Acronis: Backup And Disaster Recovery (BDR) Solution Product Review

When we launched the first BDR product review in the March 2013 issue of Business Solutions magazine, we had no idea that it would become one of the most downloaded articles of the year. This is a testament to the fact that backup and recovery is a core service all customers need, regardless of the size of their business or their vertical market. As a follow-up to the original test (which included Asigra, Axcient, CharTec, Datto, KineticD, StorageCraft, and Unitrends), Eric Brown, CEO of Remote Technologies Management (RTM), recently tested the following three vendors: Acronis, Barracuda, and Continuum. (Note: STORServer was not able to have its product tested within our deadline, but the basic spec sheet details are included in the matrix).

To ensure consistency between the previous test and this one, we applied the same test procedures. Brown and I interviewed each vendor prior to the test, and he was added as a new reseller partner, so he could experience each vendor’s onboarding process. Next, over a two-week period he conducted tests on each BDR appliance, which included an image-based backup, a local virtualization recovery test, and a bare metal restore. Below are highlights of our interviews and Brown’s testing of the Acronis product.

Acronis Logo

Local Virtualization Backup And Recovery Considerations

The first test Brown performed was a local, image-based backup of a virtual machine (VM), using a Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 running Microsoft Exchange and containing 75 GB of data to each of the BDRs. All three of the products tested support image-based backups of VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V VMs. Acronis also includes virtualized platform support for Citrix XenServer, RHEV (Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization), KVM (kernel-based virtual machine), Parallels Bare Metal, and Oracle Virtualbox.

Acronis adds that “Unified backup format for both physical and virtual machines [including agent-less backup] is supported, which allows any-to-any recovery and migration. For example, backup of a physical machine can be recovered to Hyper-V, or backup of VMware can be recovered to Oracle VM. No conversion is required. We also have an option to automatically incrementally restore every backup to a virtual machine [but do not run it], which gives customers a stand-by copy ready to be powered on should a production server fail.”

All three of the products backed up the Microsoft Exchange image without any delays or glitches. Brown noticed differences among the products during the restore portion of the test. “The Continuum Vault was the only product that supported the option to restore and run the backup from the backup appliance,” he says. “Because Acronis is software-based, the VAR/MSP would have to copy and run the VM on a different computer, which adds some extra time.”

Simulating A Server Meltdown And Bare Metal Restore

In the field of data recovery and restoration, VARs and MSPs know that having a backup of customers’ data is only half of the equation. How the backup software handles the data recovery is equally important. Some backup solutions require multiple steps, including re-installing the operating system, drivers, applications, and other data components, which can take the better part of a day for all of the downloads and updates to complete. For channel companies, performing a manual bare metal restore just isn’t feasible, so using a backup solution that supports and automates these steps is essential. Part of Brown’s test included simulating a server failure, which required restoring the server from scratch.

“Each product was able to perform the bare metal restore without any problems,” he says. “Acronis was able to perform a restore to dissimilar hardware. Also, Acronis was able to restore SQL databases and MS Exchange images in the same step as the rest of the image.”

The Cloud Factor

In addition to local backup and recovery considerations, off-site backups to the cloud play an important role in protecting customers from worst-case scenarios such as fires, floods, and other natural disasters. All three of the vendors Brown tested offer their own cloud storage. Acronis offers partners the flexibility to use their own cloud data centers.

Attaching a cost to each vendor’s cloud offering is tricky business because of the various ways vendors price and bundle their services. With Acronis, MSPs receive per-month subscription-based pricing (rather than perpetual licensing), and separate license fees are required for physical machine and virtual hosts (which allows unlimited VMs).

One other noteworthy point is that each vendor supports spinning up VMs in the cloud, allowing end customers to run their businesses in the cloud until their on-site servers can be repaired or replaced. With Acronis Backup & Recovery for vCloud, a tenant can use a Web console to restore an image to a vCloud VM and run it in the cloud. Acronis also allows customers to recover data over the Web or via Large Scale Recovery (shipping a hard drive with the backup) from the Acronis Cloud Storage.

The iOS Factor

Can Acronis handle Apple computers? According to the company, yes. “Through a bundle of Acronis Backup & Recovery 11.5 and Acronis ExtremeZ-IP, Mac backups can be included with corporate IT infrastructures powered by Windows and Active Directory. ExtremeZ-IP allows OS X Time Machine to use a corporate file server as a central store for the Mac archives. Acronis Backup & Recovery can then be used to secure Time Machine vaults to disk, SAN, tape, and/or the cloud for archiving and disaster recovery.”

Mobile Devices

When it comes to backing up mobile devices Acronis does offer a product which synchronizes devices to a server, in effect backing up the information on the mobile device. This product, called Acronis activEcho allows customers to securely share information between mobile devices and synchronize with a server.

Final BDR Assessment

The following are Brown’s and my final thoughts on the three products included in this round of testing:

The Acronis Backup & Recovery product offered an impressive breadth of functionality, including an easy-to-use setup interface, image- and file-based backups, support for a wide range of virtualization environments, diverse off-site capabilities, a bare metal restore to dissimilar hardware, agent-based and agentless backup options, and Apple desktop/laptop backup capabilities. Some MSPs will find the product lacks in the area of support. Even though Acronis offers support for its product, which includes live chat, there is currently no U.S.-based support.

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