SMB backup products embrace virtual/physical and cloud environments

Product survey: Midrange and SMB backup products bring enterprise features with ease of use and embrace virtualised environments, cloud as a target and improved deduplication.

The market for midrange and SMB backup software is driven by two -- sometimes competing -- priorities. Medium-sized companies want systems that are simple enough to deploy without specialist skills but sophisticated enough to manage mixed virtual, cloud-based and traditional environments.

Over the past year, major players in the midrange and SMB backup market, including Acronis, CA (ARCserve), EMC (Avamar) and Symantec (Backup Exec), have released significant product upgrades to try to accommodate these requirements. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to release its upgrade to Data Protection Manager later this year.

The drive for virtualisation underscores many SMB backup product developments, as vendors try to be seen as offering backup for mixed virtual and traditional infrastructures from a single application. And the gathering momentum of cloud-based backup is also driving new features in SMB backup products.

Improved data deduplication across backup products is also a feature of many upgrades, as suppliers attempt to show IT departments they can extend the return on their storage investments during a period of restraint in company technology spending.

Here we survey the main developments from each supplier in turn.


Acronis shipped Backup & Recovery 11 in June 2011, offering IT professionals the ability to back up virtual and physical environments from a single console.

Backup & Recovery 11 lets users catalogue and search for specific files across tape, disk or the cloud. Users can also simultaneously back up VMware ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines. It uses a single agent for ESX hosts, supports Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) for Hyper-V and backs up virtual machines directly to storage without going over the network.

Acronis has boosted the headroom in its cloud backup offering, Backup & Recovery 11 Online, to 500 GB for workstations, 1.5 TB for servers and 3 TB for virtual machines. Rather than using third-party hosting services as a cloud target, Acronis hosts its own from data centres in the US and Europe.

EMC Avamar

Over the past year, EMC has moved to help the client-level deduplication capability of Avamar integrate with virtual machines, cloud environments and Data Domain, the target-side deduplication hardware product family it acquired in 2009.

With Avamar 6.0, launched in April 2011, EMC offers support for DD Boost, which is embedded software designed to improve backup speeds for customers using both Avamar and Data Domain products.

However, customers cannot back up data directly to Data Domain hardware without using the Avamar Data Store.

Avamar 6.0 also integrates VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection to allow users to back up virtual machines to Avamar Data Store. This makes it possible to remove backup traffic and load from the IP network by moving data over the storage network.

For tighter integration with cloud environments, EMC introduced Avamar support for VMware vCloud Director 1.5 in July 2011, targeting both service providers and in-house cloud hosts. Recovery can be managed at the VM level; sub-VM file level; and tenant level, within a cloud architecture’s multitenant structure.

Avamar allows users to exploit the cloud as a backup target via various partner service providers, such as Skyscape, Novosco and Accenture.

EMC has boosted the capacity of the Avamar Data Store to 124 TB. Single nodes are available with up to 7.8 TB and can be used in clusters of three to 16 nodes.


Symantec launched Backup Exec 2012 in February 2012, promising enhancements to integration with cloud and virtual environments.

Using the vendor’s V-Ray visibility software, Backup Exec treats virtual machines as a backup target, allowing the restoration of production servers from VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines. The product offers single-file recovery, data deduplication and backup management, saving storage and management time.

For smaller businesses, the Symantec offering now includes a standalone solution, Backup, to provide off-premise data protection through a cloud-based service.

Symantec has also partnered with service provider Doyenz to offer cloud backup and recovery as a service aimed at Backup Exec customers, in particular those with VMware environments.

The Backup Exec 2012 upgrade has a new wizard-based interface to help administrators identify the server, data set and the protection/retention policy when conducting backups.

CA ARCserve

CA has also made a bid to unify management of backup across virtual and physical server and cloud platforms with the release of ARCserve r16 in September 2011.

ARCserve r16’s Central Host-Based VM Backup capability offers image-based host-level protection for VMware vSphere, as well as full-system replication and high availability for Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer. By providing full bare-metal recovery and full-system failover of complete VMs, recovery of individual applications and granular recovery of targeted files and folders can be accomplished within minutes, according to CA.

Central Virtual Standby allows ARCserve recovery points to be converted to VMware or Microsoft virtual machines, which can improve data recovery times.

ARCserve r16 also introduces a common cloud connection layer across file backup, disk imaging and replication. This integrates access to hybrid cloud storage and is designed to help users exploit cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Windows Azure and Eucalyptus, for remote, off-site data protection, archiving and failover.

Microsoft DPM

Microsoft has not released a significant upgrade to its Data Protection Manager product since the 2010 iteration, summarised in the last SearchStorageUK midrange backup survey.

However, a release candidate of the next upgrade, DPM 2012, part of System Center 2012, is available, with a full product release expected later in the year.

Features of note in the beta include centralised monitoring, remote administration and recovery, role-based management, and SLA-based alerting. The product is expected to offer support for item-level recovery, even when running in a VM. It is also expected to offer recovery of Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration tools.

Lindsay Clark has been writing about business technology since the mid-1990s.

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