home lab

Backup 3-2-1 Strategies for the Home Lab

Many of us are running home labs and have “critical” data or VMs that we simply do not want to lose. Would we want to lose any of this data or virtual infrastructure? Each person/home lab is different and may want to engineer their backup strategy differently. What are the options to backup our home labs similar to the way we would backup production infrastructure? What are the options for software licensing? Where do you store your backups? In this post we will take a look at backup 3-2-1 strategies for the home lab.

Backup 3-2-1 Strategies for the Home Lab

When we think about our home labs, we most likely do not have a DR facility we can take advantage of, we usually can get creative with DR strategies. For most, having a backup of our critical virtual machines is a great start. Additionally, we may want to add creating a “backup copy” as well as possibly a copy to the cloud. It is interesting to think about satisfying the 3-2-1 rule with our home lab backups. The 3-2-1 rule says we have “3” copies of our data on “2” different types of media and at least “1” offsite.
By doing this we are helping to mitigate the risk of losing both our “production” data as well as our backup data. As we mentioned above, in a home lab, how do we effectively accomplish the requirements of the 3-2-1 rule?  It actually isn’t as difficult as you might imagine to satisfy the “3” copies of data if we use a backup, backup copy, and cloud storage.  Most likely though you may not be backup up to tape which typically satisfies the “2” media types.  However, for home lab purposes, I am going to stretch the rule here a bit and call the cloud copy a “second medium” type as cloud storage is arguably different media than commodity hard drives in a whitebox server we have at home.

Backup Copies

Backup copies are a function that many of the top virtualization backup platforms today such as Veeam, Nakivo, Vembu, have available to use for creating a copy of the backup data that is pulled from production. Additionally, with most of the back products out there that do backup copies, backup copies can be stored “locally” in other words can be copied to repositories literally on the same server, another server, or even in the cloud.

In a home lab situation, especially if you don’t have a lot of extra hardware lying around, you can leverage backup copies to have another copy of your backup data even in the same server on a different raid array (will call this a converged model). Better yet, if you have additional hardware, you can provision a backup repository on a secondary server that is the target of the backup copies, so you are spreading the risk of losing backups over two different servers (more traditional model).

Generally speaking, you don’t have to have exceptional hardware for this. Older decomissioned hardware or even a couple of low power whiteboxes will suite the needs just fine.  And again, with a converged model we can use a single whitebox server with a couple of arrays for targets of both the primary back and backup copy.

Traditional Backup and Backup Copy Model

If you have a couple of servers at home to utilize for backup jobs as well as backup copy jobs, we can structure backups similar to the following.  Our “Primary” backup repository is our first target for backups coming from our “production” lab environment.  We then create a backup copy job targeting our “Secondary” backup copy repository.  Finally, we push a copy to the public cloud using cheap Amazon Glacier or Microsoft Azure “blob” type storage.

Traditional Backup and Backup Copy Model

Converged Backup and Backup Copy Model

What we are calling the “converged” model means using one server for both a primary and copy repository where we target one RAID array backed primary repository and then another RAID array backed copy repository.  Finally, we have another “copy” type job that we target public cloud storage with.

Converged Backup and Backup Copy Model

Public Cloud Storage

There are a lot of public cloud options for home including Amazon’s Glacier storage, and Microsoft Azure blob storage. Amazon Glacier is secure, durable and low-cost object storage. This can be targetted for backup copies. There are some gotchas with full retrievals that you will find in the fine print, so be sure to understand the pricing structure. Additionally, Microsoft Azure has general “blob” storage that can be used as a backup copy target. The main requirement we are satisfying here is the “1” copy offsite. If a our home burns, we lose our home lab as well as the backups of our home lab. The offsite copy in the cloud comes to the rescue in that case.

You could even get creative and play around with targeting shared folders from various cloud online storage from Microsoft or Google, i.e. OneDrive, or Google Drive (going away next year) or other “shareable” cloud file storage as a location to place backups or backup copies, etc.

Software Licensing

Many of the well known backup software vendors such as Veeam and Nakivo to name a couple have “NFR” or not for resale licenses that can be obtained for virtualization professionals, enthusiasts, or vExperts, etc. In general, NFR licenses are free licenses that can be used in a lab environment but check the vendor’s specific NFR license scope as there may be minor differences in acceptable use.  Below are the links for both Veeam and Nakivo to sign up to obtain licenses. The licenses are generally limited to a reasonable socket count that covers most home lab environments.

Veeam – https://www.veeam.com/blog/how-to-get-free-veeam-nfr-key.html

Nakivo – https://www.nakivo.com/resources/download/free-nfr-license/


Backup 3-2-1 Strategies for the home lab can include some pretty interesting strategies that home lab administrators can entertain to protect home lab data.  Home labs are and aren’t expendable in many ways.  Yes, we build them to tear down often, however, there seems to always exist a core set of VMs or other data that we treat like “production” and would not want to lose.  This above information is simply a high level thought process of how in the home lab you can and should treat backups using the 3-2-1 rule.  I know there are some very creative virtualization admins out there.  Please comment below if you have a creative process that works well which other users can benefit from.

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Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at Virtualizationhowto.com and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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