Modernizing Enterprise Backup Instead of Replacing it

Unitrends Briefing Note

To survive in the latest age of computing, backup products must move beyond backup and begin to embrace business continuity. Today’s companies want to resume business immediately after a disaster, and backup products that work “the old way” are not in demand anymore.

Data protection systems go in one of two camps: operational recovery or disaster recovery (DR). Traditional backup products that performed the operational recovery function and DR was typically accomplished with replication. Replication products were unable to restore individual files or previous versions of files, and traditional backup products were unable to bring a system back online as quickly as replication. Having two applications to support very similar functions was always a waste of money, but companies really had no choice – until now.

Thankfully, vendors are addressing this problem with backup products that integrate DR features. In fact, some of these products even prioritize DR over operational recovery, making it easier than a typical file restore. For example, you can recover an entire VM in a single step; recovering individual files required a two-step process of mounting a VM image and grabbing files from that image.

One way they are able to add DR features like this is to focus on a single operating system (e.g. Windows) or platform (e.g. VMware). This focus allows them to release a much longer list of features, one of which is instant recovery. Instant recovery is something we cover at Storage Switzerland. It is the ability to mount a physical machine or VM data directly from backup storage when a disaster occurs – rather than having to restore it to primary storage first. Instant recovery allows the business to continue operations while the disaster or hardware failure is addressed. A product that provides both operational and DR can save its customers incredible amounts of money.

The preponderance of backup products with DR features has left a number of traditional backup products behind. Unfortunately, their need to support dozens of operating systems and platforms made it harder for them to add instant recovery features to their product offering. Luckily, some products have been able to overcome this challenge. An example is the enhancements that Unitrends announced in their latest release.

Unitrends certainly falls into the traditional backup product category, with support for over 250 different operating systems, applications, and hypervisors. In fact, Unitrends is adding to that list by supporting VMs running in various cloud platforms such as Amazon or Azure.

They are also adding support for the Office365 suite, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business through a cloud service Unitrends maintains. We’d like to see it add support for backing up Office365 directly to a Unitrends system running at a customer site.

With such significant platform support, it is a surprise that it is also adding DR features as well. You can easily spin up a copy of any backed up VM on your local backup appliance or in the cloud. Unitrends is making this simple enough that it can even automate it – automatically testing entire sets of your backups every day. It calls this guaranteed assurance: you can be assured that a particular set of machines that are supposed to work together will actually be even in case of a disaster.

StorageSwiss Take

It is certainly time for a new breed of backup and recovery applications that combine both operational and disaster recovery into a single set of products. No longer will IT organizations have to buy both a backup product and a replication product to accomplish recovery goals. And let’s face it, while VMware dominates, most major data centers have critical non-virtualized applications. The Unitrends product appears to be a very strong offering that combines the flexibility of multi-platform support and the agility of instant recovery. We can only hope that Unitrends starts a, well, trend.

W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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Posted in Briefing Note

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