For two decades IT has had two choices when selecting a data protection solution. They can choose a holistic solution that covers the majority of the applications, operating systems and data protection goals or they can select a point data protection solution that covers a specific application, operating system or delivers a unique form of data protection. Enterprise solutions claim to reduce operational costs by enabling the management of the entire data protection process through a single interface and vendor. Point solutions claim to be easier to use and to be the first to take advantage of specific features of the environment or application.
What are Point Solutions?
Point solutions are almost always the new kids on the block, usually startups, that as they come to market have smartly chosen to focus on one particular niche. In the past we’ve seen solutions focus on Oracle data protection, Exchange data protection and MS-SQL protection. In each case they delivered at the time unique functionality like incremental database backups, granular recoveries and optimized performance.
Recently we’ve seen a surge in operating system/environmental specific coverage. There are over a dozen backup software solutions that have emerged designed to protect VMware and/or Hyper-V. We’ve also seen point solutions deliver unique functionality first like change block backups, rapid recovery or cloud backup and recovery. In addition to unique features or capabilities these solutions in many cases, these point solutions are less expensive than their enterprise alternatives.
The Weakness of Point Solutions
The strength of point solutions is also their weakness. Most data centers are not one thing. While a data center can be mostly VMware or Hyper-V it almost always has a bare metal application running Oracle, Exchange or MS-SQL. And as new applications like Couchbase, Cassandra and Splunk rise in popularity data centers will need to come to grips with protecting these environments as well.
Point solutions are also typically limited by the number of backup targets they can support. Most new on-premises point solutions can only backup to disk and most cloud backup solutions can only backup to the cloud, very few of the solutions support alternative media like tape drives.
Most enterprise solutions have been available for over a decade, some of them started as a point solution but over the years have expanded into complete offerings. The challenge facing enterprise solutions is keeping pace with the point start ups, because a point solution does not have to be concerned with backward compatibility and it doesn’t need to worry about how adding support for a new operating system will impact all the other operating systems. Also most enterprise solutions when they add features will want those features to be available across as many of the platforms they support as possible.
Simply put the enterprise solutions has more variables to contend with and keeping pace can be difficult. Unfortunately, some enterprise backup companies have chosen acquisition over innovation. Their code has become too difficult to manage and it is faster to buy a company offering the capability. Then the company tries to fake integration by allowing multiple products be managed from a single interface.
The reality is that enterprise backup software companies and their customers are often better served by developing the capabilities themselves. While organic features take longer, if the company has used the correct development techniques it should be able to offer most of the new “cool” features that the point solutions provide within months.
In most cases larger data centers are better served by an enterprise backup solution that can protect the majority of their environment from a single solution. It is critical that the IT professional understand the solution’s track record in adopting new platforms and techniques. Ask questions! How long did it take the company to support VMware after it became prevalent in the data center? How long did it take for them to provide rapid recovery features? Or more recently, what is the company’s strategy for new applications like Hadoop and Cassandra?
With enterprise data protection as a baseline the organization might decide that a point solution is still needed as a temporary stop-gap. Keep these situations to a minimum and understand that the relationship is temporary until the enterprise solution provides adequate coverage.
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