8 Pros and Cons of Hyper-V Backup using USB External Drives

Here we discuss briefly the advantages and disadvantages of using external hard drives for Hyper-V backups. The pros and cons have been reduced to the main points. If you are looking for an external hard drive backup software solution, check out BackupChain and test it out for free.
As everything in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider with all solutions on the market. We tried to summarize the most important ones relating to Hyper-V backup, because USB drives are extremely popular with our customers and SMBs in general.

Main Advantages When Using External Hard Drives for Hyper-V Backup

Fast Speed

A single modern USB 3 drive, for example Seagate’s 4 TB drive (see http://www.seagate.com/external-hard-drives/desktop-hard-drives/backup-plus-desk/) will sustain about 100 to 150MB per second reading and writing on average. That’s over 500 GB per hour, or a terabyte every two hours!
Considering that there is no RAID or other complicated technology involved, plugging in a $140 drive and getting so much speed out-of-the-box is truly amazing and incredibly convenient. Hyper-V backups are all about speed. The last thing you want is a slow backup media. Ideally, when backing up Hyper-V, you will want to stress the host as little as possible and finish backups as quickly as possible to minimize the impact on all virtual machines being hosted on the same server.

Easy to rotate

If you wonder how you could set up a simple Backup Rotation Scheme, see http://backupchain.com/Backup-Rotation-Scheme.html. USB and eSATA external hard drives are perfect to use in rotation. With a little manual labor you can set up a reliable rotation scheme for your Hyper-V backups consisting of several drives. Most customers we have use one per workday and keep only one connected at a time.
Easy to move offsite
Probably the cheapest offsite Hyper-V backup solution, DIY, is to use external hard drives and take one home at the end of the day. Because Hyper-V backups are voluminous and easily range into the many terabytes, uploading them via the internet is not an option for many businesses. Bandwidth is either unavailable or very expensive. The stone-age saying “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway” applies still today. Nothing beats the “throughput” of a USB 4TB drive in your pocket…

Low Costs

This is the favorite advantage for most: external hard drives are truly the cheapest storage media for Hyper-V backups, with the lowest per GB cost available. Considering the transfer speeds, the deal is phenomenally good and, hence, it’s no surprise that almost every office utilizes external drives for cost saving reasons.

Main Disadvantages When Hyper-V Backups Are Stored on External Drives

Nothing in life comes without a catch; External hard drives aren’t suitable in all scenarios and have some important downsides to be considered. If you plan to use store all your Hyper-V backups to USB, reflect on the points below:

Lack of Expandability

There’s no way to grow the storage inside a USB drive, unless you use Windows Storage Spaces to combine several drives together. As we learn the hard way over and over again, space is always limited. The great thing about Windows Storage Spaces, by the way, is you can combine several dissimilarly sized USB drives together, thin provision, and even RAID them. See http://www.extremetech.com/computing/112267-windows-8-storage-spaces-built-in-raid-and-thin-provisioning-for-all-the-family

Lack of Secondary Backup

USB external drives themselves aren’t backed up to a secondary backup. NAS servers can be automatically backed up and replicated to other storage media. However, you could achieve the same by using an additional task in your file backup software to move files off the USB drive.

Manual vs. Automated

USB drive rotations require some manual work as each drive needs to be plugged in and unplugged when implementing a backup rotation scheme.
External hard drives are not as reliable as network servers, which may also offer RAID and automatic replication.


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A detailed list of all pros and cons of external hard drives can be also be accessed here: 18 Pros and Cons of External Hard Drives

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