Synology – Active Backup for Business

Synology provides a variety of backup solutions included with their NAS appliances to enable protection across a variety of different platforms. Starting with the protection of files/folders on a desktop, virtual machines running on a hypervisor continuing right up to SaaS platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 and more.

Introduction to Active Backup for Business

ABB is an all-in-one business data protection solution, centralising protection for IT environments that include virtualised environments, physical servers, file servers, and personal computers based on the operating system DMS running within the Synology NAS appliance.

An appealing feature about ABB is the price, which is nothing. Synology does not charge a fee for installing or using ABB on their NAS appliances, meaning we can backup Windows endpoints, VMware, Hyper-V and file servers without additional software license costs. There is no license limit to the number of machines that can be protected either.

With Active Backup for Business, it’s possible to centrally manage all backup data of physical devices and virtual machines within a simple console. Data protection can even be extended by replicating backup data to another Synology NAS using Snapshot Replication. Enabling the restoration of data from secondary offsite backups when a disaster strikes at the primary site.

Which NAS Model?

A compatible Synology NAS is required for ABB, looking up the models is easy and straightforward on the Synology ABB page.

To have a better performance of global deduplication and efficiency of restoration, ABB leverages Btrfs file system on the selected models. Synology recommends to have at least 4GB RAM or more on your NAS in order to concurrently backup 10 devices at most.

The table below shows the recommended number of backed-up clients to run on supported Synology NAS models. These recommended Synology NAS models are neither a necessary requirement nor a limitation; however, to have better performance when deploying ABB, you are suggested to select a suitable Synology NAS models.

Deploying Active Backup for Business

Deployment of ABB is fast and simple, the installation process is likened to installing an app from your favourite app store. 

Starting ABB for the first time we’re prompted to complete registration with Synology, entering a valid Synology account is all that is required.

Once ABB is registered, the next step is registering the hypervisor source to ABB.

Creating a VM Backup Task

To back up VMs, a backup task, which defines how, where, and when to back up VM
data must be created.

Launch the backup wizard and select a shared folder, using a Btrfs file system as the backup destination is highly recommended. You may notice that a Btrfs shared folder “ActiveBackupforBusiness” is already available as this was created automatically after the installation of Active Backup for Business.

Next, the backup task name is provided, and the virtual machines selected for the backup task. For this article, I configured a fresh Ubuntu VM ‘ABB-VM’ on my homelab ESXi 6.7 server specifically for ABB to protect.

Concerning task settings, for an explanation on each configurable item I recommend ready the Administrators Guide for Active Backup for Business which is available from the Synology website. For this article, I left all settings at default values.

The backup task can be schedule to run manually, on a schedule or only within an allowed time period.

The retention policy can be configured to keep all versions or modified to only retain the required number based on time ranges or recent version.

Check the user/group to whom you wish to grant the privilege for performing Guest Files (Windows / Linux) Restore for the task and browsing the backup versions of the task.

After configuring all the backup settings, a backup summary will be displayed.

Restoring from Backup

ABB provides several recovery options for VMware vSphere.

Instant Restore is a feature that can quickly restart a VM directly from a compressed and deduplicated backup file to minimize the downtime of VMs.

Full VM Restore provides users to restore an entire VM from a backup file and to have full-disk I/O performance.

Instant Restore to Synology Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) The integration of Active Backup for Business with Synology Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) provides users with an alternative solution for disaster recovery, browsing and restoring application data, and upgrading test environments

Guest OS Files (Windows / Linux) Restore Guest OS files restore allows users to restore files only instead of the whole virtual machine

In this section, the demo VM will be recovered using Instant Restore to quickly restart a VM directly from the backup residing on the Synology NAS.

With Instant Restore to VMware, launch the restore wizard to restore a VM to its most recent state or to any available restore point as follows,

Select Instant Restore to quickly restart the VM by mounting a backup image directly to the hypervisor target.

Select the required restore point.

In the summary step, please check the information of the VM intended to be restored and click Apply to restore it.

You will then be automatically directed to Restore Status to monitor the restoration progress.

Viewing ESXi, the restored VM has been presented to the Hypevisor and the restored VM has been powered on.

Checking the VMDK storage location confirms the disk has been mounted via NFS from the Synology.

Summary

In this article, we saw how simple and quick ABB is to get up and running. The beauty of its zero-cost licensing means IT administrators can back up virtual machines and more without incurring additional licensing costs.

IT administrators needing a versatile backup solution whom are already leveraging a Synology will find ABB a strong contender in the small business backup space.

In a future article, I’ll be discussing Synology snapshot replication to a secondary Synology NAS offsite to ensure safe-keeping in the event of a localised disaster.

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