Among the widespread use of virtual machines, Hyper V is a popular choice. Therefore, with such a wide pool of users, there is a correspondingly wide selection of paid or free Hyper V backup tools that offer backup capabilities, recovery services and a long list of other related features and options.

With such a wide variety of VM backup solutions, it can be surprising that not a lot of people are aware of the backup and recovery solution that is included in Windows Server 2012 and its newer versions. The fact that this built-in solution is also quite good for basic backup needs, with barely any configuration may come as an even greater surprise. Using this as a main backup solution for a large company is probably not a good idea, but it can work relatively well as a secondary option.

The solution in question is called ‘Windows Server Backup’. You should be able to install it as an additional feature from the Server Manager. The basic idea of the backup for VMs, for both Windows Server Backup and third-party free Hyper V backup tools is that a snapshot is created to preserve a specific state in time of a VM and then store it.

With the proper configuration you can also work with cloud backups using this solution. But for the sake of simplicity we discuss local VM backup processes here.

The first step is to launch the app in question. Then you have to right-click the “local backup” line that lets you see a number of options, including “backup once”, “scheduled backup”, and more. For this example we’re choosing “backup once”.

  1. The first window after clicking the “backup once” line lets you decide if you want to use scheduled backup or not, along with a few other options. The entire process is necessary since we’re not dealing with pre-configured processes yet. Click “Next” to continue.
  2. The second window is the way for you to choose specific areas that you want to be backed up. Since this topic is about VM backups, we’re choosing “Custom backup” here.
  3. The next window after choosing the “custom backup” option allows you to choose specific parts of your system that you want to create a backup of, including VMs. Choose the necessary VM before continuing.
  4. The final step of this process is all about choosing the target destination for your backup. After that the process of setting up everything is pretty much done and you can finally initiate the backup.

Surprisingly enough, a lot of users prefer to interact with this backup system via command prompts, not the graphical interface. It is somewhat understandable since the graphical interface only allows only one VM backup process at once and each new task overrides all of the previous ones, as well.

Here’s a few examples of the command prompts for various needs:

  • wbadmin start backup –backupTarget:C: –hyperv:”Server 1″

This one allows you to create a copy of your VM called “Server 1” to create a backup and save it at your disk C:

  • wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:\\192.168.2.15\HVMback: -hyperv:”TestVM01,TestVM02″ -allowDeleteOldBackups -quiet

This one is about backing up two (or more) VMs at once, and when you want your future backups to be saved in an external NAS storage (network-shared folder).

  • wbadmin get versions

This command allows you to get a list of backups that were already created in the system.

Windows Server Backup may seem simple enough, although there are quite a few things to think about before choosing it as your main backup solution:

  • Managing more than 3-5 Hyper-V installations is quite tedious;
  • Scheduling backups is somewhat difficult due to the heavy load on the servers that they represent;
  • There’s no way to monitor backup progress or to check the backup consistency;
  • Automatization level is nonexistent – you have to copy and paste everything manually if you want to recover a specific app state or a specific file.

Windows Server Backup is a pretty good backup solution for its purpose, all things considered. However there are some free Hyper V backup solutions that can offer far more in terms of customization and user friendliness. One such solution is Bacula Community. Bacula is a very deep and broad backup and recovery solution, and therefore is usable as a free Hyper V backup solution. It offers a large number of features that are quite impressive for a free open source solution.

Let’s go over the Hyper V backup creation process with Bacula Community. The first step is to create a file set.

One important thing you’ll have to remember is that you have to put “/” instead of “\”. Now we’re using webmin to create a file set.

After logging in to webmin, click “file sets”. The next page (called “File sets”) allows you to choose “add a new backup file set”. Now you have to fill out all of the required information, including manually typing the paths since the backup in question is not on the local machine. The list of fields includes:

  • File set name;
  • File path to your Hyper V VMs (with “/”s);
  • File signature type;
  • Files and/or directories to skip (it is recommended to skip *.bin, since they are not needed specifically and you’ll get a lot of unneeded errors in the log with them included);
  • Compression type of your choosing.

Next you’ll just have to finalize the file set creation by clicking the “Create” button.

File set creation is an essential step in creating an actual backup job with Bacula’s free Hyper V backup software. The backup job creation process is quite similar to the file set creation, you’ll have to choose the “backup jobs” category first in your Webmin client, and click “Add a new backup job” in the following window. Now you need to add some more information about your backup, including:

  • A name for your backup job;
  • Double-check if your job is enabled or it won’t run in the first place;
  • Default type;
  • Job type (here you’ll have to specify that it’s a backup);
  • Backup level (either Incremental or Full, and your pre-created schedule would be checked to see if you actually need a full backup);
  • What client you’re backing up;
  • What file set you’re using for this backup;
  • What schedule you’ll be using (important for defining the time after the last full backup, and for some other things);
  • Where you want to store your backup;
  • What volume pool you’ll be using;
  • Log messages destination;
  • Your backup priority (the lower – the better);

After getting everything ready, you’ll just have to press “Create” to finish the process.

Testing your backup job is, of course, important too. Click on your newly created backup job and choose the “run now” option. You’ll get a lot of log options, and everything ends with the “Termination: Backup OK” line.

That about sums up the general process of using Bacula Community’s free Hyper V backup software to create a Hyper V backup. This software has quite a relatively huge range of options and it is certainly a good backup solution, even if you only need to backup Hyper V VMs.