered is two years at a Detroit health system: once an item in a user mailbox reaches two years old, it is actively removed from the system by policy. They also only keep their backups for 30 days. They are the leanest healthcare data protection architecture I have yet encountered.

Closing thoughts

It is fascinating that hospitals serving the same customer needs bound by vastly similar regulatory requirements come to such different conclusions about backup retention. That should be a signal that there is real optimization potential both with PHI and email.


This article was provided by our service partner : veeam.com

veeam

Veeam : Set up vSphere RBAC for self-service backup portal

Wouldn’t it be great to empower VMware vSphere users to take control of their backups and restores with a self-service portal? The good news is you can as of Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 4. This feature is great because it eliminates operational overhead and allows users to get exactly what they want when they want it. It is a perfect augmentation for any development team taking advantage of VMware vSphere virtual machines.

Introducing vSphere role-based access control (RBAC) for self-service

vSphere RBAC allows backup administrators to provide granular access to vSphere users using the vSphere permissions already in place. If a user does not have permissions to virtual machines in vCenter, they will not be able to access them via the Self-Service Backup Portal.

Additionally, to make things even simpler for vSphere users, they can create backup jobs for their VMs based on pre-created job templates. They will not have to deal with advanced settings they are not familiar with (This is a really big deal by the way).vSphere users can then monitor and control the backup jobs they have created using the Enterprise Manager UI, and restore their backups as needed.

Setting up vSphere RBAC for self-service

Setting up vSphere RBAC for self-service could not be easier. In the Enterprise Manager configuration screen, a Veeam administrator simply has to navigate to “Configuration – Self-service.” Then, he should add the vSphere user’s account, specify a backup repository, set a quota, and select the delegation method. These permissions can also be applied at the group level for enhanced ease of administration too.

Besides VMware vCenter Roles, vSphere privileges or vSphere tags can be used as the delegation method. vSphere tags is one of my favorite methods to use since tags can be applied to either reach a very broad or very granular set of permissions. The ability to use vSphere tags is especially helpful for new VMware vSphere deployments, since it provides quick, easy, and secure access to virtual machine users for this case.

For example, I could set vSphere tags at a vSphere cluster level if I had a development cluster, or I could set vSphere tags on a subset of virtual machines using a tag such as “KryptonSOAR Development” to only provide access to development virtual machines.

After setting the Delegation Mode, the user account can be edited to select the vSphere tag, vCenter server role, or VM privilege. From the Edit screen, the repository and quota can also be changed at any time if required.

Using RBAC for VMware vSphere

After this very simple configuration, vSphere users simply need to log into the Self-Service Backup Portal to begin protecting and recovering their virtual machines. The URL can be shared across the entire organization: https://<EnterpriseManagerServer>:9443/backup, thus giving everyone a very convenient way of managing their workloads. Job creation and viewing in the Self-Service Backup Portal is extremely user friendly, even for those who have never backed up a virtual machine before! When creating a new backup job, users will only see the virtual machines they have access to, which makes the solution more secure and less confusing.

There is even a helpful dashboard, so users can monitor their backup jobs and the amount of backup storage they are consuming.

Enabling vSphere users to back up and restore virtual machines empowers them in new ways, especially when it comes to DevOps and rapid development cycles. Best of all, Veeam’s self-service implementation leverages the VMware vSphere permissions framework organizations already have in place, reducing operational complexity for everyone involved.

When it comes to VM recovery, there are also many self-service options available. Users can independently navigate to “VMs” tab to perform full VM restores. Again, the process is very easy as the user should decide whether to preserve the original VM if Veeam detects it or to overwrite its data, select the desired restore point, and specify whether it should be powered on after this procedure. Three simple actions and the data is on its way.

In addition to that, the portal makes file- and application-level recovery very convenient too. There are quite a few scenarios available and what’s really great about it is that users can navigate into the file system tree via the file explorer. They can utilize a search engine with advanced filters for both indexed and non-indexed guest OS file systems. Under the hood, Veeam is going to decide how exactly the operation should be handled but the user won’t even know about it. There is no chance the sought-for document can slip here. The cherry on top is that Veeam provides recovery of application-aware SQL and Oracle backups, thus making your DBAs happy without giving them too many rights for the virtual environments.


This article was provided by our service partner : Veeam

Veeam’s Office 365 backup

It is no secret anymore, you need a backup for Microsoft Office 365! While Microsoft is responsible for the infrastructure and its availability, you are responsible for the data as it is your data. And to fully protect it, you need a backup. It is the individual company’s responsibility to be in control of their data and meet the needs of compliance and legal requirements. In addition to having an extra copy of your data in case of accidental deletion, here are five more reasons WHY you need a backup.

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With that quick overview out of the way, let’s dive straight into the new features.

Increased backup speeds from minutes to seconds

With the release of Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 v2, Veeam added support for protecting SharePoint and OneDrive for Business data. Now with v3, we are improving the backup speed of SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business incremental backups by integrating with the native Change API for Microsoft Office 365. By doing so, this speeds up backup times up to 30 times which is a huge game changer! The feedback we have seen so far is amazing and we are convinced you will see the difference as well.

Improved security with multi-factor authentication support

Multi-factor authentication is an extra layer of security with multiple verification methods for an Office 365 user account. As multi-factor authentication is the baseline security policy for Azure Active Directory and Office 365, Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 v3 adds support for it. This capability allows Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 v3 to connect to Office 365 securely by leveraging a custom application in Azure Active Directory along with MFA-enabled service account with its app password to create secure backups.

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From a restore point of view, this will also allow you to perform secure restores to Office 365.

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Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 v3 will still support basic authentication, however, using multi-factor authentication is advised.

Enhanced visibility

By adding Office 365 data protection reports, Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 will allow you to identify unprotected Office 365 user mailboxes as well as manage license and storage usage. Three reports are available via the GUI (as well as PowerShell and RESTful API).

License Overview report gives insight in your license usage. It shows detailed information on licenses used for each protected user within the organization. As a Service Provider, you will be able to identify the top five tenants by license usage and bring the license consumption under control.

Storage Consumption report shows how much storage is consumed by the repositories of the selected organization. It will give insight on the top-consuming repositories and assist you with daily change rate and growth of your Office 365 backup data per repository.

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Mailbox Protection report shows information on all protected and unprotected mailboxes helping you maintain visibility of all your business-critical Office 365 mailboxes. As a Service Provider, you will especially benefit from the flexibility of generating this report either for all tenant organizations in the scope or a selected tenant organization only.

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Simplified management for larger environments

Microsoft’s Extensible Storage Engine has a file size limit of 64 TB per year. The workaround for this, for larger environments, was to create multiple repositories. Starting with v3, this limitation and the manual workaround is eliminated! Veeam’s storage repositories are intelligent enough to know when you are about to hit a file size limit, and automatically scale out the repository, eliminating this file size limit issue. The extra databases will be easy to identify by their numerical order, should you need it:

Office 365 backup 6

Flexible retention options

Before v3, the only available retention policy was based on items age, meaning Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 backed up and stored the Office 365 data (Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint items) which was created or modified within the defined retention period.

Item-level retention works similar to how classic document archive works:

  • First run: We collect ALL items that are younger (attribute used is the change date) than the chosen retention (importantly, this could mean that not ALL items are taken).
  • Following runs: We collect ALL items that have been created or modified (again, attribute used is the change date) since the previous run.
  • Retention processing: Happens at the chosen time interval and removes all items where the change date became older than the chosen retention.

This retention type is particularly useful when you want to make sure you don’t store content for longer than the required retention time, which can be important for legal reasons.

Starting with Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 v3, you can also leverage a “snapshot-based” retention type option. Within the repository settings, v3 offers two options to choose from: Item-level retention (existing retention approach) and Snapshot-based retention (new).

Snapshot-based retention works similar to image-level backups that many Veeam customers are so used to:

  • First run: We collect ALL items no matter what the change date is. Thus, the first backup is an exact copy (snapshot) of an Exchange mailbox / OneDrive account / SharePoint site state as it looks at that point in time.
  • Following runs: We collect ALL new items that have been created or modified (attribute used here is the change date) since the previous run. Which means that the backup represents again an exact copy (snapshot) of the mailbox/site/folder state as it looks at that point in time.
  • Retention processing: During clean-up, we will remove all items belonging to snapshots of mailbox/site/folder that are older than the retention period.

Retention is a global setting per repository. Also note that once you set your retention option, you will not be able to change it.

Other enhancements

As Microsoft released new major versions for both Exchange and SharePoint, we have added support for Exchange and SharePoint 2019. We have made a change to the interface and now support internet proxies. This was already possible in previous versions by leveraging a change to the XML configuration, however, starting from Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 v3, it is now an option within the GUI. As an extra, you can even configure an internet proxy per any of your Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 remote proxies.  All of these new options are also available via PowerShell and the RESTful API for all the automation lovers out there.

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On the point of license capabilities, we have added two new options as well:

  • Revoking an unneeded license is now available via PowerShell
  • Service Providers can gather license and repository information per tenant via PowerShell and the RESTful API and create custom reports

To keep a clean view on the Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 console, Service Providers can now give organizations a custom name.

Office 365 backup 8

Based upon feature requests, starting with Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 v3, it is possible to exclude or include specific OneDrive for Business folders per job. This feature is available via PowerShell or RESTful API. Go to the What’s New page for a full list of all the new capabilities in Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365.


This article was supplied by our service partner : veeam.com

Automation

5 Ways Your Business Benefits from Automation

1: Improved Organization

Automation tools distribute information seamlessly. For instance, when you automatically create a quote for a new project and can invoice it from the same system, all of the information regarding the project is in the same place. You don’t need to go looking for it across multiple systems.

Automation ensures that the information is automatically sent where you need it, keeping your information current, and preventing your team from spending a lot of time looking for it.

2: Reduced Time Spent on Redundant Tasks

One of the biggest benefits to IT automation is the amount of time your team will save on manual, repeatable tasks. Leveraging automation helps your team reduce the time spent on creating tickets and configuring applications, which adds up over time. Based on estimates, it takes 5 to 7 minutes for techs to open up new tickets due to manual steps like assigning companies and contact information, finding and adding configurations, and more.

With automatic ticket routing, you can reduce the time spent on tickets to just 30 seconds. For a tech that works on 20 tickets a day, that results in 90 minutes a day, or 7.5 hours a week, in additional productivity.

3: Well-Established Processes

The best way to leverage the most benefit from IT automation is to ensure you create workflows and processes that are set up in advance. Establishing these workflows will ensure that you create a set of standards everyone on your team can follow without having to do additional work. Once these workflow rules are established, these processes can help establish consistency and efficiency within your operations – and ensure you deliver a consistent experience to your customers, regardless of which tech handles their tickets.

Furthermore, the documented, repeatable processes can help you scale by making it easier to accomplish more in less time. Your team can focus on providing excellent customer service and doing a great job when they don’t need to waste time thinking about the process itself.

4: Multi-department Visibility

Maintaining separate spreadsheets, accounts, and processes makes it difficult to really see how well your company is doing. To see how many projects are completed a day or how quickly projects are delivered, you may need to gather information about each employee’s performance to view the company as a whole.

Automation tools increase visibility into your business’s operations by centralizing data in a way that makes it easy to figure out holistically how your company performs, in addition to the performance of each individual team member. You can even isolate the performance of one department.

5: Increased Accountability

With so many different systems in place, it can be difficult to know exactly what is happening at every moment. For instance, if an employee wanted to delete tasks they didn’t want to do, you’d need processes in place to know this went on. What if deleting something was an accident? How would you know something was accidentally deleted and have the opportunity to get the information back?

Automation reduces human errors by providing a digital trail for your entire operation in one place. It provides increased accountability for everybody’s actions across different systems, so issues like these aren’t a problem.

Automation is an easy way to develop the increased accountability, visibility, and centralized processes required for your company to grow and serve more clients. When selecting the right automation tools for your business, ensure that whatever solutions you’re evaluating helps in these key areas. Technology that help you manage workflows, automate redundant tasks, provide consistent experience to all your customers will help you provide superior levels of service to your customers – and help improve your bottom line.


This article was provided by our service partner : connectwise.com

Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019 and what we need to do now: Migrate and Upgrade!

IT pros around the world were happy to hear that Windows Server 2019 is now generally available and since there have been some changes to the release. This is a huge milestone, and I would like to offer congratulations to the Microsoft team for launching the latest release of this amazing platform as a big highlight of Microsoft Ignite.

As important as this new operating system is now, there is an important subtle point that I think needs to be raised now (and don’t worry – Veeam can help). This is the fact that both SQL Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will soon have extended support ending. This can be a significant topic to tackle as many organizations have applications deployed on these systems.

What is the right thing to do today to prepare for leveraging Windows Server 2019? I’m convinced there is no single answer on the best way to address these systems; rather the right approach is to identify options that are suitable for each workload. This may also match some questions you may have. Should I move the workload to Azure? How do I safely upgrade my domain functional level? Should I use Azure SQL? Should I take physical Windows Server 2008 R2 systems and virtualize them or move to Azure? Should I migrate to the latest Hyper-V platform? What do I do if I don’t have the source code? These are all indeed natural questions to have now.

These are questions we need to ask today to move to Windows Server 2019, but how do we get there without any surprises? Let me re-introduce you to the Veeam DataLab. This technology was first launched by Veeam in 2010 and has evolved in every release and update since. Today, this technology is just what many organizations need to safely perform tests in an isolated environment to ensure that there are no surprises in production. The figure below shows a data lab:

windows 2008 eol

Let’s deconstruct this a bit first. An application group is an application you care about — and it can include multiple VMs. The proxy appliance isolates the DataLab from the production network yet reproduces the IP space in the private network without interference via a masquerade IP address. With this configuration, the DataLab allows Veeam users to test changes to systems without risk to production. This can include upgrading to Windows Server 2019, changing database versions, and more. Over the next weeks and month or so, I’ll be writing a more comprehensive document in whitepaper format that will take you through the process of setting up a DataLab and doing specific task-like upgrading to Windows Server 2019 or a newer version of SQL Server as well as migrating to Azure.

Another key technology where Veeam can help is the ability to restore Veeam backups to Microsoft Azure. This technology has been available for a long while and is now built into Veeam Backup & Replication. This is a great way to get workloads into Azure with ease starting from a Veeam backup. Additionally, you can easily test other changes to Windows and SQL Server with this process — put it into an Azure test environment to test the migration process, connectivity and more. If that’s a success, repeat the process as part of a planned migration to Azure. This cloud mobility technique is very powerful and is shown below for Azure:

Windows 2008 EOL

Why Azure?

This is because Microsoft announced that Extended Security Updates will be available for FREE in Azure for Windows server 2008 R2 for an additional three years after the end of the support deadline. Customers can rehost these workloads to Azure with no application code changes, giving them more time to plan for their future upgrades. Read more here.

What also is great about moving workloads to Azure is that this applies to almost anything that Veeam can back up. Windows Servers, Linux Agents, vSphere VMs, Hyper-V VMs and more!

Migrating to the latest platforms are a great way to stay in a supported configuration for critical applications in the data center. The difference is being able to do the migration without any surprises and with complete confidence. This is where Veeam’s DataLabs and Veeam Recovery to Microsoft Azure can work in conjunction to provide you a seamless experience in migrating to the latest SQL and Windows Server platforms.

Have you started testing Windows Server 2019? How many Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 systems do you have? Let’s get DataLabbing!

How to properly load balance your backup infrastructure

Veeam Backup & Replication is known for ease of installation and a moderate learning curve. It is something that we take as a great achievement, but as we see in our support practice, it can sometimes lead to a “deploy and forget” approach, without fine-tuning the software or learning the nuances of its work. In our previous blog posts, we examined tape configuration considerations and some common misconfigurations. This time, the blog post is aimed at giving the reader some insight on a Veeam Backup & Replication infrastructure, how data flows between the components, and most importantly, how to properly load balance backup components so that the system can work stably and efficiently.

Overview of a Veeam Backup & Replication infrastructure

Veeam Backup & Replication is a modular system. This means that Veeam as a backup solution consists of a number of components, each with a specific function. Examples of such components are the Veeam server itself (as the management component), proxy, repository, WAN accelerator and others. Of course, several components can be installed on a single server (provided that it has sufficient resources) and many customers opt for all-in-one installations. However, distributing components can give several benefits:

  • For customers with branch offices, it is possible to localize the majority of backup traffic by deploying components locally.
  • It allows to scale out easily. If your backup window increases, you can deploy an additional proxy. If you need to expand your backup repository, you can switch to scale-out backup repository and add new extents as needed.
  • You can achieve a High Availability for some of the components. For example, if you have multiple proxies and one goes offline, the backups will still be created.

Such system can only work efficiently if everything is balanced. An unbalanced backup infrastructure can slow down due to unexpected bottlenecks or even cause backup failures because of overloaded components.

Let’s review how data flows in a Veeam infrastructure during a backup (we’re using a vSphere environment in this example):

veeam 1

All data in Veeam Backup & Replication flows between source and target transport agents. Let’s take a backup job as an example: a source agent is running on a backup proxy and its job is to read the data from a datastore, apply compression and source-side deduplication and send it over to a target agent. The target agent is running directly on a Windows/Linux repository or a gateway if a CIFS share is used. Its job is to apply a target-side deduplication and save the data in a backup file (.VKB, .VIB etc).

That means there are always two components involved, even if they are essentially on the same server and both must be taken into account when planning the resources.

Tasks balancing between proxy and repository

To start, we must examine the notion of a “task.” In Veeam Backup & Replication, a task is equal to a VM disk transfer. So, if you have a job with 5 VMs and each has 2 virtual disks, there is a total of 10 tasks to process. Veeam Backup & Replication is able to process multiple tasks in parallel, but the number is still limited.

If you go to the proxy properties, on the first step you can configure the maximum concurrent tasks this proxy can process in parallel:

veeam 2

For normal backup operations, a task on the repository side also means one virtual disk transfer.

On the repository side, you can find a very similar setting:

veeam 3

For normal backup operations, a task on the repository side also means one virtual disk transfer.

This brings us to our first important point: it is crucial to keep the resources and number of tasks in balance between proxy and repository.  Suppose you have 3 proxies set to 4 tasks each (that means that on the source side, 12 virtual disks can be processed in parallel), but the repository is set to 4 tasks only (that is the default setting). That means that only 4 tasks will be processed, leaving idle resources.

The meaning of a task on a repository is different when it comes to synthetic operations (like creating synthetic full). Recall that synthetic operations do not use proxies and happen locally on a Windows/Linux repository or between a gateway and a CIFS share. In this case for normal backup chains, a task is a backup job (so 4 tasks mean that 4 jobs will be able to generate synthetic full in parallel), while for per-VM backup chains, a task is still a VM (so 4 tasks mean that repo can generate 4 separate VBKs for 4 VMs in parallel). Depending on the setup, the same number of tasks can create a very different load on a repository! Be sure to analyze your setup (the backup job mode, the job scheduling, the per-VM option) and plan resources accordingly.

Note that, unlike for a proxy, you can disable the limit for number of parallel tasks for a repository. In this case, the repository will accept all incoming data flows from proxies. This might seem convenient at first, but we highly discourage from disabling this limitation, as it may lead to overload and even job failures. Consider this scenario: a job has many VMs with a total of 100 virtual disks to process and the repository uses the per-VM option. The proxies can process 10 disks in parallel and the repository is set to the unlimited number of tasks. During an incremental backup, the load on the repository will be naturally limited by proxies, so the system will be in balance. However, then a synthetic full starts. Synthetic full does not use proxies and all operations happen solely on the repository. Since the number of tasks is not limited, the repository will try to process all 100 tasks in parallel! This will require immense resources from the repository hardware and will likely cause an overload.

Considerations when using CIFS share

If you are using a Windows or Linux repository, the target agent will start directly on the server.  When using a CIFS share as a repository, the target agent starts on a special component called a “gateway,” that will receive the incoming traffic from the source agent and send the data blocks to the CIFS share. The gateway must be placed as close to the system sharing the folder over SMB as possible, especially in scenarios with a WAN connection. You should not create topologies with a proxy/gateway on one site and CIFS share on another site “in the cloud” — you will likely encounter periodic network failures.

The same load balancing considerations described previously apply to gateways as well. However, the gateway setup requires an additional attention because there are 2 options available — set the gateway explicitly or use an automatic selection mechanism:

Any Windows “managed server” can become a gateway for a CIFS share. Depending on the situation, both options can come handy. Let’s review them.

You can set the gateway explicitly. This option can simplify the resource management — there can be no surprises as to where the target agent will start. It is recommended to use this option if an access to the share is restricted to specific servers or in case of distributed environments — you don’t want your target agent to start far away from the server hosting the share!

Things become more interesting if you choose Automatic selection. If you are using several proxies, automatic selection gives ability to use more than one gateway and distribute the load. Automatic does not mean random though and there are indeed strict rules involved.

The target agent starts on the proxy that is doing the backup. In case of normal backup chains, if there are several jobs running in parallel and each is processed by its own proxy, then multiple target agents can start as well. However, within a single job, even if the VMs in the job are processed by several proxies, the target agent will start only on one proxy, the first to start processing. For per-VM backup chains, a separate target agent starts for each VM, so you can get the load distribution even within a single job.

Synthetic operations do not use proxies, so the selection mechanism is different: the target agent starts on the mount server associated with the repository (with an ability to fail over to Veeam server if the mount server in unavailable). This means that the load of synthetic operations will not be distributed across multiple servers. As mentioned above, we discourage from setting the number of tasks to unlimited — that can cause a huge load spike on the mount/Veeam server during synthetic operations.

Additional notes

Scale-out backup repositorySOBR is essentially a collection of usual repositories (called extents). You cannot point a backup job to a specific extent, only to SOBR, however extents retain some of settings, including the load control. So what was discussed about standalone repositories, pertains to SOBR extents as well. SOBR with per-VM option (enabled by default), the “Performance” placement policy and backup chains spread out across extents will be able to optimize the resource usage.

Backup copy. Instead of a proxy, source agents will start on the source repository. All considerations described above apply to source repositories as well (although in case of Backup Copy Job, synthetic operations on a source repository are logically not possible). Note that if the source repository is a CIFS share, the source agents will start on the mount server (with a failover to Veeam server).

Deduplication appliances. For DataDomain, StoreOnce (and possibly other appliances in the future) with Veeam integration enabled, the same considerations apply as for CIFS share repositories. For a StoreOnce repository with source-side deduplication (Low Bandwidth mode) the requirement to place gateway as close to the repository as possible does not apply — for example, a gateway on one site can be configured to send data to a StoreOnce appliance on another site over WAN.

Proxy affinity. A feature added in 9.5, proxy affinity creates a “priority list” of proxies that should be preferred when a certain repository is used.

If a proxy from the list is not available, a job will use any other available proxy. However, if the proxy is available, but does not have free task slots, the job will be paused waiting for free slots. Even though the proxy affinity is a very useful feature for distributed environments, it should be used with care, especially because it is very easy to set and forget about this option. Veeam Support encountered cases about “hanging” jobs which came down to the affinity setting that was enabled and forgotten about. More details on proxy affinity.

Conclusion

Whether you are setting up your backup infrastructure from scratch or have been using Veeam Backup & Replication for a long time, we encourage you to review your setup with the information from this blog post in mind. You might be able to optimize the use of resources or mitigate some pending risks!


This article was provided by our service partner veeam.com

vsphere

Get your data ready for vSphere 5.5 End of Support

There have been lots of articles and walkthroughs on how to make that upgrade work for you, and how to get to a supported level of vSphere. This VMware article is very thorough walking through each step of the process.

But we wanted to touch on making sure your data is protected prior, during and after the upgrade events.

If we look at the best practice upgrade path for vSphere, we’ll see how we make sure we’re protected at each step along the way:

vSphere EOL

Upgrade Path

The first thing that needs to be considered is what path you’ll be taking to get away from the end of general support of vSphere 5.5. You have two options:

  • vSphere 6.5 which is now going to be supported till November 2021 (so another 5 years’ time)
  • vSphere 6.7 which is the latest released version from VMware.

Another consideration to make here is support for surrounding and ecosystem partners, including Veeam. Today, Veeam fully supports vSphere 6.5 and 6.7, however, vSphere 6.5 U2 is NOT officially supported with Veeam Backup & Replication Update 3a due to the vSphere API regression.

The issue is isolated to over-provisioned environments with heavily loaded hosts (so more or less individual cases).

It’s also worth noting that there is no direct upgrade path from 5.5 to 6.7. If you’re currently running vSphere 5.5, you must first upgrade to either vSphere 6.0 or vSphere 6.5 before upgrading to vSphere 6.7.

Management – VMware Virtual Center

The first step of the vSphere upgrade path after you’ve decided and found the appropriate version, is to make sure you have a backup of your vCenter server. The vSphere 5.5 virtual center could be a Windows machine or it could be using the VCSA.

Both variants can be protected with Veeam, however, the VCSA runs on a Postgres-embedded database. Be sure to take an image-level backup with Veeam and then there is a database backup option within the appliance. Details of the second step can be found in this knowledge base article.

If you’re an existing Veeam customer, you’ll already be protecting the virtual center as part of one of your existing backup jobs.

You must also enable VMware tools quiescence to create transactionally-consistent backups and replicas for VMs that do not support Microsoft VSS (for example, Linux VMs). In this case, Veeam Backup & Replication will use the VMware Tools to freeze the file system and application data on the VM before backup or replication. VMware Tools quiescence is enabled at the job level for all VMs added to the job. By default, this option is disabled.

vSphere EOL 02

You must also ensure Application-Aware Image Processing (AAIP) is either disabled or excluded for the VCSA VM.

vSphere EOL 03

Virtual Machine Workloads

If you are already a Veeam customer, then you’ll already have your backup jobs created and working with success before the upgrade process begins. However, as part of the upgrade process, you’ll want to make sure that all backup job processes that initiate through the virtual center are paused during the upgrade process.

If the upgrade path consists of new hardware but with no vMotion licensing, then the following section will help.

Quick Migration

Veeam Quick Migration enables you to promptly migrate one or more VMs between ESXi hosts and datastores. Quick Migration allows for the migration of VMs in any state with minimum disruption.

More information on Quick Migration can be found in our user guide.

During the upgrade process

As already mentioned in the virtual machine workloads section, it is recommended to stop all vCenter-based actions prior to update. This includes Veeam, but also any other application or service that communicates with your vCenter environment. It is also worth noting that whilst the vCenter is unavailable, vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and vSphere HA will not work.

Veeam vSphere Web Client

If you’re moving to vSphere 6.7 and you have the Veeam vSphere Web Client installed as a vSphere plug-in, you’ll need to install the new vSphere Veeam web client plug-in from a post-upgraded Veeam Enterprise Manager.

vSphere EOL 04

More detail can be found in Anthony Spiteri’s blog post on new HTML5 plug-in functionality.

You’ll also need to ensure that any VMware-based products or other integrated products vCenter supports are the latest versions as you upgrade to a newer version of vSphere.

Final Considerations

From a Veeam Availability perspective, the above steps are the areas that we can help and make sure that you are constantly protected against failure during the process. Each environment is going to be different and other considerations will need to be made.

Another useful link that should be used as part of your planning: Update sequence for vSphere 5.5 and its compatible VMware products (2057795)

One last thing is a shout out to one of my colleagues who has done an in-depth look at the vSphere upgrade process.


This article was provided by our service partner : Veeam.com