VMware VM Backup Strategy Approach

Novica Gijevski
Published in
4 min readJan 8


Backups are essential for business continuity. For businesses relying on virtualization to perform business tasks, having the right VM backup strategy can be a lifesaver. Luckily, there are three main virtual machine backup strategies.

Businesses will need to analyze the pros and cons of all three to determine the VMware VM backup strategy. Therefore, this guide will focus on that specifically. Namely, this guide will explain the pros and cons of all three strategies to give you all the information you need to make the right call.

So with all that said, let’s get into it.

The 3 VMware VM Backup Strategies to Choose

The world of backup virtualization is vast and filled with endless sheets of information. In addition to traditional backup methods, businesses can enlist the services of third-party solutions to perform VMware backups.

Regardless of which option you go for, understanding the ins and outs of every VMware backup strategy can save a lot of time and effort. So, let’s do that.

Backup VMware Virtual Machines and Physical Machines

The first and most common VMware backup strategy involves backing up VMs as physical machines.

Consider that virtual machines operate the same as physical machines. The difference is that VMs lack physical hardware and are instead created through a hypervisor. The hypervisor takes care of everything; you only need to create a guest operating system.

So treating guests as physical machines helps businesses understand the backup process easily. And because of that, businesses will have an easier time performing VM backups.

This method is very simple. It involves installing a backup agent on every guest operating system. The backup agent installed also allows businesses to schedule backups.

Here are the pros and cons of this method:


  • Easy to perform
  • Software-based backup
  • Can backup essential and non-essential apps to reduce backup space


  • Doesn’t protect the virtual machine
  • No way to restore a fully virtualized environment

Backup VMware Virtual Machines Through File-Based Backups

Virtual machines in VMware are stored in a VMDK file. These VMDK files contain the entire virtual machine. So naturally, one way to back up VMware virtual machines is to backup the VMDK file for each VM.

And this strategy works very straightforwardly. Since it doesn’t involve using a backup agent, you must copy the VMDK file and paste it onto another drive. Ideally, you want to use a solution that automates this process, especially if you’re handling dozens of virtual machines.

Here are the pros and cons of this method:


  • Very fast backup method
  • Doesn’t affect the guest or the apps installed
  • You can do it manually, through ESXi, or by using third-party solutions


  • No way to restore specific apps or data from the VMDK file
  • VMDK files can be quite large (containing non-essential data)
  • Slow recovery if VMDK files are large

Backup VMware Virtual Machines Using Dedicated Third-Party Solutions

The end of availability period for the VMware dedicated data protection tool, VMware Data Protection, left a void that needed filling. VMware Data Protection was a dedicated backup tool that allows businesses to migrate, back up, and copy virtual machines and entire virtual environments.

Third-party solutions work exactly as this tool. These dedicated tools automate an entire backup operation in a few simple clicks. While these solutions work differently, they operate on a similar approach.

In most cases, dedicated backup solutions offer numerous backup process types, and some even offer cloud storage for backups. Here are the pros and cons of using dedicated third-party backup tools:


  • Can perform a wide range of backups (incremental backups, differential backups, full backups)
  • Can backup virtual machines and ESXi hosts
  • Multiple restoration options
  • Offer their own dedicated backup server
  • Offer a dedicated dashboard to manage VMware backups


  • The wide range of backup tool options makes it difficult to settle on the right one
  • Not every tool is as good as the next
  • You will need to do your research to figure out the best one for your organization

Due diligence is essential when choosing third-party backup software for your VMware vSphere environment. Therefore, this strategy involves doing plenty of research, as most tools aren’t free.

With that said, third-party backup tools are specifically designed to help you protect your VMware environment. Therefore, they’re often the best approach for both small and large organizations.


VMware backups are essential when it comes to protecting data from your virtual environment. Regardless if you’re handling a single VM or dozens, backups are considered essential for business continuity. After all, the last thing you want is to lose the data stored on your VMware virtual machines.

Luckily, there are three strategies to choose from: backup VMs as physical machines, file-based backups, and third-party tools. All three work excellently, but you will need to figure out the right one for your needs.



Novica Gijevski

Novica Gijevski delivers unmatched reliability and is a well-experienced professional for business with an indicated performance record.