Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8 provides flexibility when creating desktop and laptop backups. If you have high value data stored on your computer, then we think $106.53 is a reasonable price to ensure it's protected.
Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8 was installed on an Acer Aspire 3620 notebook with 16GB of used disk space needing to be backed-up. Our backup device was a 500GB Seagate FreeAgent Pro USB drive.
Our testing priorities were to assess ease of installation and user interface navigation. As well as considering the speed and ease of actual backup and restore processes (obviously precise speeds will be determined by equipment and volume of data being handled). We attempted a full drive backup and restore, plus individual file/folder restores. Also taken into consideration is the quality of the documentation.
Feature and usability
When all hell breaks loose you may have to completely replace operating systems, applications, data, users, and preferences — not a pleasant job. Backup Exec System Recovery preserves recovery points at a frequency of your choosing and then, when required, can completely rebuild the software of a notebook or desktop PC. (For server restoration you should purchase the Server Edition — priced at $1,795) From scratch a computer can be restored in minutes — without complex user interaction.
Assuming your machine supports remote booting, System Recovery can burrow in and initiate a system restore using a recovery disk file located on the system and replace everything: operating system, applications, drivers, registry, data, and profiles. Naturally, it is also possible to keep recovery points on external drives (including SAN or USB) or transfer them to a remote location via FTP.
Incremental recovery points save only those changes made since the last recovery point. This makes backups faster and less intrusive to users. Speed also means that recovery points can be created more often — as frequently as 15-minute intervals if desired. Recovery points can handle volumes up to a whopping 16TB in size.
VSS (Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service) integration can send compatible database applications into a quiescent mode that does not interfere with backups. Backup processes are done behind the scenes allowing users to continue with their work, unaware of the ongoing manoeuvres protecting their work.
Besides being able to use disk images to recover damaged systems, BE System Recovery can transfer existing systems between physical machines. (Relevant drivers would have to be added in.) There is also a great opportunity to build or tinker with experimental systems and transfer them directly to live servers when ready. Symantec even allows for conversions between physical systems and virtual machines. Virtualisation can employ MS Virtual Server or the various VMware formats. Systems can be virtualised and then patched and tested before returning the virtual machine back to the real machine.
System Recovery Manager allows system administrators to remotely manage the operation of BE System Recovery across your entire corporation. With this it is possible to control and observe all operations and get reports including historical trends and hot-spots for more careful scrutiny. This is an optional component for larger organisations. Users of Altiris Notification Server 6.5 can link Backup Exec to Altiris in order to help centralise all your management tasks.
BE System Recovery integrates with Symantec Endpoint Manager to monitor and react to Symantec "ThreatCon" alerts. When significant malware threats are noted, backups can be initiated instantly offering protection in the event that your organisation comes in contact with a serious virus.
When installing BE System Recovery, it gives you the option of specifying what to backup and where, but starts the ball rolling by making some basic recommendations. In our case, the recommended regime was to run early each Thursday and Sunday morning and do a complete backup of "My Documents" and Drive C to our external USB drive. We had the option to precisely specify both source and destination.
Aside from scheduled backups we were able to initiate backups manually; our 16GB of data was copied in around 22 minutes (approx 96Kbps). The Restore Points saved on the external drive were about 12GB each in this scenario. Since the drive we copied included the Operating System, the restore process could not be completed while it was running. Rebooting with the Recovery Disk (supplied with the software) led to the automatic restoration of our drive in 24 minutes (including reboot at start and finish).
Try replacing your OS, applications and data in that time manually and you will certainly appreciate the advantages of backup software such as this. Additional backups are likely to take less time as the system recognises unchanged files from previous backups — after changing a number of files, a second backup took only 10 minutes. Restoration of individual lost or modified files is assisted by the ability to search for files by name or browsing through the directory tree of the Restore Point. We would have liked to have seen an incremental restore that recognised what has changed since a given restore point.
When opening the application, we are greeted with the Home page which includes Brief status details, important messages, quick access to Basic backup, and restore tasks: backup, full drive restore and individual file restore. Other tabs give greater detail or options for Status, Tasks and Tools. The Tools tab provides quick access to operations such as drive copy, restore point copy and create virtual machine. An Advanced tab is also present, leading to refined control over all functions and reporting processes. Warnings, errors and successes are all logged and there is an option to have these automatically emailed to your system administrator.
There is a very brief Getting Started Guide; this information is in print format and is also included in the PDF User Manual but is hardly necessary given the simplicity of the install process. The manual is detailed without being difficult to understand or navigate.
The user interface was straightforward avoiding both common problems of overwhelming numbers of menus and excessive depth. Installation of Backup Exec System Recovery 8 was a breeze, requiring only a few minutes plus a reboot; however, it took longer to complete the software update. BE System Recovery provides flexibility of both operation and management. Peace of mind for individual computer users should be guaranteed.
Given the potential value of data stored on desktops or notebooks in your organisation, $106.53 is a reasonable price to ensure that data is protected — especially when you consider the lost productivity associated with rebuilding machines and attempting to recover data. Provided with the application is 12 months of support (plenty of time to learn the software backwards).
Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8 versus Backup Exec 12
On Symantec's online forum, a Symantec employee described the differences between Backup Exec (BE) and Backup Exec System Recovery (BESR): "BE and BESR are complementary products, at least from a marketing point of view." As the explanation continues, our suspicions that Symantec is trying to sell two products where one would suffice only continue to grow.
A survey of Symantec's own literature and comments by others on forums suggests that Symantec staff would rather shoot themselves than clearly explain the differences between their "complementary" products. Or perhaps they are as confused as we are?
There is not doubt that users will struggle to distinguish between these two products. We shall interpret as best we can. To some extent we are comparing apples and oranges here as we have the Server edition of BE and the Desktop edition of BESR and thus we should differentiate the products on two levels. We have also indicated that a version of BESR for server protection is available and we will not go further on that point; and of course BE also comes in various flavours.
Both product lines can backup an entire drive and restore either the whole drive or individual files from a specific time. Furthermore, there is an add-on for BE Server edition which gives it the same functionality as the BESR Server addition.
BESR specialises in the backup and restoration of system disks. In particular it has the ability to replicate systems (including OS, software and data) back to its restore point or to a completely new system via virtualisation processes. Virtual machines also allow for safe and efficient system development and deployment.
BE is more concerned with preserving shared data (which may be distributed over a wide network) in a continuous and fine grained manner in order to fully protect databases and messaging systems as well as any other data. Databases can be backed up while still servicing users. Users can retrieve individual lost messages and attachments.
While functionality overlaps significantly, it can be said that one application (BE) seeks mainly to preserve your precious data while the other (BESR) seeks to protect the infrastructure upon which that data resides. Less complicated IT infrastructures may well be adequately served by one or the other with no need for both.
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