Some basic / noob questions about VMware and backup

Hello VMware people!

I’m an IT guy with nearly 20 years of experience (started getting paid for IT as a student employee in college, and that was almost 2 decades ago). I spent several years at an MSP, and then about 13 years in an enterprise… but somehow managed to not do a lot of VMware work at that enterprise (the place was MS-centric so our virtualization started out with HyperV, and then later moved to Nutanix). I’ve had a couple one-off ESXi boxes over the years running vendor appliances that they wouldn’t support in other hypervisors, so I’m at least familiar with some basics of operation / etc. But I’ve never had a vSphere Server, and I’ve never had to deal with backups.

I’m in a situation now where I get to plan and implement a greenfield IT deployment (it will be the “back of house” systems at an ISP – think DNS/RADIUS/LDAP, customer billing system, and a bunch of monitoring stuff like LibreNMS/Zabbix/Grafana/etc).

One of the options I’m considering (due to cost pressure from my boss) is a shared-nothing VMware cluster using 2-4 standalone boxes, running on used/refurbished hardware [yes, ick, I know]. The company is a nonprofit, so I can get VMware licensing pretty cheap through Techsoup.

But if I’m running used gear, I sure as hell want some sort of backup in place. I know I should be able to migrate/copy VMs between the two hosts if they’re clustered… is there anything else I can do cheaply/free, without involving some piece of backup software? I.e. if I drop in a NAS and share it to both boxes, can I schedule regular copies of a VM over to the NAS? Or does anything other than a vMotion require some sort of backup software?

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  1. Our place used a Synology NAS for a project that had minimum budget, it’s got free backup software where you literally point and click at the VMs on the vCenter and it will backup to the NAS… it’s certainly not an enterprise solution but it works! Might be of use to you ?

  2. vSphere Replication can replicate VMs within your environment. That said, recovery is not straight forward if you lose vCenter or your replication appliance.

    Synology Backup for Business will back up, using CBT, VMs running even on the free version of ESXi. I tried it. It actually works!

    Veeam has a Community Edition.

    Iperius can also backup VMs from the free version of ESXi.

    I think shared nothing is an approach you’d eventually (quickly?) regret. Shared storage is amazingly useful, which explains the Frankenstein-like entities that are vSAN/VSAN (VMware/StarWind).

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