disaster recovery and backup

What if, someone in the world made a piece of backup software that actually worked? The hardened system admins, just said ‘Windows Backup’ – I heard you, and in many respects you’re right. It does a file based backup and it does it well. In some environments that haven’t virtualised, I use it because it works where everything else has failed.

We have this rant quite frequently internally, we have someone asking for us for a backup solution and we sigh. You customers and IT managers, all know this is a trick question! We don’t like trick questions…

The thing is, nobody likes Symantec BackupExec, we all fell out of love with it when Symantec acquired Veritas and decided to bloat up the product. Acronis Advanced Backup and Recovery (ABR) is an excellent concept – image based backup from the ground up, de-duplication and universal restore a tool of choice for Physical to Virtual transitions, however it really is like a cousin of BackupExec in many respects. Agents upon agents, failures for no reason and a complexity that to me, just seems unnecessary to have this in a modern backup product. Ugh, don’t get me started on support either.

It’s sad that I actually only have two write about two products and give up the will to live and want to finish this blog here, they’ve both traumatised me over the years. For those of you that have spotted the Acronis logo on the Unleashed website you’re also right – we are a reseller too!

We also resell BackupExec, ARCserve, ShadowProtect, System Center Data Protection Manager, Veeam, Dell AppAssure and PHD Virtual. It tends to bode well when a client asks us for a specific product, it’s a great relief.  There is certainly no single product that outshines another, that can take care of all your backup needs and give you a single interface to manage it all.

However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater on backups. Sure we’ve all had our experiences with Symantec, Acronis and even Windows Backup!

What is the problem with traditional backup?

Well in t’olden days we had a backup solution that took our small hard drives and streamed them off to tape. As the meercat would say, simples. After our backsides falling out on too many occasions, us IT people started demanding that we could have tools that would allow us to take care of SQL, Exchange and more. Agents appeared, continuous data protection appeared. Pretty soon we have backup tools that are nothing more than a dysfunctional bag of plug-ins that we all know are necessary, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever found someone who’s got one configured how they wanted it. I bet you IT guys all got to ‘near enough’ and said bugger it that’ll do.

Of course now, our hard drives are bigger than our tapes, we have problems for tiered storage, oh storage, my enemy. IT users don’t care about the speed of disks and why you have SSD, SAS, SATA and various tiers of RAID and SAN. They just want to be able to save bigger and bigger files. I hate them too.

Tape is now the choice for archive and disk now the choice for backup. However, Microsoft killed off tape support and this falls back onto the backup software providers.

The mess gets more and more unmanageable.


Alas our saviour comes along, virtualisation. The task of restoration is much easier, universal restore, not much of an issue. It has solved so many problems in terms of disaster recovery and business continuity in the IT worked, but created a few of its own.

First of all this was just yet another plug in for our favourite backup software to backup virtual machines. Providers like Veeam however, created a new backup software concept from the ground up, Acronis’s vmProtect also came to market and also one of ours – PHD Virtual.

However, just like the times of old, there are still some issues:

  • Not all environments are entirely virtual
  • Not all environments are vmWare or Citrix
  • You still want tape support for long term storage
  • Everyone does replication differently

Again, now you have virtualisation, you still have applications that have their data squirreled away deep inside a virtual machine – all the snapshots and replications aren’t going to avoid that.

We happen to really like PHD Virtual, as a tool for the entirely virtualised environment it is probably the best – you can see why in PHD Virtual’s Whitepaper Setting a New Standard for Performance and Value.

So what is the conclusion?

Unusually, I don’t really have one, other than in today’s modern environment there is no one best tool that will cure all of your backup-ills. No matter what you have something will be missed and not entirely as you wish. There is a lot to be said about virtualisation and replication, but will it get you your users email back that they deleted? Can you roll back your SQL tables?

Until someone invents the ‘daddy’ of all backup tools, then we’ll be always in this situation, I feel the best solution is to have a combination of tools to grab what you need.

The best way to select those tools is to start with a non-IT solution.  A risk assessment of what you can afford to lose, get the senior management within your organisation to agree with that (very important). The next stage is to cost the backup solutions based on the risk assessment, when you’re told you can’t have the budget you can at least point at the document!

This gets you away from using your own judgement and the ‘near enough’ method and puts the decision firmly in the hands of those controlling your budget who will also undoubtedly give you the most grief should disaster ever strike.  Some may call it shirking responsibility, I call it being shrewd!

Unleashed, have shared frustrations about backup and disaster recovery, we can work with you to develop a costed risk assessment of your backup requirements. Give us a call today for a no obligation chat on 0161 871 8730.