How many times have you seen vendors marketing protection for your Free ESXi deployment only to be disappointed by huge limitations in functionality or scalability? Even more frustrating are all the recommendations in the VMware Community for products that literally can’t even protect it because they need access to the VMware APIs for Data Protection (VADP).

It’s great that folks are trying to help – although some are shameless plugs from people that weren’t really listening to the key issue:

Help me protect free VMware VMs without a lot of pain.

FREE is like a revolution. You get some amazing apps for free that you used to either have to pay a ton of money for – or you had to “steal” the functionality. Take Pandora as an example – sure you have to deal with a few ads, but you get a great service and they didn’t cripple the app just because it was free.

Unfortunately, backup for free VMware is a different story. Some products are barely usable, and others are okay but still barely give you more than something you could script yourself.

Here are the top 5 backup features you shouldn’t have to miss out on just because you’re using a free product:

Scheduling

It’s tough to consider something a backup product if it does not let you actually schedule backups. However, that seems to be one of the most popular features that backup vendors restrict only to paid versions. This should not be acceptable. You want to make sure your data is protected. A big part of that is setting it up once and letting it run on a schedule so you can focus on more critical tasks.

Incremental Backups

Full backups take a long time and suck the life out of your system resources. They’re necessary (at least once), but shouldn’t be mandatory for every backup. Look for products that offer incremental and incremental forever scheduling so you aren’t so constrained on how frequently you can protect your data.

Fast Recovery

Quite honestly, recovering data quickly is not a nice-to-have for small businesses, or even home labs. It is a must have for everyone, regardless of budget. Whether you want to recover full machines or granular data, even free backup products can be found that help you do this for VMs running on free ESXi.

Cloud Integration

Cloud adoption is growing rapidly, especially for smaller businesses. These days, it is often not acceptable to have just one backup. Sending secondary copies offsite ensures confidence. It is rare to find a good, FREE on-premise backup product that lets you integrate with cloud providers. However, some are starting to go this route. Even if you’re not ready for cloud right now, it is nice to plan ahead.

Community Support

As you get more functionality in a free product, you rely on it more. Therefore, you want to make sure there is a solid community and support foundation. Most free products do not have phone or remote support so be sure to look for high quality forums and plenty of self-help tools, ideally integrated into the user interface.

It’s not easy to find the level of functionality above in a free product that also protects free ESXi. VMware doesn’t make it easy by restricting its APIs for data protection. Unitrends has made it easier to acquire this level of functionality with Unitrends FreeTM.  Feel free to download it and give it a shot. If it doesn’t meet your needs or you think there is a critical feature above that I missed, please comment here – or in our Community Forum. We’d love to hear about your experience.