Backing up a virtual machine to the cloud

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Any virtual machine will be large, probably >10 GB and it changes regularly. To back it up to the cloud I would ideally use a block level back-up solution. That way only the changes get synced up.

The catch is that a block level back-up solution needs an agent at both ends and as far as I can establish OneDrive, Dropbox and GDrive don’t have this. They will upload the whole file if only 1 byte changes.

There are real cloud back-up solutions that will do this, Mozy and Carbonite are the leading vendors but they are very expensive (over £ 100 per year) and Carbonite definitely has a 4GB file size limit on its consumer plans.

What we need in free, block-level backup for big files. It needs to be delivered by a utility storage provider and that means OneDrive, Dropbox or GDrive. In IT everything comes to he who waits so I expect them to do it eventually.

Meanwhile the simplest way to do back-ups is to split the VM file into smaller volumes using 7zip and then copy them up to OneDrive (say). The smaller volumes will bypass file limits (if any) will be copied up in parallel saving you time. The computational expense of this is such that you would probably only do it for weekly or monthly backups. This can all be scripted using the 7zip command line volume spanning feature and the file copying utility of your choice. I use GoodSync which can copy to many different storage providers.

Daily backup should be to a USB stick or local network drive. If you want to use block level backup locally then you can use GoodSync to move data between two computers and at only $ 30 for each computer this is very good value. I have a windows home server and so if it works in this environment it would be an inexpensive solution.

Warning – don’t try to sync a running VM! This will make your sync engine very unhappy. That is why you should avoid running a VM in your OneDrive, GDrive, or Dropbox folder. Ideally copy it up to the cloud using a utlity like GoodSync.

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