By Delia / Last update December 13, 2021

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Why Backup Virtual Machine?

Virtual machine provides customers a complete operating system based on virtual hardware. It is similar to real computers. And, as the number of server virtualization grows, backing up and protecting virtual machines has become an increasingly important issue. Here are two main reasons.

  • Cannot afford data loss. Asumming you have hundreds of virtual machines and never backed up virtual machine, then your losses will be incalculable once the system crashes, or other accidents happen, such as, virus attack, disk failure, hardware failure etc. Therefore, VM backup is imperative.

  • Resource management of data center is complex. To ensure that the virtual machine is always available, rapid disaster recovery and reliable fault recovery capability, you needs many skills. Therefore, this is not a wise choice, time-consuming and no-gurantee.

Is a VM Snapshot a VM Backup?

Snapshots can capture state, data and hardware configuration of a running virtual machine, so you can quickly and conveniently restore virtual machine to its previous state. The data files are stored as .Avhd files and it will take up much storage space if you create multiple snapshots. 

Then, many users are advised to create a VM Snapshot for virtual machine, such as, VMware, when using a virtual machine. As a result, they started to treat VM snapshot as a backup, just like the system restore point in Windows 7/8/10. But this is not the case.

VM snapshots work in a "chain", that's to say, it relies on the base virtual disk infrastructure and delta disks in place to reflect the current virtual machine state. What's worse, if any of the disk in the chain is damaged, the whole chain becomes damaged. 

Also, VM snapshots have some disadvantages. First, you cannot go back to the current state of your machine. Second, you cannot simply restore individual files, or data/system partition, it's limited to entire machine. Third, increasingly number of snapshots make LUN to be locked and decrease the performance of a VM.

What Is a VM Backup?

Now, you probably know that the VM snapshot is not a backup. Then, what is a VM Backup? VM Backup is a process of copying data on a Virtual Machine, including the operating system, virtual machine hardware, configuration files, settings, installed program, personal data, etc.

After that, let's have a closer look below and you will get the difference between VM Snapshot and VM Backup:

  • First of all, the backup refers to image-level backup, which can compress everything on the virtual machine to a small image file.

  • Second, it can be used to restore your system or files as needed

  • Third, it usually has multiple copies if you schedule backup virtual machine. 

  • Fourth, it can be stored on different locations, such as, physical drive, external hard drive, cloud drive, NAS, etc. 

  • Last but not least, it does not rely on any part of the production infrastucture.

  • In addition, the usability and security is guranteed, so you can encrypt backup, compress backup, split backup, check backup integrity, manage backup disk space.

What Are the Best Practices to Backup Virtual Machine?

As a matter of fact, there are 2 most popular ways to backup virtual machine, namely, backup virtual machine as physical machine and perform file-based backup. So, what exactly are they? Let's have a look and find out.

Backup Virtual Machine as physical machine: A virtual machine is based on a physical machine, but works exactly the same as it and in isolation, you can use it to do anything what a physical machine can do and more. To backup it as physical machine, you just need to install a backup software on the virtual machine and schedule backup it.

File-based backup for Virtual Machime: VMware store each VM as a VM file (typically a VMDK file), so you can choose to backup these files to protect your data. It does not consume significant system resource and take a lot of time. And the backup is performed and resourced by the ESXi server.

Then, which one should you use? If you want a schedule automated way, try to backup virtual machine with free backup software. If you want an simple method that does not affect the performance penalty on the target machine, try File-based backup for virtual machine.

Step by Step  Guide: Backup Virtual Machine Effortlessly

Issues to consider when backup VM:

  • Don't backup VMware virtual machine while running or suspended, otherwise your data in that state may not be restored properly.

  • Limit the backup number of virtual machine. VMs take up too much resource usage and storage devices on a host while creating a backup for your machine, so you can delete backup files periodically.

  • Make sure your backup server and backup target have enough resources. Also take the data volumes you want to backup into consideration.

  • Use Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to backup all the transactions.

Method 1: Backup VM as a Physical Machine

This is the first VMware backup strategy to backup Virtual Machine Vmware/Hyper V/Virtualbox with free backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard. With it, you can backup disk to physical computer or other computers via network. Also, you can backup virtual machine to external hard drive, such as, USB flash drive, HDD, or SSD. The premise is to connect your drive to virtual machine in advance.

Before backing up VMware virtual machine, please download AOMEI Backupper Standard on your virtual machine and install it. 

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 1. Launch this software, click Backup and Disk Backup. Also, you can backup system, partition or personal data of your virtual machine. 

Disk Backup

Step 2. Click Add Disk to select the disk you want to backup.

Add Disk

Step 3. Select a destination to save the backup image.

>> To backup to a physical computer or other computers, please click the inverted triangle button    and Select a network location, then pitch on Add Network Location and type required info, including IP address, username and password. Then, select a shared folder as destination path. 

>> To backup to external hard drive, please click where the arrow point and click This PC to find your disk. 

Select Backup Destination

Step 4. Click Schedule to set automatic backup per day, week, or month. Then, run the backup task by clicking Start Backup.


◕ To prevent unwanted access, please encrypt the backup image during the process. To make it, click "Options" and "Enable encryption for backups".
◕ To check backup integrity, please click the Settings icon during the backup process and tick "Check backup integrity on completion".
◕ To ensure everything is included during the backup task, you can select "Backup Mode" and then "Use Microsoft VSS" under the Backup Service. And you can backup vmware virtual machine while running. 

◕ To backup only changed data and newly installed applications, it's suggested to use daily incremental backup or daily differential backup. And you can change backup interval as you like. Please at least upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional to enjoy these feature.
◕ To backup the disk without interrupting the use of computer, you could consider using "Wake up the computer to run scheduled task" at the bottom. Please set the backup time to off-peak hours, such as, midnight.
◕ To prevent insufficient disk space, you need to delete old backup images regularly with Backup Scheme (supported by AOMEI Backupper Professional). 

Method 2: Backup VM Files in Physical Machine

This is the second VMware backup strategy. Here we take VM as a file in a real computer that contains many .vmdk files. These .vmdk files can be backed up quickly, so it is easier. You can choose to copy the entire virtual machine folder and paste it to another folder. But it will be time-consuming if the file is very large.

If you don't want to waste time, you can try to backing up files with a free backup software, AOMEI Backupper Standard, for example. It can complete this process easily and quickly. And It can avoid any unwanted access by compressing it to an image file and require the image file to be restored in advance. And you don't need to run virtual machine.

Before you start any operation, please make sure the virtual machine is in a power off state. You can check the status by a virtual machine, such as, VMware.

Step 1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Standard. Then, click Backup and File Backup in turn.

File Backup

Step 2. Click Add Folder to select the folder contains all items of your virtual machine. 

Add Folder

Step 3. Select a destination path for your VM files. It can be any detected storage in Windows. 

Select Destination Path For Vm Files

Step 4. Set schedule backup and click Start Backup.

Backup Virtual Machine Files

Note: The above methods are also applied to VMware Workstation backup virtual machine, backup virtual machine hyper V, backup virtual machine VirtualBox, and so on.

Written in the end

That's everything related to backing up virtual machine. With the help of AOMEI Backupper Standard, you can backup VM in simple steps. Even more, you can customize the backup interval and backup it to any storage device, such as, external device, USB, CD/DVD, NAS etc.  It's easy, isn't it? Try it now.

In addition, it still has more useful features, including scheduled incremental or differential backup, event triggers, USB plug in, create bootable media, PXE boot tool, universal restore, encrypt, and more.