How to backup VCSA to Photon OS

Backing up your vCenter Server (VCSA) is key to being able to recover in the event of a failure. VMware provides a built-in backup scheduler in version 6.7 & 7.0 of the VCSA which is a file-level backup of the VCSA’s data. Restoring the VCSA is a simple as deploying a new appliance while specifying the backup option along with the backup file location. (NOTE: This does not backup your Virtual Machines)

Setting up the Infrastructure

This article covers how to backup the VCSA to a Linux VM, or in this case, Photon OS. Windows licenses are expensive and so with Photon OS being freely available, it’s a good solution to store your VCSA (and other appliance) backups such as switches and routers. IF you already have a secure backup service in place, then feel free to use this instead.

We won’t cover the Photon OS deployment here. There is plenty of information on the Photon OS website here:

Photon OS Configuration

Login to your Photon OS VM

Create a new group

Run the following command to create a new group, I’ve named mine backup-grp

I’ve used groups so that you can create new users in the future and choose to add them to the group in order to decide if the user gets access to the backups or not.

groupadd backup-grp

Create a new folder

Now navigate to a suitable folder then create a new folder to store the backups. I’m just creating the backups folder in the root directory here

cd /

mkdir backups

Create a new user 

useradd backup-usr

Set a password for the new backup user

passwd backup-usr

(specify the password when prompted)

Make the new user a member of the new group

usermod -g backup-grp backup-usr

Make the new group (and it’s members) the group owner of the backups folder

chown root:backup-grp /backups

Now give the owner (root) and the group (backup-grp) read, write and execute permissions to the folder, but no one else

chmod 770 /backups

VCSA Configuration

Now that we have everything setup on the Photon OS side, we can configure the backup schedule in the VCSA

First, log in to the VCSA on port 5480


Navigate to Backup on the left pane

On the top right select Configure

  • Backup location: Enter the Protocol, FQDN or IP address of the Photon OS VM & the SCP port & the backup directory
    • So in my example, we are using SCP://¬† then then :22 and /backups
    • Put it all together and you get: SCP://
    • The VCSA is very particular about this format so be sure to double-check it
  • User name & Password: The credentials of the backup user we created earlier
  • Schedule: When you would like to backup the VCSA
  • Encrypt backup: This is optional but can encrypt the backup files in case you need to for compliance purposes
  • Number of backups to retain: This is going to be as per your corporate policy, I would advise setting “Retain last x backups “to a number to ensure your Photon OS VM does not run out of space. When set, the VCSA will automatically delete old backups which are outside this retention policy.
  • Data: Choose whether or not to backup VCSA stats, events and tasks. I have not done in my lab to speed up the backup process and to save some space.

This window will also show you an estimated size of how large the backups will be (at the current time)

Now select Create and as long as you don’t have any errors, you are good.

If you need to get access to the files to use them for a restore, then simply use an SCP tool on your machine. If you have a Windows desktop, you can use WinSCP to login and download the backups for recovery or testing.


You can run a test straight away after setting up the schedule by selecting Backup Now and checking the option for: Use backup location and user name from backup schedule

You can follow the backup progress on the Backup page of the VCSA:


That’s it!

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