First look at Veeam Endpoint Backup BETA

As a blogger writing about Veeam software I was invited to participate on the new BETA program for Veeam Endpoint Backup a few days before public BETA will be available. So let's have a look at this new tool from Veeam.

Endpoint Backup (VEB) is a free to use tool for backing up endpoints aka clients. VEB is not written to be used in virtual environments as Backup&Replication is but rather to be used on physical systems like laptops, desktops and even servers. The hardware is negliable as VEB runs as a Windows process and thus only requires one of the supported operating systems. Currently all Windows versions with at least Windows 7 kernel (including server OS) are supported.

Beside the main product binaries the installer installs a localdb version of MS SQL Server 2012. This is a special, ressource-minimized version of SQL Server that is used to store all required information (e.g. configuration, schedules, backup files etc.) for VEB. Additionally there is some driver installation required for the virtual disk driver subsystem to open the backup files later. One thing to mention here, there was no reboot required after installing the product. It can be used instantly. That's because VEB only uses VSS to create snapshots of volumes and files so no additional driver layer has to be installed.

After first installation I took a look at the additional ressources needed by VEB. The SQL Server takes ~280MB of RAM, the VEB tray program that is used to configure VEB needs ~40MB and the Veeam service takes another 25MB. So in sum VEB needs ~320-350MB of RAM on my client system (Windows 8.1) in idle mode. During backup VEB spawns another process that takes additional 40MB. So plan for an amount of 400MB for VEB. Not a problem on modern clients but needs to be considered.

Setting up VEB is easy. After the installation right-click on the system tray icon and choose "Backup -> Configure Backup".  A wizard starts and asks you what you want to backup: entire system, single volumes or files and folders. This is quite common for all these kind of backup products. If you want a DR solution, choose entire system or volumes. If you only want to protect single files... no more to say here. I have to tell you at this point that you can only setup a single backup config. So you can't setup a volume based config and additionally a file/folder-based backup to be scheduled at different times. Nevertheless you can do hybrid file/folder backups that include entire volumes additional to files and folders. But it has to be configured in the same, single job.

The scheduler is quite common. You can schedule tasks to run at specific times or on specific events. These include "screen lock", "display off", "logoff" and (quite helpful) "attach a specific usb device". The last one is my favorite as I can simply attach my backup drive and VEB will automatically start a backup session. As I want to configure this action a bit more granular I can tell VEB that a backup is only created every X hours/days/weeks and not every time I attach this drive.

The first backup pass takes some time depending on the amount of data to be backed up and the CPU performance. Here VEB is the same as VBR and needs CPU cycles for the compression. You can see the status of the running backup if you choose Tray -> Control panel. In the progress view you can choose to display "time elapsed" and "data processed"

In my scrrenshot I choosed "data processed".

My first backup from my working laptop took ~25min for ~110GB of processed data. The backup file (in Veeams vbk format) was 99GB in size. A reduction of 10GB. Not that good but normal on a client system with already compressed data on it. Subsequent incrementals will take a lot less time and storage space.

You will probably see the warning on top of the screen telling me that I haven't created a recovery appliance yet. Appliance is a bit misleading as this will tell me that I haven't created a recovery medium. As I can create volume based backups I will be able to do a bare metal recovery (even on different hardware!). To do so I need a recovery boot medium and the backup file.

The boot medium will be automatically created from the Windows system the wizard is started on. This medium will include some MS diagnostic programs and of course the VEB components. Additionally all network and storage drivers (SAS,SATA,USB etc.) detect on the system will be included. If you want to do bare-metal restores you can import additional drivers for NIC and storage. These drivers will be automatically loaded during boot from the recovery medium.

As usual the recovery medium can be a flash device, a CD/DVD medium or an iso, nothing special here.

Restoring individual files (no matter what kind of backup type you choose) is simple. Goto tray -> restore -> individual files. VEB will crawl it's database for available snapshot points and provides them to you in the same way as VBR does.

Make sure your external drive or whatever backup location you configured in the backup job is available and finish the wizard. As with VBR, VBE will mount the backup file at C:\VeeamFLR\ and you can use Windows or Veeam explorer to restore items.

One additional cool feature here to mention is the full support of every VSS aware application. So even SQL servers or Exchange systems running on physical systems can be backed up in a consistent way. VBE even takes care about the transaction logs. If you need to recover items from these applications....simply use the Veeam explorers. Mount the backup file, start the explorers and point them to the C:\VeeamFLR\ folder and the database files.

Back to backup: beside storing backup files on external disks or CIFS shares, VEB allows an integration with VBR and can use VBR repositories to store backup files. And this is where it comes to the most exciting feature. Combining VEB with VBR could expand VBRs capabilities beyond the scope of virtual machines making it an even more complete backup solution for your datacenter and every single client system you have to manage.

Today, the integration isn't that complete. To be honest, the BETA completly lacks the integration but from the documentation you can see what the RTM/GA code will bring. This includes showing up the backups and schedules from the clients and statistics and history information in the VBR console. You can also do some additional tasks from the VBR GUI like enable or disable VEB jobs, copy backup files offsite with the copy job function of VBR, restore items and specify email notifications.

So today the integration is a good starting point but lacks some real cool functions like completely managing VEB clients from the VBR console or a fully transparent integration of VEBs functionality into VBR. I don't know if or when it comes. From a technical point of view this integration shouldn't be a problem but from a political/strategical point Veeam could decide to never bring this integration to market.

My first experience with VEB is very positive. The installation is easy, the needed ressources are okay, the handling is easy (especially if you already know VBR) and the feature set is incredible for a free-of-charge tool. Veeam does a great job especially with testing. The BETA will include several thousands of participants allowing them to test VEB on even very special configurations and not only on some synthetic, mainstream test systems in the lab. So stability and compatibility will probably extrem high even on GA code without service packs. For non-commercial users this tool is a must-have.

For commercial users the tool can also be used but normally data is stored centrally in such environments so standard client backup isn't a needed task. But with the functionality to backup physical servers one can think about using it in production environments, especially when it comes to smaller installations with only a few physical systems left beside the virtual world. In these cases there will be no need to have another backup program in place for the physical systems. But always keep in mind that this is not the focus for this tool and integration in VBR isn't that high so additional administrative work has to be considered.   


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