VM Backup to B2 Using Veeam Backup & Replication and Morro Data CloudNAS

Introduction

VM backup and recovery is part of the critical IT operations to ensure business continuity. Traditionally IT has deployed an array of purpose-built backup appliances and applications to protect against server, infrastructure, and security failures. As VMs continue to spread in production, development, and verification environments, the never-ending challenge to expand VM backup repository has become a major challenge for system administrators.

Since VM backup footprint is usually quite large, cloud storage is increasingly being deployed for VM backup. However, cloud storage does not achieve the same performance level as on premises storage for recovery operation. For this reason, cloud storage has been used as tiered repository behind on premises storage.

In this best practice guide, we will show how Veeam Backup & Replication can work with Morro Data CloudNAS to keep the most recent backups on premises for fast recovery while archiving all backups in the retention window in the Backblaze B2 cloud storage. CloudNAS caching not only provides buffer for most recent backup files but also simplifies the management of on premises storage and cloud storage as integral backup repository.

 

Concept for VM Backup and Archive

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In the above diagram, the CloudNAS CacheDrive works as the Veeam backup target. CacheDrive’s storage servers as the cache for the backup files and it uploads them to the cloud object storage for archive. This configuration has the following advantages:

  • CacheDrive and cloud storage work as integral backup repository with unlimited capacity
  • Duplicate backup copies in CacheDrive up to cache capacity
  • Fast recovery of recent backups from CacheDrive

 

This Guide

For brevity, this guide assumes the reader is somewhat familiar with Veeam Backup & Replication, Morro Data CloudNAS, and Backblaze B2. We will focus on key discussions and major steps of configurations and skip some details.

This guide consists of the following parts:

Part 1: Create the cloud storage bucket

Part 2: Install and configure Morro Data CloudNAS

Part 3: Configure Veeam backup repository using CacheDrive

Part 4: Create the Veeam backup job

Part 5: Run backup

Part 6: Run recovery

Summary

 

Part 1: Create the Cloud Storage Bucket

Creating a Backblaze B2 account and storage bucket is quite straight-forward. We assume the reader is familiar with this step. If you do not already have a Backblaze B2 account, please go to the site to set up your account.

https://www.backblaze.com/b2/docs/quick_account.html

Notes:

  1. Make sure to set the bucket to Private.
  2. Version setting can be left as default (keep all versions) although Veeam uses timestamp rather than version for recovery. 

 

Part 2: Install and Configure Morro Data CloudNAS

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Morro Data CloudNAS combines the high performance of a local NAS with the scalability and reliability of the cloud. Powered by the Morro Global File System and a hybrid cloud architecture, the CloudNAS Global File Services enable the following major applications:

Sync among multiple sites
Replicate to cloud and other sites
Archive to cloud

Setting up CloudNAS is simple. The following are the steps we use for this guide:

  1. Power up CacheDrive (physical or VM) and connect to Internet.
  2. Sign up at https:\\account.morrodata.com. After receiving the confirmation email, log in to Morro Cloud Manager (MCM).
  3. In MCM > File System, add cloud storage by selecting the “Your Object Storage for Archive” option and choose Backblaze. Enter the necessary Backblaze B2 information including bucket name, Key ID, and Secret Key.
  4. Create a storage pool under the newly created cloud storage. Storage pool is a virtual layer between the physical cloud storage and the share.
  5. Create a share under the new storage pool as our VM backup target. This share can map to any pathname in the B2 bucket. After creating the share, click the share icon to manage the share. In the share management panel example at the right, we create a share named “VeeamCacheShare”. The share we create is of the share type Archive Share. It functions just like a regular share plus it uploads the files in the share to the B2 bucket pathname at scheduled intervals. Below is an example of the upload schedule and we will use it for this guide.

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About backup target share permission

Strict permission should be used for the backup target share. We suggest to set share default access to “No Access” and do not give exceptions, as the example to the right shows. With this setting, only Local Administrator (admin) and your primary Domain Administrator will have administrator privileges.

Note: The default password for the Local Administrator (admin) is the same as the CloudNAS Business Administrator. However, the password of the Local Administrator can be separately set by changing it in the MCM > Team page.

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Part 3: Configure Veeam Backup Repository using CacheDrive 

CloudNAS CacheDrive functions as a Network Attached Storage and Veeam supports NAS as backup repository. In configuring Veeam, we use the CacheDrive as the backup target by clicking Backup Infrastructure > Backup Repositories and choose Add Repository. Click Network Attached Storage.

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We name this backup repository “CacheDriveStore”.

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Next browse to select the backup target share “\\VeeamCacheDrive\VeeamCacheShare”. For share access credential, it is recommended to use the Local Administrator (‘admin’). If the CacheDrive is in a domain, we can also use the Primary Domain Administrator.

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In Repository > Advanced Settings, we choose “Use per-VM backup files” to have more granularity for quickly restoring the particular VM when retrieving restore points from the cloud.

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Review your configurations and click Apply for all changes. And now we have set up the CacheDrive as the VM backup target as below.

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Part 4 – Create the Veeam Backup Job

This part is rather standard other than the part of setting the appropriate configuration for a backup repository including cloud storage to conserve the required upload bandwidth.

After adding the VMs for the backup job, select the backup repository “CacheDriveStore” that we created followed by defining the number of restore points that we require.

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In Advanced Settings > Backup, select Incremental as recommended. Reverse Incremental would both create a new incremental backup file and cause the backup file .vbk to be partially updated for each incremental backup, needing more upload bandwidth.

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In Advanced Settings > Maintenance tab, do not enable Perform backup files health check and do not enable Defragment and compact full backup file. We want to disable these settings to limit upload traffic as both operations result in creating new versions of old backup files.

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In Advanced Settings > Storage tab, enable all the recommended data reduction options to reduce upload bandwidth requirements. Set compression level to Optimal or Extreme. Storage optimization should be set to WAN target again to reduce upload bandwidth.

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Next we will configure the backup schedule to start the backup just before midnight every weekday. Assuming the backup job take less than 2 hours, we set VeeamCacheShare upload schedule at 2AM from Tuesday through Saturday.

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Review the summary and click Finish to complete the backup job.

 

Part 5 – Run Backup

There are two parts of running the VM backup job – Veeam Backup and CloudNAS Archive. Veeam Backup refers to the backup operation performed by the Veeam backup proxy server. At the scheduled backup intervals, the proxy server reads from the VM datastore and compresses and writes to the CacheDrive.  CloudNAS Archive refers to the snapshot and upload operations performed by the CacheDrive. At the scheduled upload intervals, CacheDrive takes a snapshot of the Archive Share and uploads the backup files to the cloud.

Local Backup Window and Cloud Upload Window

In most situations, the upload bandwidth is limited. So care should be taken to make sure upload is allotted enough time given the size of the backup files. After the first run, we can estimate the time required for a full backup. Based on that, we can set the upload schedule for the CloudNAS Archive share. Archive Share upload is based on snapshot so it is OK to schedule the next Veeam backup before the upload of the previous job completes.

User should schedule CloudNAS Archive so that it starts only after Veeam Backup completes. In the case that a large backup job requiring Veeam to continuously write backup files when CloudNAS Archive snapshot takes place, CloudNAS Archive will detect open files and will not upload partially completed backup files.

The following scenarios illustrate the relationship between time windows of Veeam Backup and CloudNAS Archive.

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The next CloudNAS update is supposed to have CloudNAS Archive API to interface with Veeam post-freeze hook to automatically start upload as soon as Veeam Backup is completed. Please contact Morro Data support for details.

 

Files in Cloud Storage

We can look up the backup files in the Backblaze B2 cloud storage portal. We see three types of file extensions: “.vbm” is the xml file which contains the metadata for the backup job, “.vbk” is the fullback up file and “.vib” is the incremental backup. The “.vbm” file has multiple versions because it is updated with each job run.

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File in CacheDrive Archive Share

Now let’s examine the files stored on the CacheDrive. During backup, CacheDrive will swap out the oldest files (already in cloud) to make room for new files. The cached-out files can still be seen in the CacheDrive. In Windows File Explorer, these cached-out files have an X on their file icons. The following screenshot shows the Windows File Explorer view of the files, and the first two “.vbk” files are cached-out files with an X on their file icons.

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The following icon view shows the cache-out status more clearly.

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Part 6 – Run Recovery

A restore point is created after each backup job run. Each restore point corresponds to either a full backup or an incremental backup. The following screenshot shows four restore points available for recovery.

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The following Windows File Browser view shows that the backup file for Win10-ESX1 is cached-out. We will attempt to restore using this cached-out file to show how recovery from cloud is like.

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The recovery of a VM whose backup file is still in the CacheDrive is straight-forward and fast. Here we try to restore “Win10-ESX1”, whose full backup file is already cached out. In the following recovery panel, we see 3 restore points. We pick one whose type is Incremental so to illustrate the recovery of backup files that are in the cloud only. In order to restore to this point, Veeam will need to retrieve the associated full backup file (.vbk) and the incremental file (.vib). However, at this moment the content of the full backup file does not reside on the CacheDrive.

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When Veeam tries to access the cached-out file, the CacheDrive will start downloading the file automatically. Currently CacheDrive has a built-in file read timeout limit of 90 seconds. In other words, if CacheDrive cannot provide the requested file in 90 seconds, it will return a timeout error to the application that requests the file. This time-out mechanism is to prevent some applications who cannot recover well from a long file read time. If the cached-out file can be downloaded before timeout, everything is normal. However backup files are typically large so it is expected to see timeout error after 90 seconds. We also suggest the use of per-VM backup so it is much faster to download from cloud in the case of restoring a single VM without downloading a much larger multi-VM backup file.

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When the above error “system is not functioning” appears, CacheDrive is already in the process of downloading the complete files. Every 100 mbps of download speed can download 1 GByte in 90 seconds. After the required download time, we can see that the X marks of the cached-out files are gone.

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Now that the backup file is downloaded in the CacheDrive, we can restart the VM restore operation. The following shows a successful VM restore operation.

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Disaster Recovery by downloading directly from Backblaze

In the unlikely event of a CacheDrive failure when VM needs to be restored, a replacement CacheDrive can quickly sync all cloud data to itself. After this initial sync, all files are in the cached-out state. When waiting for the replacement CacheDrive, all backup files can be accessed and downloaded from the Backblaze portal either directly or using a third-party tool. 

 

Summary

In this guide, we have performed VM backup and recovery using Backblaze B2 object storage with Morro Data CloudNAS. A CloudNAS CacheDrive was used as the backup target to keep recent backups on premises for fast recovery as well as upload all backups to B2 cloud storage. We present the following system diagram again for the summary.

 

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In this guide we demonstrate that the combination of CacheDrive and Backblaze B2 satisfies the following requirements for VM backup to cloud:

  1. All backups are saved in the cloud for reliability and scalability
  2. Recover recent backups from fast local storage
  3. Simple IT for managing the backup repository
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