Tactical Advice

Look First Before Backing Up

Evaluating your needs will help simplify the backup options available from Symantec.
This story appears in the September 2009 issue of BizTech Magazine.

Photo: Ale Ventura/
PhotoAlto/Photolibrary

<fogey>Kid, back when I got started in this biz, we didn’t have any of your fancy-schmancy granular recovery, system snapshots and the like. We had a Travan tape drive and a copy of Backup Exec (back when Conner owned it) and we copied our data. If the server hardware failed or we had to migrate, we pulled an all-nighter. And we LIKED IT.</fogey>

The problem with the good old days is they were never that good.

Modern backup software has features and capabilities that the engineers at Conner, circa 1994, could only dream of. The problem today is figuring out which of a manufacturer’s many products meets the needs of the business. It’s a classic case of having too many choices.

Take Symantec’s backup and disaster recovery products as an example. Symantec has two solutions: Backup Exec for Windows Servers and associated add-ins, and Backup Exec System Recovery Server.

What capabilities do these products feature, and how do they fit into the spectrum of a business’s size and needs?

Matching Capability With Need

When it comes to figuring out system backup and recovery options with Symantec’s line of products, you should start small and work your way up. For small and medium-sized businesses, the Backup Exec System Recovery product is the first rung on the ladder. BESR is a disk-based backup solution that makes image-level backups of an entire server or workstation.

“We’re giving a stable solution that provides you with bare-metal recovery of your entire system, plus your data-level restore,” says Monica Girolami, product marketing manager at Symantec.

Designed for Windows-centric environments, BESR is simple and easy to use. It supports scheduled full and incremental backups and can restore files and folders, too. It also has the power to do a complete bare-metal restore of a desktop or server.

You can also recover to different hardware or even to a virtual machine. Using the BESR Restore Anywhere option allows you to boot up a new, dissimilar system and pull down drivers and necessary hardware components. The program then guides you through restoring the old server.

This is ideal for growth management or disaster recovery. When a system has outgrown its old hardware (or the old hardware has been vaporized) BESR makes migrating to beefier hardware a snap. The BESR Recovery CD used to boot the new host includes most storage controller, hardware abstraction layer, kernel and network drivers for Windows Server 2003, 2008 and Windows XP systems.

A Smaller Option

For very small businesses, Symantec has recently released Symantec Protection Suite (SPS) for Small Business. SPS offers a superset of Symantec Endpoint Protection version 11, Mail Security and Backup Exec System Recovery Desktop Edition. BESR Desktop Edition runs on Windows workstations and has the same full backup capabilities as its big brother. This solution is for small businesses that do not have a server environment. But, as they grow, BESR for Servers can be installed and incorporated with the Desktop Edition product to allow full backups.

For enterprise backup management, there is BESR System Recovery Manager, a console environment that manages large numbers of server and workstation backups in a centralized way.

BESR can walk you through a server restore. It will even let you recover to different hardware or to a virtual machine if need be.

BESR Solution is a plug-in to the Symantec Management Suite, which was formerly the Altiris centralized management product for enterprise. It allows central administration not only for BESR but also for the suite of Symantec enterprise protection products, such as Endpoint Protection and Backup Exec.

The original Backup Exec for Windows Servers product is now aimed at medium- and large-sized companies with multiple application servers. This started with version 11 and the introduction of granular recovery technology for Exchange Server, SharePoint and Active Directory.

“I can take a single-pass backup of my Exchange environment and later drill down to an individual e-mail or mailbox and restore at that very granular level,” says Girolami.

Similarly, the Active Directory granular recovery feature allows the restore of individual AD objects such as user accounts, groups or organizational units.

The agents for Exchange, SQL, SharePoint and Active Directory are add-in modules for the base Backup Exec product.

The release of Backup Exec Version 12.5 also added backup options for VMware Virtual Infrastructure and Microsoft Virtual Server with support for Hyper-V. This product does not require installation of agents on individual guest virtual machines or complex scripting.

“The agent is licensed per virtual host and protects an unlimited number of guest machines,” says Girolami. The VM snapshot backups can be managed from a central console on the host server or through a Backup Exec media server console.

The VM backup technology also allows granular file and folder recovery on guest virtual machines without having to do an additional file and folder backup.

“When we talk to our customers, that’s one of their biggest challenges: finding out what’s inside of these guests and being able to restore what they need to from inside there without having to do a guest-level recovery,” Girolami says.

Symantec also recommends a belt-and-suspenders approach to critical servers. The idea is to use BESR for periodic imaging of the systems to provide a base for rapid disaster recovery, and Backup Exec products to allow for ongoing maintenance and to provide updated data to recovered systems.

Connor W. Anderson is vice president of Riverfront Technology in Clinton, Iowa.
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