Tested: PHD Virtual Backup 6.0

PHD Virtual Backup is a backup and recovery solution for VMware and Citrix environments. PHD Virtual Backup version 6 is released. We tested this new version with VMware vSphere.

What’s new in PHD Virtual Backup version 6:

PHD Virtual Backup version 6.0 contains the following major enhancements:

  • PHD Instant Recovery: Instant Recovery lets you access your backed up data right away. The VM(s) will be powered on directly from the backup storage. Instant Recovery can be used for verifying backups or when needed mission critical data immediately. 
  • Application Aware Backups: PHDVB v6.0 provides the ability to take application aware backups for any application.  Application aware backups include the ability to properly quiesce the application prior to backup, as well as perform any post-backup processes, such as automated log management (truncate, shrink, etc.).  This is done by leveraging a very small guest application called the PHD Guest Tools
  • Full and incremental backup mode: Prior to v6.0, PHDVB provides a single backup mode called the virtual full.  Virtual Full backups include source-side deduplication across all backups within a backup target.  They are very efficient for storage utilization and backup and restore speeds. There are certain configurations that are not optimized to handle the many files that the virtual full leverages.  Therefore, PHD is implementing a traditional full / incremental backup mode for those configurations such as using a CIFS share or deduplicating hardware appliance as the backup target or using 3rd party tools to copy full and incremental files off-site or to tape.
  • Email Enhancements: The enhancements include: test Email, get HTML summary reports and fewer alerts
  • Encryption: Those requiring strict requirements for backup data security can now choose to enable one of many types of industry standard encryption levels for PHD Virtual Backups.  When enabled, data will be encrypted at the file system level of the VBA to ensure that it is secure in transit to the backup target and at rest when it reaches the backup target.
  • Enhanced File Level Recovery (FLR): In PHDVB v6.0, users will now be able to select an option to use CIFS for FLR, whereby the backup will be mounted to the VBA and presented out as a CIFS share. This allows the admin to share backup data so that other users can recover files or application items.  For additional flexibility, you can also choose or ability to present backups out as an iSCSI target from the VBA so that other machines can mount the backup as a local disk.  

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What about VMware Virtual Machine hardware versions

I often get the question: “What Virtual Machine hardware version do I need?”.

It depends on the features you need. If you want for example use the “Changed Blocked Tracking (CBT)” feature, you need at least hardware version 7.

In ESX 3.x hardware version 4 is introduced, in vSphere 4.x hardware version 7 is introduced and in vSphere 5 hardware version 8 is introduced. Here is an overview of the hardware version and the features they have:

Hardware version Features Products
8 – Up to 32 vCPUs per VM
– Maximum 1 TB RAM per VM
– 3-D graphics and high-definition audio
– Smart-card reader support
– USB 3.0 devices are supported
– Improved network driver for the E1000e
network adapter, provided by VMware tools
– Greater resources are available with vCloud Director 1.5
Hardware version 8 is the default for new VM in:
ESX 5.x
– Fusion 4.x
– Workstation 8.x
– Player 4.x
7 Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) virtual device for Microsoft Cluster Service — Provides support for running Windows Server 2008 in a Microsoft Cluster Service configuration.
IDE virtual device — Ideal for supporting older operating systems that lack SCSI drivers.
VMXNET Generation 3. VMXNET is optimized for performance in a virtual machine 
Virtual Machine Hot Plug Support— Provides support for adding and removing virtual devices, adding virtual CPUs, and adding memory to a virtual machine without having to power off the virtual machine.
Change Block Tracking (CBT) support. Incease VADP backups
Hardware version 7 is the default for new VM in:
ESX 4.x
– Fusion 3.x
– Fusion 2.x
– Workstation 7.x & 6.5
– Player 3.x
– Server 2.x
4 Hardware version 4 is the default for new VM in:
ESX 3.x
– ACE 2.x
– Fusion 1.x
– Player 2.x
3   Hardware version 3 is the default for new VM in:
– ESX 2.x
– GSX Server 3.x

Considerations before upgrading the hardware version of the VM:

– Important to know is that upgrading the hardware version of the VM requires downtime!

– Virtual machines with hardware version 7 can only run on ESX(i) 4.x and ESXi 5.x. Virtual machines with hardware version 8 can only run on ESXi 5.x

– When you upgrade from virtual hardware version 4 to version 8, the upgrade is reversible if you take a virtual machine backup or snapshot before performing the upgrade.

– To automate this process, consider using Update Manager for virtual machine upgrades

– Update Manager takes automatic snapshots before performing virtual machine upgrades

– Be sure to upgrade first the VMware tools of the VM.  I you upgrade the virtual hardware before you upgrade VMware Tools, the virtual machine might lose its network settings

– Verify that all VMs and .VMDK files are stored on VMFS3, VMFS5 or NFS volumes


Steps in the hardware version upgrade process:

– Do an inventory on the current hardware and VMware tools versions. This can be done for example by using the vCenter client, RVtools utility or PowerCLI

– Install or upgrade the VMware tools (reboot required)

– Power on the VM

– Before upgrading create a backup or snapshot of the VM

– Backup the NIC IP settings with the VMUpgradeHelper.exe command. More information can be found here

– Power off the VM

– Upgrade Virtual Hardware

– Start VM  (reboot after the new hardware is discovered)

– Check if all the IP addresses are correct


Downgrade methods:

There is no button in vCenter to revert back to an earlier Hardware version. Here are two methods to go back to an earlier version of the hardware version:

– Create before upgrading the hardware version a snapshot when the VM is powered down.

– Using VMware Converter


Upgrading issues to know about:

– Upgrading virtual hardware in ESX 4.x may cause Windows 2008 disks to go offline (more information can be found here)

– After a hardware version upgrade the configuration can be messed up on  for example Microsoft ISA, Microsoft NLB clusters and RSA servers

– After upgrading a Windows virtual machine from hardware version 4 to hardware version 7, virtual NIC settings (such as static IP configuration) are lost. Make sure you backup the VM IP settings with the VMUpgradeHelper.exe command. More information can be found here



Enable and disable Remote Tech Support mode (SSH)

When you start the Remote Tech Support (TSM) service on a VMware ESXi host a warning and the following message will appear:

Remote Tech Support Mode (SSH) for the host … has been enabled


When the warning appears some Admins get a little nervous. Since VMware ESXi 4.1 Update 2 and VMware ESXi 5 the warning can be suppressed.

When starting the Remote Tech Support (TSM) service it is possible to SSH to the ESXi host.

The following script can start or stop the Remote Tech Support mode and suppress the warnings on the VMware ESXi hosts.

  Enable or Disable TSM 
  TSM-SSH Remote Tech Support (SSH) 
  Author(s): Ivo Beerens 
  PS> ./tsm.ps1

Add-PSSnapin vmware.VimAutomation.core -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

# VMware VirtualCenter server name 
$VCserver = read-host "Enter your vCenter server"
$Username= read-host "Enter the username"
$Password = read-host "Enter password"

# Connect to the vCenter server 
Connect-VIServer $VCserver -User $Username -Password $Password -port 443
# Menu
Write-Host "Choose Start or to stop the Remote Tech Support (SSH)service"
Write-Host " 1. Start Remote Tech Support (SSH)"
Write-Host " 2. Stop Remote Tech Support (SSH)"
$response = Read-Host "Select 1 or 2"

if ($response -eq 1){
get-vmhost | Set-VMHostAdvancedConfiguration -Name "UserVars.SuppressShellWarning" -Value 1
get-vmhost | Get-VMHostService | Where {$_.key -eq "TSM-SSH"} | Start-VMHostService 

if ($response -eq 2){
get-vmhost | Get-VMHostService | Where {$_.key -eq "TSM-SSH"} | Stop-VMHostService -Confirm:$false
get-vmhost | Set-VMHostAdvancedConfiguration -Name "UserVars.SuppressShellWarning" -Value 0