As I.T. professionals we have all heard the horror stories of companies who did not heed the warnings. They figured it would never happen to them and so they neglected to get their backups in order, consequently they paid a steep price when something went wrong.
In early January 2009 popular blogging website journalspace, in business since 2002, was forced to close down. Tampering from a disgruntled ex employee and the lack of a working backup system spelled disaster for the company as database files for the website were lost in the blink of an eye. The blogs and articles hosted on the site by tens of thousands of online users simply disappeared. Shortly thereafter journalspace, which averaged 14,000 visitors per month, put its domain name up for sale.
Today’s businesses face many challenges. They must deal with bigger data volumes, increased file size, faster network speeds and more stringent recovery time objectives. If all of that weren’t enough, there are an ever growing host of external and internal threats to their precious intellectual property. A functional backup solution has never been more important.
Two popular solutions on the market today are Symantec Backup Exec 12.5 and Computer Associates (CA) ArcServe Backup 12.5. Setting a backup solution in place (or upgrading) can be a complicated and confusing process; fortunately these two software giants have you in mind. To ensure that your company gets the biggest bang for the buck I.T. decision makers must at a minimum take into account supported environments, performance, ease of use, installation and cost. So here is what you need to know:
What is supported?
With both Backup Exec and ArcServe you will get industry standard support for the full portfolio of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 products as well as Hyper-V and SQL 2008. VMware infrastructure is also supported. From the server, you can backup (to tape or disk to disk) any Windows, Apple, Linux, UNIX, or Netware machine; or connect to SAN (storage area network) environments if required. ArcServe supports the backup of 32-bit and 64-bit Oracle databases. Backup Exec of course has full compatibility with all other Symantec products such as Enterprise Vault and Endpoint Protection. CA boasts connectivity between ArcServe and the highly innovative business continuity and disaster recovery of the XOsoft family of products.
Due to recent changes in the overall network data landscape support for full virtual server replication became the big upgrade in these latest releases. The recent trend in Microsoft based networks toward Hyper-V virtual server technology has introduced a whole new set of potential problems such as increased risk of human error and more frequent hardware issues due to the increased loads. Hardware failure has more of an impact when not just one server goes down but a group of virtual servers which are hosted on that one piece of hardware. Both CA and Symantec realize that because of its inherent cost savings and increased efficiency that companies are sure to lean toward server virtualization more and more in the future. Therefore the latest generation of backup software needed an effective methodology for recovery of not just the individual virtual servers but the entire host machine as well. Both are capable of this feat.
It’s also critical that your tape device and/or robotic libraries be compatible with the software. Both companies have published certified device lists to help you ascertain whether or not you need to upgrade. They can be found through the following links.
Note that specific hardware device drivers are also available.
Best practice is to install storage device hardware before you install any backup software. Also be sure to have at least 1GB of disk space available on the server for installation and minimum 1GB of RAM.
ArcServe installation is quick and easy with the express option. This option installs the stand-alone server, the Windows client agent and also automatically detects what else already exists in your environment and then adds the required agents, such as SQL or Exchange without requiring any input from you. A custom installation type is also available that allows you to tailor ArcServe to your unique environment by manually specifying agents or even rerouting the default installation path itself. The setup will search for SQL Server, if it is not found the 2005 Express Edition will automatically be installed or if required there is the option to specify your own existing full version of SQL.
Although Backup Exec comes with a handy pre-installation environment check which analyzes your system for compatibility so that you can avoid headaches down the road, installation is slightly more complicated. After entering your product key and the typical EULA page, you have to configure device drivers and connect to your SQL database. There is however an option to install the SQL Express 2005 version if you need it. Specific agents are added after the fact by running a separate installation.
Performance, features and use:
In addition to more complete virtual server protection capabilities, Backup Exec 12.5 comes with Continuous Protection Server (CPS) to reduce overall time spent backing up. You can backup files to disk automatically, on the fly, as they are created for nearly real time results and recovery points can also be automated. On average 75% of a company’s intellectual property is stored in email therefore Backup Exec also uses CPS for exchange allowing administrators to restore email to a specific date and time, as recent as 15 minutes ago. With 12.5 there is no more need for mailbox backup and it eliminates daily email backups all together through continuous protection. Symantec adds value to data backups with its security expertise through integration with the ThreatCon global cyber security threat level indicator. This is a proactive way to protect against security threats by allowing you to easily set automatic backups to run based upon current ThreatCon levels.
With Symantec backup jobs are created simply by following these four steps. First the source data is selected, then the backup device is selected, next you must choose a backup method (complete, incremental, differential, etc), then the final step is to schedule when the job will run.
Backup Exec has been known to perform slower than its competitors however version 12.5 has made improvements and CPS increases restore speed by leaps and bounds.
After Golden Temple CEO, Kartar Singh Khalsa upgraded his Oregon based granola company to Backup Exec 12.5 he reports a backup success rate of close to 100 percent. “It’s rare that we have a backup fail,” he says, “though sometimes a backup will complete with exceptions. We’ve never had to recover a server or even Active Directory items. As a result, figuring ROI is difficult, but peace of mind is great.”
Computer Associates ArcServer 12.5 comes packaged with an integrated and unique de-duplication technology. This is major enhancement to data backup. In any given network, disk volumes can contain thousands upon thousands of duplicate data entries. As data is created, distributed, backed up, and archived, these duplicates get stored across all of your storage tiers; the end result being wasteful usage of expensive data storage resources. ArcServe de-duplication helps to eliminate these redundant data objects giving you more space to work with and reducing cost of ownership. Your tapes or disks will last longer and you can maintain the data longer. Less data to backup means faster performance.
Backup jobs in ArcServe are as easy as one two three: choose source data, decide where it’s going to be stored and then schedule the job. The centralized management console allows you to view and choose from any live source, whether it is a Windows, UNIX, Linux, Macintosh, or NetWare all from a single well designed interface.
In terms of speed, CA has consistently out performed its competitors in lab tests with better read/write and tape access benchmarks.
In the wake of hurricane Katrina, ArcServe was implemented as a part of the Lousiana Supreme Court’s disaster recovery program and became a critical component when hurricane Gustav crashed ashore three short years later. Here is what I.T. manager Peter Hass had to say: “We needed a replication fail safe solution and we tested a lot of products. At the time there weren’t many. We picked CA’s and its very intuitive CA XOsoft High Availability software because it represented best practices. It was a complete package, not piecemeal. In addition, CA is a Microsoft partner so we knew we wouldn’t need to take anything off the server if we had a problem with it. ArcServe is very clean and robust; its ease of use was how we gauged the product.”
As with any I.T. solution these days, price point is invariably of interest, unfortunately backup software is more complicated than most. Here is the breakdown:
Symantec has an online store so you can buy direct and you can even download the product upon purchase confirmation. All products include a minimum of 12 months essential support. Flexible financing and payment options are also available. Symantec’s website also has a comprehensive and handy wizard that you can step through to help you choose your licensing configuration. For Example:
No SAN, 1 DC running Active Directory, 1 Exchange server, 1 server running Sharepoint services, 1 file server, 1 SQL server. 2 tape libraries, 5 tapes in each and a 2 year 24×7 maintenance contract.
The total for all of the core software and the required agents plus support for each comes to grand total $18,766.18.
Give the product configuration wizard a try for yourself. http://productadvisor.symantec.com/app/en/US/adirect/symantec?cmd=catParametersToConfig&productID=14348071&Quantity=1
Computer Associates has simpler pricing but does not have an online store, customers are instead directed toward resellers such as CDW, Insight and Softchoice. CA also offers a purchasing method called OLP (Open License Policy) in which you can buy the licenses without having to buy the box software first; there is no need to forecast future purchases and you can install trial versions and then activate them without reinstalling.
Basic backup with one server, email backup capability and 3 years enterprise maintenance and support runs $4,419.99. Licensing for other agents is also available.
Even after adding in agents and extras ArcServe will be probably end up being a little bit cheaper.
See the selection here: http://www.cdw.com/shop/search/results.aspx?key=ARCserve&SortBy=PriceDesc&searchscope=Al
Recently Imation Corp surveyed more than 200 IT professionals from small and mid-sized businesses regarding the state of their backups. The study concluded that only 35 percent of companies perform regularly scheduled testing and evaluation of their storage backup systems, that leaves 65% of companies in the lurch.
It is clearly time to get in the game, or if you already have a backup system in place, a regular review is in order to make sure that it is functioning optimally.
The difference between these two robust backup solutions comes down to ArcServe’s de-duplication versus Backup Exec’s virtual real time CPS. Both are emerging technologies and show much promise for future releases. Both feature extremely granular backup and restoration options down to the single file level. Also both have done a respectable job of bringing virtual server support into their suites. In the end the size of your environment may be the deciding factor, less data may lend itself to the more contained ArcServe with its built in email backup capabilities whereas larger enterprises will benefit from having their backup data live and having more agents available to them. ArcServe is cheaper but Symantec is a leader in the field. The advantage to Symantec products is the breadth of what they offer and the seamless integration between their solutions. Products such as online storage and Protection for Endpoint can be harnessed from within the backup exec console. Symantec is arguably more complicated to use and installation and setup can become a hassle at times but there is always adequate support to help you through the process.