Article By Jay McCall, Testing By Eric Brown and Kevin Danis
A managed services provider (MSP) evaluates seven Backup And Disaster Recovery (BDR) solutions and shares the pros and cons of each.
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There are a lot of services an MSP can sell its customers, but almost every MSP includes BDR services as one of its core offerings. For this month’s product review, Business Solutions once again turned to MSP Remote Technology Management (RTM). CEO Eric Brown and Technical Manager Kevin Danis tested seven BDR solutions in their Massachusetts test lab over a two-week period, investing more than 40 hours. True to RTM’s conclusion when it tested RMM (remote monitoring and management) products for our January issue, Brown says, “There is no single solution that meets every MSP’s needs perfectly.” To that end, we share highlights of RTM’s tests of the following vendors: Asigra, Axcient, CharTec, Datto, KineticD, StorageCraft, and Unitrends. The MSP met with key product experts from each of the above vendor companies and went through the onboarding process with each one. Below are the highlights of RTM’s findings.
Local Virtualization Recovery Test
One of the first tests RTM performed was a local, imagebased recovery. To take this test one step further, the MSP performed the recovery in virtualization mode, which meant the BDR would function as the primary server, simulating a real-world situation whereby the primary server crashes. To test each BDR fairly, Brown and Danis backed up a Small Business Server 2008 running Microsoft Exchange and containing 75 GB of data to each of the BDRs. “We started the clock at the moment we began logging into the BDR console to start the virtual machine [VM],” says Danis. “When all was said and done, there was only a 7-minute difference between the fastest performers, Datto and StorageCraft, which were live in just under 4 minutes, and Axcient, which took 11 minutes to complete the test. I believe the difference in times was due to the fact that Datto and StorageCraft, which both use StorageCraft’s software, do not require a format conversion step when restoring an image backup.” CharTec, which also uses StorageCraft’s software, took one minute longer to complete the virtualization test, which Danis attributed to being less familiar with CharTec’s user interface.
Cloud Backup: Flexibility And Cost Comparisons
Another criterion RTM looked at was each vendor’s off-site backup. Every vendor except Asigra offered its own cloud storage option. At the other end of the spectrum was Datto, which requires partners to use its private cloud storage, or for an additional fee to place a Datto appliance in a private cloud data center of the reseller’s choosing. “The latter option can be cost prohibitive because it requires the reseller to purchase a Datto appliance that has more storage than the sum of all of its customers’ on-site Datto appliances,” says Brown. The costs for the off-site storage ranged widely (see summary grid, above). Most include a certain amount of off-site storage with their BDR offering and allow partners to purchase additional storage at a cost ranging from 9 cents per GB (Datto) to 50 cents per GB (KineticD). “Comparing costs among the BDR vendors gets pretty complicated,” says Brown. “Some of the vendors that charge less for their software licenses and BDR appliances charge more for additional cloud storage. Each of the vendors bundles its hardware, software, and services differently, which will appeal to MSPs differently, depending on their needs.”
A Few Thoughts On Backup Intervals
For some customers, a daily backup may be adequate, but most customers will need a much shorter backup interval. Among the BDRs tested, Axcient had the longest backup interval, at 1 hour; Unitrends offers an image-based backup in 1 minute increments, and Asigra and KineticD offer backups at the CDP (continuous data protection) level. “We’ve never had a need to take backup snapshots below the 1-hour interval,” says Brown, “but, I could see where shorter intervals or even CDP would be necessary for backing up a SQL database that was updated by a large call center, or in certain healthcare situations where multiple clinicians would be entering data into an electronic medical record database.”
Beware Of Silent Data Corruption
Four of the BDR vendors RTM tested (Asigra, CharTec, Datto, and StorageCraft) have systems to ensure backed up data remains stable, protecting partners from silent data corruption. Included with Datto’s service is a daily data integrity check on its local BDR appliance. On a daily basis, the BDR starts up a virtual machine and emails a screen shot to the partner, confirming that the virtual machine started up successfully.
Asigra also includes built-in data integrity checks with its solution. This automated process runs in the background, transparent to the user, and monitors the local backup. Asigra also restores any corrupt files detected during the scanning process. CharTec and StorageCraft both provide users with the ability to verify that a backup has been completed successfully via their software consoles.
Apple Computers And Laptops — Kicking TimeMachine To The Curb
If you’re like RTM, the majority of your customers use PCs, but there’s always a handful that use Apple desktops or laptops. If you target the education vertical, you’ll run across this much more often. RTM has had to create workarounds for its Mac customers to back up their data. “We create an AFP [Apple Filing Protocol] share on the backup appliance and utilize Apple’s TimeMachine software to back up the system,” says Brown. “The problem with relying on the TimeMachine software is that if the backup appliance runs out of storage, rather than sending an alert, it starts deleting backups from the back end and could potentially delete 6 months’ worth of backups.”
Brown and Danis noted that Asigra, Axcient, KineticD, and Unitrends which have the capability to run agentless (KineticD and Unitrends have the option to use an agent or operate agentless), have a clear advantage in these situations. “With these agentless BDRs, we simply entered the IP address of the Mac device we wanted to back up, and it started backing it up without having to use TimeMachine,” says Brown. “We’re definitely going to start using one of these vendors for our customers that use Mac products.”
BYOD Requires BYOB (Bring Your Own Backup)
One of the biggest trends happening right now in the channel is BYOD (bring your own device), which is the situation whereby more and more employees are using their personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones in the work environment. In addition to all the security challenges this presents to your customers, it also raises another key consideration: How do you back up data on these devices? Unless companies are only allowing mobile devices to access their applications and databases as thin clients, this can be a serious consideration. “Currently, Asigra is the only BDR vendor that has the capability to back up mobile devices, including Android, iOS, and Windows 8 devices,” says Danis.
Final BDR Assessment
In summary, here is RTM’s overall assessment:
Asigra was one of three agentless BDRs in the test, which showed up during the Apple laptop backup test, and it stood out as being the only BDR that could back up smartphones and tablets. Another differentiator that Danis and Brown noted during their evaluation was Asigra’s onboarding process. “These guys have a 90-day onboarding process, which is way more thorough than any other vendor we reviewed,” says Brown. “If you’re a newer MSP, or you’re looking for a vendor partner that will help you write a business plan, generate marketing collateral, or help you break into a new vertical market, these guys are worth taking a serious look at.”
Like Asigra, Axcient is also agentless, which offers a couple of benefits already mentioned. “Also, unlike agentless products in other categories that had some drawbacks to their agent-based counterparts, there doesn’t seem to be any downside to an agentless BDR product,” says Danis. Another thing Danis and Brown liked about Axcient was the flexibility the vendor offered when setting up a VPN (virtual private network) to its cloud. “They allow their resellers to access and validate their cloud backups on their own terms, unlike some of the others that put a lot of restrictions in place,” says Danis. RTM liked Axcient’s Apple backup capabilities enough to consider using them for its Mac-based customers, but was skeptical about Axcient’s overall costs. “They didn’t provide us with the pricing for their BDR, but they use HP appliances, which are more expensive than other BDR appliance options.
Danis and Brown used CharTec as an example of a BDR vendor that differentiated itself from the others based on how it bundled its services and support. “CharTec has a thorough onboarding process and was the most hands-on during the testing,” says Brown. “They set up the BDR for their partners, and they even perform the first backup for you. This service enables a VAR/MSP to send a less skilled technician on-site to a customer and to work closely with CharTec to develop their BDR skills.” Another differentiator RTM noted with CharTec was their MSP branding services. “They use high-end Intel hardware with their BDR software, and the unit they sent us included our company logo on the hardware,” says Brown.
Even though it was difficult to get specific pricing info from some of the BDR vendors, Danis and Brown believe that Datto was one of the most competitively priced BDR solutions. Full disclosure: RTM is a Datto reseller, which was one of the products tested. RTM received no preferential treatment from Datto, however, and the vendor even set up RTM as a new reseller partner, so it could fully experience the onboarding process. Datto did tie for first place in the local virtual restore test, and it was one of only two products that include data integrity checking with its product. A potential downside is that Datto partners are required to use Datto’s cloud data center for their off-site backups.
KineticD offers the most granular-level backup for filebased backups performed on proprietary applications such as Microsoft Outlook, QuickBooks, Great Plains, Microsoft Access databases, and SQL databases. In fact, this vendor holds the patent for Seamless Pause & Resume technology, which is capable of detecting a specific point in a data stream that pauses when the user is using an application (to save CPU resources) and resumes backing up data when the user stops using the application. “The one disadvantage with KineticD is that they don’t have the ability to spin up a virtual machine in the cloud,” says Danis.
StorageCraft’s software is used by several BDR vendors, including CharTec and Datto, which RTM tested, as well as eFolder, Intel Hybrid Cloud, and Zenith Infotech. The biggest differentiator RTM noticed that StorageCraft offered over CharTec and Datto was off-site backup flexibility as well as the flexibility for a VAR/MSP to choose its own BDR hardware appliance. “Depending on how much control and customizing a reseller needs, this could be a benefit or a time and cost drain,” says Brown.
Unitrends offers a few differentiators. First, it’s the only BDR vendor that has its own private and public cloud data center. Partners that use the public cloud offering pay only 25 cents per GB, which is less expensive than any other vendor’s cloud storage offering. Also, Unitrends gives resellers the ability to create a backup window in as small as 1-minute intervals. One downside, however, is that Unitrends does not currently enable partners to spin up virtual machines in the cloud.
Backup And Disaster Recovery (BDR) Solutions Comparison
|Agent/Agentless Based||Agentless||Agentless||Agent||Agent||Agent or agentless||Agent||Agent or agentless|
|Type Of Backup Supported||image- and file-based||image- and file-based||image-based only||image-based only||file-based; image-based for VMs||image-based only||image- and file-based|
|Types Of VMs Supported||Hyper-V, VMware, XenServer||Hyper-V, VMware, XenServer||VMDK and VHD||VMDK and VHD||Hyper-V, VMware ESXi||Hyper-V, VirtualBox, VirtualCenter||Hyper-V, VMware, Xen Server, V2V, P2V, V2P|
|Apple Laptop/Desktop Backups?||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|Mobile Backups Supported||Android, iOS, Windows 8||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Backup Intervals||continuous backup option||1 hour||15 minutes||5 minutes||continuous backup option||15 minutes||1 minute|
|HaaS/SaaS Option||SaaS option only||HaaS and SaaS options||HaaS and SaaS options||HaaS option only||SaaS option only||HaaS and SaaS options||neither option available|
extensive partner training and
sales and marketing support
provided; product includes data
backup software is created by
Axcient; integration with leading
RMM and PSA tools
included: free setup, monitoring
& remediation; 10
virtual lab hrs./mo./server; no
DR costs; private labeling
includes: Kroll Ontrack Exchange
and SharePoint licenses; NAS
storage; no contract; data integrity
includes: unlimited local storage
w/ cloud service; no bandwidth
cap; no contracts; can back up
apps even when apps are open
includes: BDR mgmt. tools; no
extra fees for SQL/Exchange
servers; aggregated billing rate
for cloud storage services.
help-desk calls picked up by
live agent within 3 rings; flat fee
for product — no extra costs for
agents, OSs, or devices
Pricing Structure Highlights
To Use The Vendor’s Cloud Storage
Asigra does not provide cloud
storage; licensing is $0.064/GB
for local and off-site storage
cloud costs start at $100/mo.
for 250 GB of off-site storage
4 BDR models offered; 39
cents/GB in 20GB increments
local & off-site storage incl. w/ ea.
appliance; unlimited agents; 9 cents/GB for extra off-site storage
50 cents/GB + system access
fee ($3.95/PC or Mac;
28 cents/GB for U.S.-based
25 cents/GB for Vault2Cloud
public cloud service; Unitrends
offers private cloud services, also
|Expanded Online Review||Asigra Expanded Review||Axcient Expanded Review||CharTec Expanded Review||Datto Expanded Review||KineticD Expanded Review||StorageCraft Expanded Review||Unitrends Expanded Review|
|Product Data Sheets||Coming Soon...||Axcient BDR Solution Brochure||CharTec BDR Datasheet||Datto SIRIS Product Brochure||Coming Soon...||StorageCraft ShadowProtect 5||Coming Soon...|