Chris Henley Author:

Hyper-V is cool! Its technically sound and for all practical purposes has become an excellent choice for running infrastructure workloads in a virtual environment. Hyper-V is not just for test and development environments anymore. More and more businesses are relying on Hyper-V to run their production workloads like Exchange, SQL, SharePoint, and Active Directory. Production environments have strict operating requirements! Business relies on uptime and access!

So what if you were using Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 to run your Virtual Machines (VMs) and you have decided to make the move to Windows Server 2012 R2? How will you migrate those VMs? I get this question at least once a week so I decided to write the detailed answer.

For those of you who are thinking “Oh that’s easy I would simply upgrade the Hyper-V host from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2012 R2, while preserving the original file system, and then import the virtual machines to Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 R2.” That’s an excellent answer if you can accept the potential data loss and certain VM downtime associated with it. I am going to operate under the assumption that this is a production environment and the in place OS upgrade and VM import migration is not really an option. In the world of data protection we are always looking to improve our Recovery Time Objectives (RTO), and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO). In short we cannot risk downtime or data loss.

Enter Veeam Backup & Replication! This tool lets you manage the 3 challenges of migration, downtime, and data loss, and do it in a way that is Powerful, easy-to use, and affordable.

Veeam Backup & Replication is built to be used ONLY in virtual environments. Specifically Veeam Backup & Replication supports both Hyper-V (in all its editions and versions) and VMware in the same interface. As the name suggests there are 2 key functions that each of you will want to perform as part of your migration from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2012 R2.

#1 Backup your existing VMs - Veeam has built the best backup solution for virtual machines running on Hyper-V. Everything associated with the VM including the .vhd or .vhdx, binaries, settings (such as the registry entries and XML data), snapshots etc. is backed up into a single compressed and deduplicated .vbk backup file. The backups complete quickly and without the need for pausing, stopping or otherwise interrupting the operation of the VM. These backup files are completely portable and easy to recover very quickly if the need should arise. I have seen several customers accomplish migration using only Veeam Backup. J

#2 Install Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V - Complete the install of the new Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V host in your environment and then add the host to your Veeam console.

#3 Build a replica of the VMs on Windows Server 2008 R2 on the new Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V host. - Replicas are exact copies of virtual machines that are updated or synchronized with the original VM on a regular schedule. These replicas act as a point of failover and provide significant RPO benefits that do not come from backup alone. There is a great Blog post here on the process of building the replicas.

With replica VMs in place and completed backups on production storage you are now ready to complete the migration process with acceptable RPO and RTO risks. In short you have eliminated most of the downtime and data loss risk from the process of migration.

At this point the migration is easy. You can simply run a permanent failover from the source vm to the target vm and the migration will be complete without interruption to the production workload running on the VM. The best part is, it’s all wizard driven. Take the figure below, if you can find your VM and click next you can leverage the replication engine to migrate to the newer Hyper-V host:


When it comes to migrating VMs from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2012 R2 you really want the ease and power that come from using Veeam Backup & Replication.

An additional yet very important benefit of using Veeam Backup & Replication to migration VMs from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2012 R2 is that you can fail back to the 2008 R2 environment. This option goes away when you do an in place upgrade of your hosts.

It’s important to have options, and if you are like me you’ve made changes to your Hyper-V hosts and storage along the way. This may be a good opportunity to start clean with a new configuration for your VMs. Maybe you want to run VMs on SMB 3.0 shares, maybe it’s time for a CSV cluster or maybe you want to put your local storage to work for some VMs. Either way, migrating the VMs with Veeam Backup & replication makes this an easy task.

**Veeam Backup & Replication has built in support for PowerShell Scripting complete with a set of cmdlets that you can use to help you automate this process.

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3 Easy Steps to Migrate to Hyper-V 2012 R2, 4.2 out of 5 based on 12 ratings
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  • WRAR

    How about single node hyper-v 2012 vm’s in place to 2012r2, where the host server is already on 2012 R2… Is that now possible unlike 08r2?

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    • mlevkina

      I would say that if you have only one Hyper-V host, you will expirience VM downtime in any case. The classical approach is the following: VeeamZIP VMs on an external storage, upgrade the host and restore VMs.

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      • aurang zaib

        on vaeem site should be a live chat messenger for help and support to public for genral queries

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  • JS

    Does this guidance change coming from 2008?

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Chris Henley

Author: Chris Henley

Chris Henley is a Microsoft IT Professional Evangelist at Veeam focused on Technologies related to Windows Server and Hyper V. He is a published author and a regular speaker and presenter at user groups and major technology conferences around the world. He is fun and... 

Published: February 13, 2014