Most organizations today rely on virtualized IT infrastructures. Veeam® helps them to provide and increase Availability of critical workloads running on their systems. Due to various factors, including complex hardware configurations and regulatory compliance regulations, some physical servers cannot be virtualized, along with endpoints (workstations and notebook computers) that might not be protectable in their entirety by leveraging back-up solutions built for virtualized systems. Thus, everyday occurrences such as lapses in connectivity, hardware failures, file corruption, ransomware or even theft can leave an organization’s data at risk.

Nowadays, physical workload protection might be considered a no-brainer with so many vendors who have had established solutions for years. However, variety of choice does NOT always mean variety of quality. There are many key aspects to quality data protection and it’s hard to provide protection when some of those aspects are missing. Here at Veeam, we believe that organizations must have multiple options, not only when it comes to backup modes, but also for recovery options. The abilities to create backups of chosen granularity and restore them when needed to any suitable medium is crucial for businesses of any size.

Benefits of an application-aware image-based backups
Veeam Agents are leveraging, in principal, the same technology used by Veeam for backing up virtual workloads: image-based backups that create backup copies of each disk attached to a protected computer. This benefit enables for very fast and simple backups, as well as fast restores to bare-metal systems such as, for example, restoring to replaced hardware due to some sort of malfunction of the original computer.

For application awareness, Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows adds the same proven guest processing engine found in Veeam Backup & Replication, which helps bring the power and flexibility you need to ensure Availability for your physical Windows workstations and servers. It also:

  • Ensures that enterprise applications are discovered and quiesced during backup
  • Provides simple log backup for enterprise databases (MS-SQL and Oracle) 
  • Allows granular restores of files and applications.

Incremental backup forever with change block tracking
To avoid transferring all of the data on all disks every time a backup is performed (such as daily, for example), which would essentially be required if taking bare images of the computer’s disks without any added intelligence, Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows leverages change block tracking on each of the computer’s disks. This ensures that, after an initial full backup, only blocks that have changed since the last backup run will be read and transferred to the new incremental backup file (see Figure 1).

This technology allows for the creation of very powerful forever incremental backup chains where only one initial full backup is required. All subsequent backup runs are incremental and process changes only. Then, as soon as the first full backup expires due to the chosen retention, the oldest incremental backup file will automatically be merged into the existing full backup file, overwriting the expired blocks (if any) within.

Veeam Backup & Replication allows you to centrally manage every aspect of Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows installations. This means that local configuration management components (backup job management, user interface, restore options, etc.) will not be available locally on the protected machine because these tasks will be controlled centrally by the Veeam Backup & Replication backup server. This is referred to as the managed by backup server mode.

On the other hand, if the Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows installation package is installed manually on a physical or virtual computer not being managed by Veeam Backup & Replication, more components need to be available and configurable on the local computer. This is referred to as the standalone mode.

A third option, called managed by agent mode resembles a special mix of the two modes above and is the only available mode for the workstation edition combined with central management. Technically, you are free to choose one of the modes described above individually for each protected computer.

Central agent management and deployment

Veeam Backup & Replication offers complete control over protection of computers using Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows, covering deployment of the agent software, as well as management of agent configurations, schedules, backup targets and, of course, recoveries.

Protection groups
Two of the main goals of any central management effort in IT is to standardize configurations across many computers and to deploy, manage, control and enforce these standards in a simple way. In Veeam Backup & Replication, Protection Groups are the starting point to execute standardization tasks for all computers using Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows, both physical and virtual.

A Protection Group (PG) configures a scope of computers (= members of the PG) and defines if Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows should be installed on these members. The scope of a PG can be based on different sources as shown in Figure 2.

When using Active Directory objects as a PG source, it is possible to select container objects such as organizational units or security groups instead of (or in addition to) individual computer objects. This is a very powerful option as it follows the dynamics of the chosen container object:

  • Whenever a computer is added to the selected container within Active Directory, the PG will respect the change and the new members of the container will be processed automatically. The same applies when removing computer objects from Active Directory containers: 
  • Processing of these computers by the PG will cease automatically based on the PG’s schedule.

To add even more flexibility, exclusions can be defined within the PG to skip certain computers and/or containers from PG processing. Exclusions can also be defined for virtual machines in general (if the PG’s intended scope is physical computers only), or for computers that have been offline for more than 30 days.

To define when the computers in the scope of the Protection Group should be scanned for changes, a schedule can be configured in the PG’s configuration dialog. It also allows to select a Distribution server as part of the Veeam Backup & Replication infrastructure, which will be responsible for communication with the PG’s member computers in case the central backup server cannot or should not be contacting those computers directly. The automatic installation and updating of the Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows software components can also be disabled if needed.

Backup targets
If you are familiar with Veeam Backup & Replication, you already know that many different targets can be used to store your valuable backup data. Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows also supports a variety of configurable backup targets, depending on the management mode, as shown in Table 1.

Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows solves these issues by closing the gap that some enterprises face with large, heterogeneous environments and further enabling workload mobility by delivering Availability for cloud-based workloads.
This paper describes:

  • the main concepts behind Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows
  • how agents can be managed centrally by integration into Veeam Backup & Replication™

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Physical Servers Backup with Veeam: Best Practices and Configuration