Virtualisation and cloud ubiquitous in midrange backup software

Midrange backup software supports virtual environments and the cloud as a target, but like enterprise products support for mobile devices is largely absent

Midrange backup applications are a mixed bunch, ranging from systems focused on disk imaging, such as Acronis Backup & Recovery, to those primarily aimed at use in that supplier's environments, such as Microsoft Data Protection Manager.

Most have added support for new applications and operating systems, such as Windows 8. And support for virtual machine (VM) backup and restore and the cloud as a target is ubiquitous. Data deduplication is now part of most backup products.

With the growth of BYOD and employer-owned mobile hardware, it might seem surprising that mainstream midrange backup products do not protect these devices. Most support laptops but only specialist products support mobiles, tablets etc.

Acronis Backup & Recovery 11.5 Advanced Platform

Launched in September 2012, the product provides backup and disaster recovery in physical and virtual Windows and Linux environments. New features in 11.5 include recovery for Microsoft Exchange and optional support for Microsoft Exchange Server. Update 2 adds an agent for Active Directory (AD) to enable backup and recovery of AD domain controllers, improved support for cloud backup, and support for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

Acronis Backup & Recovery backs up and recovers files, applications, and physical or virtual servers. It allows the creation of system images to disk or tape, and recovery to any hardware, so you can recover to bare metal. It also enables file-based backup of local folders or network shares.

One host-based agent is needed for agentless VMware or Hyper-V-based VMs but an agent is needed on VMs under the supervision of hypervisors from Citrix, Red Hat, Oracle VM and Parallels. Application support includes Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Active Directory, Oracle and SharePoint.

Management is via a single console that controls all aspects of the product, allowing admins to view resources in a global tree, and to browse backup vaults to find a disk image, VM, file or email. Adding the optional, subscription-based Acronis Cloud Backup buys offsite storage.

One host licence buys backups for all hosted virtual machines. In future, Acronis may provide more features aimed at mobile users, and has recently been looking to expand its list of mobility specialists in the reseller channel.

EMC Avamar 7

July 2013 saw the launch of Avamar 7, which EMC plans to eventually merge with its enterprise backup Networker product.

New features include integration into VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V for backup of VMs and to recover entire VMs or individual files and allow new VMs to automatically inherit backup policies. Also new is the expansion of deduplicated capacity to 4TB, and support for backup to Data Domain of NAS/NDMP workloads.

Launched in February 2012, Backup Exec 2012 provides recovery with physical-to-virtual and backup-to-virtual conversion

Avamar 7 provides full backups with global data deduplication, which increases the compression ratio up to a claimed 95 percent.

Recovery can be performed via the application's central console irrespective of data location. The system's grid design is claimed to scale linearly by adding storage nodes, each of which increases processing power, I/O and capacity with automatic load balancing. Avamar uses CPU throttling to lessen the effect on clients of backup operations, and it allows self-service recovery.

Backup for specific applications is provided by optional modules, including support for Lotus Notes, IBM DB2, Microsoft Exchange Server, SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle, SAP and Sybase.

Symantec Backup Exec 2012

Launched in February 2012, Backup Exec 2012 provides recovery with physical-to-virtual and backup-to-virtual conversion. New features include support for Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V Server 2012, SQL 2012 SP1, Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013, as well as the ability to automatically restore a failed VM and recover lost application services. This requires the Backup Exec Management Plug-in 2.0 for VMware with Symantec’s ApplicationHA 6.0.

The new version offers a UI that focuses on data rather than on roles. It allows admins to monitor the status of application servers, and view issues, performance levels and other key indicators.

Backup Exec 2012 offers agentless backup of VMs, data deduplication, and a licence that enables backup of an unlimited number of VMs.

Besides the main Backup Exec application, Symantec offers the Backup Exec V-Ray Edition that works in VMware and Microsoft virtualised environments. Symantec also offered a cloud-based version of Backup Exec but in December 2013 gave customers and partners a year to remove their data stored there. The service will be closed on 6 January 2015; other vendors have offered to fill the gap with free migration.

CA ARCserve Backup r16.6 Update 3

ARCserve version 16.5 was released in March 2013, and was followed by three more minor updates.

The base product majors on compatibility with the latest iterations of a variety of technologies, such as Windows Server 2012, SharePoint and Exchange Server 2013, and LTO-6, plus automated disk reclamation and support for cloud services that include Microsoft Azure, Eucalyptus, Amazon S3 and others.

The three updates since the major release have followed a similar path, with improved support for VMware hosts and guests, backups to remote tape sites, and more granularity for recovery of objects in Exchange Server 2013.

DPM aims to provide simplified, continuous backup and recovery for Windows environments

The most recent update brought support for the latest versions of VMware vCenter, Windows clients and servers, and for NetApp SnapMirror. The product offers data deduplication, migration of backups to the cloud, and backup and recovery for Hyper-V VMs.

The push towards increasing compatibility options is also evident in the release in July 2013 of ARCServe D2D (ie, disk-to-disk) for Linux, which includes all the capabilities of Windows-based ARCServe D2D. It puts block-based snapshots on disk or in the cloud. It also carries out block-level data compression and supports bare-metal restores of systems to similar or dissimilar physical or virtual servers.

ARCserve licences allow you choose just backup or a more comprehensive option with backup, file and system replication, and high availability.

Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2012 R2

Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2012 R2 is a component of Microsoft System Center 2012 and offers a raft of new features.

These include the ability to back up to Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, support for clustered SQL Server nodes so DPM need no longer use a standalone database, the ability both to deploy DPM on a VM and to configure storage using virtual hard disk storage pools from the System Center Virtual Machine Manager library.

DPM 2012 R2 can also backup VMs running Linux, although Microsoft points out that only file-consistent, and not application-consistent, snapshots are supported. Backups to Microsoft Azure cloud service are also supported.

DPM aims to provide simplified, continuous backup and recovery for Windows environments, and gives protection for Microsoft applications such as SQL Server, SharePoint and Exchange.

With the previous version, DPM 2010, Microsoft introduced protection and recovery for VMs under Hyper-V. Version 2012 adds protection for VM hosts, centralised and remote management of multiple DPM servers, the ability for multiple DPM servers to share one instance of SQL Server, and certificate-based authentication for computers in workgroups or untrusted domains.

service pack 1 added faster, parallel backups, support for SMB shares, protection for Windows 8 deduplicated volumes, and support for live migration, allowing you to move running virtual machines from one node of the failover cluster to another without dropped network connections or perceived downtime.

From a licensing perspective, DPM Server is included as a component of both Datacenter and Standard versions of System Center 2012, plus you need a licence for each computer protected by DPM.

Next Steps

Backup management software roundup: What's on the market?

Read more on Data protection, backup and archiving