- Deduplication option
- Enhanced archiving functionality
- Improved hardware and software support
- Extra-cost options can boost the price considerably
Backup Exec 2010 has been a long time coming. Towards the middle of 2009, Symantec promised it would deliver software deduplication in its backup products and it has, at last, arrived.
The new version, an upgrade from Backup Exec 12.5, adds support for newer hardware and software (as you'd expect), including Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, Exchange 2010, Microsoft Hyper-V, Lotus Domino 8.5 in the core product. However, the deduplication option, new archiving features in the form of a new agent for Enterprise Vault that packages migration to tape into a single job, plus support for Exchange 2010 and for VMware-hosted virtual environments via integration with VMware vSphere 4.0 will probably prove the biggest enticement to upgrade.
Symantec aims Backup Exec 2010 at organisations with between 3 and 100 servers, although some use it to manage more. The product's key focus is helping IT administrators to reduce storage consumption via deduplication, using the NetBackup PureDisk deduplication engine. Although it can also make use of NTFS's single instance storage feature, which deduplicates at the file level, Backup Exec 2010 dedupes at the block level, which should in theory make it more efficient.
Backup Exec 2010 can deduplicate either at the client source or target server. Deduping at source reduces network traffic and helps widen the backup window, but increases client workloads; deduping at the server is best for heavily loaded or thin clients, or when the network has the capacity to shoulder the load and the backup window remains open.
Storage systems from vendors supporting Symantec's OpenStorage API can also benefit from Backup Exec 2010's deduplication, with Quantum, ExaGrid and FalconStor among the vendors who have announced support.
We installed the 60-day trial version of Backup Exec 2010, which is feature-complete, in a virtual machine running Windows Server 2008 R2. Deduplication is a paid-for option (£1,231.87 per server), so you'll need to specifically select it at install time. The same applies to other new options, including file system archiving (£490.89 per server), which allows you to implement hierarchical storage — where the least-used data is moved to cheaper storage, such as tape — and Exchange mailbox archiving, which offers similar benefits specifically for Microsoft Exchange data (£1,204.08 for 100 mailbox licences).
Backup Exec remains easy to use, the wizard-driven front page offering entry points to the main tasks. Initial tasks, displayed in larger fonts, include the ability to create login accounts, configure backup devices, and create media sets that allow you to set common policies for one or more backup devices.
The main interface also allows you to configure device pools, so that jobs can be load-balanced across multiple devices, and to install remote agents and media servers. These options automate the process both of installing agents on the machines to be backed up, and of connecting to remote Backup Exec servers that are managing other devices. You can create backup and restore jobs, and set backup policies to allow the rotation of backup media, duplication of backup sets and automate the coordination of full and incremental backups. Backup Exec 2010 includes templates to help automate the implementation of common backup policies, such as grandfather, father, son.
Backup devices can consist of disks, networked storage arrays, tape drives or libraries, or Symantec's online storage. Setting up a backup job is fairly simple, and once you've set up and tested one, you can apply the job to multiple machines via copy and paste.
Jobs (past and present) can be monitored using the job monitor. The top half of the screen is occupied by live jobs, while the bottom shows those that have been completed or cancelled. The taskbar on the left provides context-sensitive tasks such as, in this case, the ability to hold all schedules with a single click.
Reporting is well catered for. As well as a job summary on the home screen, you can drill down to view failed jobs, error messages and alerts using the reports module.
To test the efficiency of deduplication, we set up a backup volume and dedicated it to deduping as recommended by the system. We backed up three sets of identical data, each consisting of the same 7GB of incompressible ZIP files, so that no compression could skew the test results. Backup Exec 2010 warns that enabling compression and/or encryption can negate the effectiveness of deduplication — you can only have your storage reduction cake, not eat it too. We then backed up a total of 23.3GB to the deduplication volume, which resulted in disk space utilisation of 8.24GB, very close to the result one would expect.
The new archiving feature provides automated data retention, allowing you to move older, less frequently accessed data to cheaper storage. It uses Symantec's Enterprise Vault technology to allocate storage to which items from one or more backup areas can be moved after a given period of time — days, weeks, months or years. You can select whether or not the archived item is deleted immediately after the archive, or only after the backup has been backed up. Archiving works with Exchange data as well as files, and for both physical and virtual servers.
You can restore data using a wizard, by selecting restore paths manually or by searching for items. Among a host of other options, you can select file and data types, file redirection (restoring to a different location) and operations specific to the data source, such as VMware, Oracle or Microsoft Exchange.
As you might expect given its long heritage and variety of owners (Symantec, Veritas, Seagate and Arcada), Backup Exec 2010 is a complex, feature-rich and mature product. Therefore it's not feasible to evaluate every feature in depth here.
The features we did test worked as advertised and were straightforward to use. The product offers a huge range of options that should cater for almost any situation, including protection for both Microsoft and VMware virtual environments, while deduplication could help rein in storage spending.
However, you'll need to plan your installation carefully, as many features are options that, for the smaller business, might prove prohibitively costly. If you're already a user, the upgrade will be tempting despite the price.
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