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.
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. For Barracuda, agent-based and agentless backup is available. Customers with VMware, Hyper-V, or NAS filers are able to use Barracuda to back up their systems agentlessly.
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 Barracuda appliance will store the VM images, but the VM images can only be restored back to the primary server, which could delay the recovery time if the primary server needs to be repaired or replaced.”
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. “Differences came into play when Barracuda only supported a bare metal restore to the primary server. Also, Barracuda requires that SQL databases and MS Exchange images be recovered as separate steps from 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. Barracuda offers partners the flexibility to use their own cloud data centers. Additionally, the company even offers the additional flexibility of allowing end customers with multiple locations to use their remote facilities to host their backups.
Attaching a cost to each vendor’s cloud offering is tricky business because of the various ways vendors price and bundle their services. Barracuda, for example, offers plans starting at $50 per month for 200 GB of data. It also offers unlimited data storage plans with various price points that depend on which Barracuda appliance the reseller uses.
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. For organizations replicating to the Barracuda cloud, administrators are able to download files, folders, and entire servers from the hosted Web interface. Barracuda resellers are also able to restore data that has been replicated to the Barracuda Cloud to Copy.com, allowing customers to securely restore files for remote users on the road.
Customers replicating VMware backups can spool up their backups from a deduplicated state and access them in the cloud — a service Barracuda calls Cloud LiveBoot. If a disaster occurs, Barracuda will preload an appliance and overnight the appliance to the customer’s location for faster local restores.
Organizations leveraging box-to-box replication between two Barracuda appliances are able to do all of the restores they would normally do from the local appliance. This allows organizations to run VMware images from backups off the Barracuda hardware and restore the backups to the production environment.
The iOS Factor
Can Barracuda handle Apple computers? According to the company, yes. “One way is through an open protocol called SSHFS that backs up the computer over an encrypted tunnel. Barracuda also has a Mac agent available in beta today for customers to back up their Mac OS X computers.”
Barracuda Backup does not have any options to back up mobile devices. According to the company, Barracuda Backup is able to be managed via a web browser. “For iOS devices, Barracuda offers a mobile app to monitor Barracuda products. Our Copy (www.copy.com) product does have the ability to be used on mobile devices to access and recover files.”
Final BDR Assessment
The following are Brown’s and my final thoughts on the three products included in this round of testing:
Barracuda stood out in the area of support, offering technical support out of San Jose, CA, which Brown found very helpful during his initial setup of the Barracuda backup appliance. Barracuda also offered the most flexibility with regard to off-site backup capabilities, allowing backups to the Barracuda cloud, another cloud of the VAR’s/MSP’s choosing, or even allowing customers with multiple sites to perform backups among their own facilities. Barracuda wasn’t as strong as other vendors in the bare metal restore category. Even though it supports bare metal restores, it requires separate steps for restoring SQL databases and MS Exchange files, plus it does not support restores to dissimilar hardware. The Barracuda product was also unable to spin up a VM on the Barracuda appliance, which means that the VAR/MSP needs to use a separate computer if a customer’s primary server goes down.