PHD Virtual Backup for XenServer

I’ve been contacted by this software vendor to try out their product and make a review, I’ve been interested because I’m always looking for new software, tools to bring to our customer’s offer and complete the option available to backup virtual infrastructures. I know PHD Virtual systems company and what they do but I never had a chance and time to check out their stuff.

In an upcoming blog I will try their Citrix XenDesktop monitoring solution and check what this product can bring to a XenDesktop infrastructure.

For this backup software I won’t be able to go very deep and test everything I would like because my lab is not that big and I don’t have access right now to a biggest environment but as soon as it’s possible I will deep dive into this backup solution. Few month ago I wrote a blog about backing up your VMs using OpenFiler and I will do the same kind of blog to check if using PHD Virtual Backup for Citrix XenServer is a good solution if you have XenServer platinum licenses or if you don’t.

FIrst let’s check what you got with different XenServer editions :

You can click on the image to make it bigger (in fact you can click on any pic on to make it bigger 🙂 ) and as you can see, the “Automated VM protection and recovery” is now available from the Enterprise edition (needed to be platinum with XenServer 5.6) And Citrix mention that bellow this edition frame : [1] Automated VM protection and recovery is only available for the Advanced and Enterprise editions in the 6.0 release and later.

You can check the XenServer edition page at Citrix website here : link

What is Automated VM Protection and Recovery ?

Utilizing an easy set-up wizard, administrators can create snapshot and archival policies. Regularly scheduled snapshots help to protect against data loss in case of a VM failure. The policies established are based on snapshot type, frequency, amount of historical data that is retained, and an archive location. Recovering a VM is completed by simply choosing the last good known archive.

This is very easy to use and does it’s job integrated in XenCenter administration console. I use this feature to backup all my VMs on my lab but I must admit this is a very basic solution for a basic need and it takes a lot of time.

XenServer’s VM Protection and Recovery (VMPR) feature provides a simple backup and restore utility for your critical service VMs. Regular scheduled snapshots are taken automatically and can be used to restore VMs in case of disaster. Scheduled snapshots can also be automatically archived to a remote CIFS or NFS share, providing an additional level of security.

VM Protection and Recovery works by having pool-wide VM protection policies that define snapshot schedules for selected VMs in the pool. When a policy is enabled, snapshots are taken of the specified VMs at the scheduled time each hour, day or week, and, if configured, the snapshots can also be archived automatically. Several policies may be enabled in a pool, covering different VMs and with different schedules.

Of course there is no compression, every time this is a full snapshot which is copied but the option exist and it can be very helpful.

Now the core of this blog to “compete” with the built-in feature included in XenServer, PHD Virtual Backup for XenServer.

How does it work ?

I won’t invent anything, everything is well explain in their User guide : link I will just extract the essential :

  • When a backup is run, the PHD VBA (PHD Virtual Backup Appliance)  first reads the target VM metadata and creates a snapshot.

  • Next, the virtual disks created with the snapshot are attached to the PHD VBA as new virtual disks and the snapshot is removed.

  • The data is then deduplicated, verified, and compressed and sent to the defined backup storage location.

  • Finally, the virtual disks are detached from the PHD VBA and removed.

The PHD VBA is cool 🙂 I mean I don’t know anything in backup software, I left it behind a long time ago with ArcServe 6.5 with tape DAT / LTO etc… Now today we have customer that want to virtualize everything but almost every time think at the end (often too late) that they might need a backup solution for their virtual environment because all their virtual stuff sits on physical servers and fire can still burn everything to the ground ! And water can still be very wet !

Let’s go through the installation of PHD Virtual Backup for XenServer.

Every time I write or say “Let’s go” Dora the Explorer picture popup in my mind because my daughter like her a lot 🙂

PHD Virtual give in the file you can download from their website a XenServer appliance. Which means there is zero installation to do. Just import the PHD Virtual Backup appliance to your XenServer host and start it. I really like it, this is simple, it’s up an running in less than 1 minute, it needs to be setup still but you don’t have to worry about database or some other prerequisite to have your backup solution online.

The XenServer Virtual Appliance (xva) file size to import is 1.66GB, it takes 1 vCpu and 1Gb of memory.

Once this appliance is started, you just need to configure it and again, my geek (dark) side always take over and make me do things and clicking everywhere before reading the F manual (RTFM philosophy) but everything went well because that was very simple to set everything up. My ArcServe nightmares faded away instantly !

The PHD VBA is running and if you open your XenCenter to check the console you’ll see that :

There is red, I don’t like it but it means it’s not configure yet. So I checked the IP address of the new appliance and went to browse with my favorite internet browser on the PHD VBA IP address on the 443 port (https). You can download and install the “client” to connect this appliance and begin the setup.


This is a Windows client (msi file) and once installed the configuration begin, let’s go (Dora the Explorer again) though the configuration:

XenServer IP adress and credentials to enter
The console is opening and two options appears in red and need to be configured
By just following the tab, one by one let's configure everything
The backup storage tab is where you chose you remote backup location (NFS, CIFS or attached virtual disk)
In the network tab, you can specify network settings for the appliance
The email tab give you the possibility to send email notification on 3 basis, error, all or critical using smtp
Retention tab, you can plan and chose the retention you want to use for you VM backup
Replication tab, i will cover this feature in a next blog
Use the Connectors tab to enable the Backup Data Connector (BDC) share, which allows you to export backups directly from the PHD VBA.
Support tab to enable disable debuging and having verison number used for PHD Virtual Backup products

And that’s it 🙂 My PHD Virtual Backup for XenServer appliance is ready to backup. BAck to the dashboard everything looks neat :

New job creation to backup my essential VMs :

The backup job is done and schedule.

While running you can watch a detail of the running job thread by thread and some interesting numbers like deduple ration in real time.

Here is an example of an email notification generated by PHD Virtual Backup for XenServer :

PHD Virtual Backup for Citrix XenServer (
Job Name: 'Backup Job Name'
Job Summary:
Started: Fri Jan 20 10:49:43 2012
Ended: Fri Jan 20 16:50:04 2012
Total VMs: 7
Total Disks: 8
Successful (no warnings, no errors):
2) VM: 'SUOMIDC01'
3) VM: 'WIN2008R2'
4) VM: 'Win7_XD5.5_Template'
5) VM: 'WinVista_XD5.5_Template'
6) VM: 'WinXP_XD5.5_Template'
7) VM: 'XenApp6.5_Template'
Successful (with warnings): None
Failed: None
Cancelled: None
Stopped: None
Verify option: None
Backup type: Now
Quiesce: No
Backup powered off VMs: Yes
Ignore virtual machine skips: Yes
Archive backups: No
Job Details:
Warnings: None
Errors: None
Virtual Machine Details:
1) VM 'SUOMICAG01'; Result: Completed Successfully
Disk: '1'; Size: 2 GB
Disk: '0'; Size: 10 GB
Warnings: None
Errors: None
2) VM 'SUOMIDC01'; Result: Completed Successfully
Disk: 'SUOMIDC01 0'; Size: 179 GB
Warnings: None
Errors: None
3) VM 'WIN2008R2'; Result: Completed Successfully
Disk: 'WIN2008R2 0'; Size: 24 GB
Warnings: None
Errors: None
4) VM 'Win7_XD5.5_Template'; Result: Completed Successfully
Disk: 'SUOMIWRK01 D'; Size: 8 GB
Warnings: None
Errors: None
5) VM 'WinVista_XD5.5_Template'; Result: Completed Successfully
Disk: 'PERSONA'; Size: 10 GB
Warnings: None
Errors: None
6) VM 'WinXP_XD5.5_Template'; Result: Completed Successfully
Disk: 'PERSONA'; Size: 10 GB
Warnings: None
Errors: None
7) VM 'XenApp6.5_Template'; Result: Completed Successfully
Disk: 'PERSONA'; Size: 12 GB
Warnings: None
Errors: None

I did a small test to compare backup time for 220Gb of VM to my Nas and compare time XenServer with the build in feature VMPR took and compare it with PHDVirtual Backup for XenServer.

The result is obvious, VMPR XS feature take a snapshot and copy the full snapshot to the NAS and XS is doing it everytime, PHD Virtual Backup for XenServer is compressing and sending small data block to the NAS and just backing up the differential for the 2nd backup. Only the first complete backup took long time, then the backup time is divided per 3. Those are lab at home result but it show the difference between a build-in feature and a real backup solution, you can easily imagine the impact long and full backup can have in a production environment.

I think this is a good backup solution for SMB and Large company, very easy to setup and maintain, you don’t need to be ArcServe all version certified to understand how this software works and performance are ahead of the one deliver by the build in feature of XenServer. For the large company I still need to read about high availability etc but I won’t blog about it since it’s a bit out of my vPlayground.

If you don’t have time to test PHD Virtual Backup for XenServer, I hope this blog gave you a good insight and encourages you to check further about this solution.


PHD Virtual Backup 5.3 for XenServer product page : link

Citrix XenServer editions : link

XenServer Automated VM Protection and Recovery doc : link

PHD Virtual Backup 5.3 User Guide : link


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