Options for a single server configuration

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Options for a single server configuration

Veeam Logoby satmour » Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:58 pm


In my line of work, I often work with small business, where cos constraints mean everything runs on a single Hyper-V host. A typical setup would be 2-4 VMs (perhaps a DC, file/print and one other such as app/db server or a small RDS box). The server would usually be something like an HP DL380 or ML350 running Windows Server and the Hyper-V role.

I'm looking at putting together such a solution at the moment, and this time I'd like to use Veeam. I've been looking into what would be the best setup for a single server scenario. As you'd expect, most of what you read about Veeam assumes more than server, often with a dedicated backup server.

My current thoughts are to create a separate RAID array on independent disks to act as a local backup repository. In this case, a couple of 7.2k NL SAS disks in RAID1 seems sensible. If the data size increases significantly, I can add additional disks in pairs and rebuild as a RAID10 array. Backups can then be copied to tape using a directly-connected LTO tape drive to meet the off-site requirement. All Veeam roles would be installed on the host.

The main down-side I can see to the above configuration is that if the entire server fails, the disks can't just be pulled from the server and read using any old kit. To have a chance of reading them, you'd need another HP ProLiant with a compatible RAID controller with the correct firmware version, etc. This could complicate some disaster scenarios where the entire server has died, and you'd like to restore the most recent copies of the VMs as soon as possible onto whatever kit you have available. You'd have the tapes to fall back on, but they may not be as recent as the local repository, depending on the rotation. This scenario is unlikely, especially since I'd always include a decent on-site hardware warranty for a single server setup, but it's a concern.

I appreciate that storing a server's own backups on itself isn't ideal, but compromises have to be made, and it seems to be the best option in a single-server scenario. As backups are also being copied to tape, it seems acceptable. Without that, it would be unacceptable.

I did wonder whether using a NAS would be an option, but a quick look through the forums shows lots of instances of people saying to avoid using a NAS. Is that the case for all NASes, or are some suitable? In reading the forums, I've seen suggestions that if you do use a NAS, pick one that has decent performance and can run Veeam locally, rather than writing an SMB share. Would one that meets these requirements be OK?

One a side-note, how about if RDX was being used? For this particular project, tape is more suitable, but I've worked with RDX in the past. I see Tandberg offer a solution that uses one of their NASes running Veeam as a backup repo, with a directly connected RDX drive for off-site. Seems like a good solution to back up a single server in a way that allows you to restore onto any kit that can talk to the NAS.

What are people's thoughts? Is there a better way to do this without adding significant extra cost?

Many thanks
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Re: Options for a single server configuration

Veeam Logoby MagnaVis » Sun Jan 24, 2016 11:21 pm

You know, I have a few setups like this myself (used to be more), and many clients with the same expectations. To try and make recovery as easy as possible, I usually require that they buy some low-power box (in the past, if they just can't pony up, I've offered to re-purpose an old desktop for the task) and install Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 on it. Then Veeam B&R runs on that dedicated hardware. I sometimes buy a decent Intel NIC for the system as well, and it's really way better than nothing and less than $1000 fully deployed. One huge reason for this configuration is that I can install a new Hyper-V or ESXi server on site and Veeam can do the restore directly to it, no fuss at all. If the backup device goes down, I have a spare on hand to bring on site and do backups short term (it's so cheap, and clients love stuff like that). That covers most failures.

I've got one guy that has Server 2012 R2 Standard running Hyper-V with 3 VMs and the guy hasn't bought anything else to do backups with yet. I installed Veeam on the Host (Hyper-V server) and do backups to an old Server 2003 server he had on hand while I wait for him to stop twiddling his thumbs. I think, especially in situations like this, that the client be given realistic expectations. I told him specifically that what we were doing was better than nothing, and definitely better than Windows Backup, but that he needed a separate device to manage and store his backups for me to feel comfortable saying that he was reasonably covered. He seemed okay with it, and given that it's in an email, if he gets upset because he looses data I can point him back to our conversation.

I've been taking on fewer and fewer clients that request these kinds of setups, but I understand that they are out there and having a halfway decent backup for them is better than nothing. Veeam B&R Free is my go-to for those situations, 100% of the time. I can script and schedule the backups, and a lot of time the data is so minimal that features like deduplication aren't needed to complete a backup before open of business. The real point I'm trying to make is that you do need to convince your clients to spend at least a little money on a decent backup solution. Literally all of their data is at risk, and that should be worth it. If you do your best to hand them everything for free or next to free, you are going to set a dangerous precedence. From what I've seen, small businesses seem to think that they don't have to ever spend money on IT unless a computer breaks, and then it's a minimal $300 desktop/laptop replacement. I've spent more time convincing people of why they need backups and why it should go on dedicated hardware than I have actually configuring, managing, and restoring data. But, I can also say that I've had failures on sites where people took the advice and where they didn't, and business owners do not want to be part of the later group.
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Re: Options for a single server configuration

Veeam Logoby satmour » Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:28 am

Windows Storage Server isn't something I'd considered before or knew much about. I'll look into it a bit more.

Since writing my original post, I've done a bit more research on using a NAS as a backup target. If you have a read on places like Spiceworks, there seems to be many people using units such as a Synology that seem to be happy. I'd be interested to hear what people's thoughts are on that. If you pick the right NAS, can it be adequate for simple requirements like this?

The trouble with looking for an inexpensive solution for fairly simple requirements like this is that you'll get quite a lot of "I'd never use X" arguments when actually, for a simple scenario such as this, something might be perfectly adequate. It's sorting between those and ideas that really are an all-round bad idea that's difficult. The NAS question is one of those.

As far as I can tell, storing the data on a local RAID array isn't a massive issue if - and it's a very important if - you also regularly write backups to another location (in this case tape to meet the off-site requirement). Having the local repository allows you to quickly restore in 95% of situations where there hasn't been some sort of failure of the server itself. I'd be interested to hear what people's thoughts are on that though - I could be missing something important.

It seems as though repurposing old kit is sometimes a good option, but for a lot of small business clients, the old kit is really old. With a lot of small clients, their wallet only opens up once during each IT refresh cycle. They want to be able to spend X and know it's all "sorted" for a few years. Even if it there was some suitable old kit, having a backup server that might end up needing to be replaced long before the brand-new server it's backing up isn't appealing to them.

A lot of what you mentioned about dealing with small business clients is very familiar. I'd happily push my clients to purchase an off-server backup solution to go with their single host if I knew of one that was a good fit that I could suggest each time this comes up (i.e, does the job nicely, but isn't too expensive). That's the difficult bit though. -
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Re: Options for a single server configuration

Veeam Logoby foggy » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:43 pm

Some additional considerations on the subject can be found in this thread.
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