Is there any way to achieve instant VM recovery
With the popularity of virtual machine (VM) in the area of development and testing, VM backup have become a critical daily task for timely disaster recovery. When it comes to backup, recovery speed is an important consideration, especially for enterprises.
So, is there any way to achieve instant VM recovery? The answer is YES. It is a paid feature widely provided by many third-party software. But if you want to reduce costs, there is actually a free built-in way to achieve instant VM recovery as well. That is, VM snapshot.
Why snapshot restore quicker than entire VM restore
VM snapshots can achieve quick VM recovery because they do not back up the entire VM, but change the parent disk into read-only mode, and create delta disks to store all the changes made to the VM afterwards. By restoring VM from snapshots, you are just deleting the delta disks, discarding all changes made since the snapshots was created, and then bring the VM's original disk back to read-write state, instead of restore entire VM.
Improper usage of VM snapshot can lead to VM performance degradation, so it cannot replace backup. For more details you can refer to VM Snapshot vs. Backup.
In this article I will introduce how to use snapshots to perform instant VM recovery on VMware ESXi, Workstation, and Microsoft Hyper-V.
How to use snapshots on ESXi to achieve instant VM recovery
VMware ESXi is the most commonly used type 1 hypervisor that allows you to create and run VMs directly on bare metal. In this section, I will introduce the specific steps on how to achieve instant VM recovery using snapshots on VMware ESXi.
How to take snapshots on VMware ESXi
1. Access to ESXi Web Client, go to Virtual Machines page in the left inventory. Right-click on the name of the VM you want to backup, and select Snapshots > Take Snapshot.
2. In the pop-up window, provide a Name and optionally a Description for the snapshot. You can Edit them later in Snapshot Manager.
3. There are 2 more options to check:
- Snapshot the virtual machine’s memory: record the VM’s memory, allowing you to roll back the VM to the exact running state when the snapshot was taken, but takes longer. If you leave this option unchecked, then the VM will be powered-off after you roll back.
- Quiesce guest file system (needs VMware tools installed): pause the state of the processes that are running, or may modify the information stored on disk when the snapshot was taken, to guarantee the consistency. Quiescing and Memory snapshots are mutually exclusive.
4. Click OK to take the snapshot. You can see the progress in Recent Tasks.
How to revert to a snapshot on VMware ESXi
1. Access to ESXi Web Client, and right-click on the VM name, select the option according to your needs:
✦ If you want to revert to the latest snapshot: Select Revert to Latest Snapshot.
✦ If you want to revert to another previous snapshot: Select Manage Snapshots… In the pop-up Snapshot Manager, select the snapshot and click Revert to.
2. It will pop up a Confirm window notifying the loss of the current state.
If it is a memory snapshot, there will be one more option to suspend this VM when reverting to selected snapshot. You need to manually power on the VM later if you check this option.
3. Click Yes to revert to the selected VM snapshot. In Snapshots Manager you can see the current state represented by You are here.
How to use snapshots to achieve instant VM recovery on Workstation
As one of VMware’s products, Workstation is the most popular type 2 hypervisor among end users. In this section, I will introduce the instant VM recovery steps on Workstation using snapshots.
How to take snapshots on VMware Workstation
1. Launch VMware Workstation, select the VM you want to backup, and click Snapshot button on the toolbar.
2. In the pop-up window, provide the Name and optionally a Description for this snapshot. Then click Take Snapshot.
How to revert to a snapshot on VMware Workstation
1. Launch VMware Workstation, select the VM you want to revert.
2. If you want to revert to the latest snapshot: Click Revert button on the toolbar.
If you want to revert to another previous snapshot: Right-click on the VM name and select Snapshot > Snapshot Manager. Select the specific snapshot and click Go To.
3. Click Yes in the pop-up Confirm window.
How to use Hyper-V checkpoints to achieve instant VM recovery
Starting from Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V checkpoint was renamed from snapshot. Functionally, Hyper-V checkpoint = snapshot.
In this section, I will introduce the specific steps on how to use Hyper-V checkpoints to achieve instant VM recovery.
How to create checkpoint on Hyper-V
1. Launch Hyper-V Manager. Right-click on the VM name and select Checkpoint.
2. Wait for the checkpoint creating progress. When it’s accomplished, the checkpoints will be intuitively listed in the Checkpoints window for further manage or restore.
How to restore Hyper-V checkpoint
1. Launch Hyper-V Manager, and select the VM you want to restore. Operations later will be different according to different needs.
2. If you want to apply the latest checkpoint: Right-click on the VM name and select Revert.
If you want to apply another previous checkpoint: Right-click the checkpoint in Checkpoints window below and select Apply.
3. In the pop-up window, there are 4 options:
- Create Checkpoint and Apply: Create a new checkpoint to save the current state before apply this checkpoint. Then you can undo the application of this checkpoint if the operation fails.
- Apply: Directly apply this checkpoint to revert the VM to the previous state. You cannot undo this action.
- Cancel: Close the dialog box without doing anything.
- Please don’t ask me again: It is not recommended to check this option, because you don’t know which option will be chosen by default. If it’s Apply, it may cause you irreparable data loss.
Creating independent VM backup using AOMEI Cyber Backup (Free)
While creating snapshots enables instant VM recovery, relying on snapshots is a dangerous operation. It can affect VM performance, and even lead to severe data loss. Therefore, creating independent VM backups is still essential, and cannot be easily replaced by snapshots.
There are only 3 native ways capable of creating independent VM backups:
- Manually copying the whole VM folder
- Exporting VM to OVF/OVA
- VM cloning
They all have more or less some drawbacks, such as only one VM can be backed up at a time, backups cannot be performed automatically, etc. In contrast, some dedicated backup tools are more comprehensive.
Here I introduce you to a free virtual machine backup software -- AOMEI Cyber Backup. It allows you to centrally manage VMs on both VMware ESXi and Hyper-V, creating backup schedules to automate virtual machine protection.
AOMEI Cyber Backup supports paid and free versions of VMware ESXi 6.0 and later versions, as well as Hyper-V in Windows 8/8.1/10/11, Windows Server/Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 and later versions. You can click the following button to download the freeware.
*You can choose to install this VM backup software on either Windows or Linux system.
3 simple steps to create independent VM backup and restore to new locations
1. Bind devices: Access to AOMEI Cyber Backup web client and navigate to Source Device tab to add your VMware ESXi or Hyper-V host.
All VMs on the host will be clearly listed with their backup status, for monitoring and later operations.
2. Auto backup multiple VMs: Navigate to Backup Task > + Create New Task and specify Task Name, Backup Type, Device, Target, and Schedule on an intuitive page, you can quickly create a complete automatic backup task.
You can cover multiple on the host within one task. Backup files will be clearly distinguished by the VM name, backup time and type, in a folder named by the task name you specified.
3. Restore to original host: Navigate to Backup Management > History Versions and select the VM you want to restore, all restore points related to the VM will be listed on the left. Select one and click … > Restore to open the restore wizard. Specify to Restore to original location, click Start Restore.
While the Free Edition covers most of VM backup needs, you can also upgrade to Premium Edition to enjoy:
▶ Backup cleanup: Configure a retention policy to auto delete old backup files and save storage space.
▶ Restore to new location: Create a new VM in the same or another datastore/host directly from the backup, saves the trouble of re-configuring the new VM.
With AOMEI Cyber Backup you can quickly complete backup and restore tasks of multiple VMs. In addition, you can create sub-accounts with limited privileges, to further protect your VMs from others’ accidental mis-operations.
To maintain the work continuity, quick VM recovery speed and less downtime are commonly considered by enterprises.
VM snapshot is the easiest built-in way to achieve instant VM recovery, and a convenient failsafe measure. But relying on snapshots is still dangerous and may result in data loss. Therefore to avoid this situation, it is better to create independent VM backups.
In this article I recommended AOMEI Cyber Backup. It allows you to auto back up multiple VMs on a VMware or Hyper-V host with simple steps, safeguards your VM data and promotes efficiency.