Isn’t it about time backup became easier

This is the 26th article in the Spotlight on IT series. If you’d be interested in writing an article on the subject of backup, security, storage, virtualization or MSPs for the series, PM Elise to get started.


Well, now they’ve done it. Spiceworks wanted me to write an article and I figure hey, if the fans demand it, why not.

Hello World, I’m Jaguar, otherwise known as Justin, and I’m the undisputed champion of all things Unitrends on Spiceworks. Now, you might expect me to start off with some shameless plugging and all, however, let me pose to you a more pressing question: Bacon, or CANDIED bacon?

Oh right, this is supposed to be about IT and backups. Forgot where I was for a minute. Well, having been in the industry before I even managed to get out of high school, I’ve seen backup systems of just about every iteration you’ve heard of. Tape, disk, cloud, vaporware, built-in replication systems, all sorts of things, and all sorts of software to accomplish it.

The thing about backups I remember most while making my way into the industry, was ‘It’s never easy.’ It always kind of stuck with me, ‘Why is backing up such a pain? You’d think someone would have made something better than this garbage!’ Yet for years we put up with systems like NTBackup, NetBackup, and the countless iterations of BackupExec. Veritas and Symantec ruled the backup market, full backup jobs took days, and were only dared to be run at night. Restores? Hah! Unless the missing files were deathly critical to operations or someone fairly high up, the answer was simply ‘it’s gone’ and sometimes even then, the outdated tape format would bring down some wondrous roach motel situations, where “it wrote successfully”, but it never came back out when the heat was on, leaving many an IT cursing their budget, while packing their belongings and preparing for lawsuits.

Thankfully those days are over, as storage becomes cheaper, computers become faster, transfer rates have become exponentially better, people can now afford the resources to back up their systems near 24/7, and the choices for software and hardware are plentiful. No longer are the ‘big brand’ names the true leaders, and the stability and control of your backups has become far more simplified than the days of coming into the office HOPING that backup from last week ran properly. Now you can have clear, concise control of your backups, easy reporting delivered to your email every single day, and in the event of a failed backup, you can usually re-run the job right in the middle of the day, because systems today are designed to work in our ever expanding always-on infrastructure, without disturbing production systems.

Virtualization has changed our industry significantly in the past few years, and the amount of software and services we provide have also grown exponentially, as deploying new services has become far simpler than ever before. This is a very strong point to any new backup system, and companies like Veeam have revolutionized the entire virtual backup marketplace, and have left many vendors struggling to keep up.

Now to the most important part, the shameless plugging. We’ve now had our Unitrends units well over a year now, a wondrous experience brought on shortly after I arrived here, only to find out tape backup system hadn’t been actually doing anything for about a year (Good ol’ netbackup…). My CTO told me we ‘had to get the tape system working again’, or ‘start looking at cloud storage like vaultlogix.’ Well, after fighting with a very outdated copy of NetBackup and failing miserably, and no dates or usage counts on any of the tapes, I began researching tirelessly all of the options available.

VaultLogix, DataDomain, Exagrid, seemed to be ad-hoc software packaged under a name and a support contract, some with a glorified ‘appliance’ that was nothing more than a NAS with some deduplication software. I’d be damned if I was going to go back to the BackupExec 10d days of my youth. AppAssure looked great, but the licensing wasn’t to my tastes. I was tired of having to pay every time something new was added, I mean seriously, who wants to fight a battle with your VP to get new licenses every time you make a new server?

So after much research, I decided to give Unitrends a try. Its limitless licensing style blew my mind, and was one of the biggest reasons we chose it, we’ve got a mixed environment of at least 50 guestVMs, 12 VHosts, several server 2003 boxes, exchange, and lots of SQL. Normally getting all of that covered would be a fortune, and the ability to use Unitrends and expand at will without having to worry drew our attention quickly. After getting a demo unit sent out, I was amazed at how simple it was to set up. Agents were all-in-one, no poking around needed, everything was very clearly labeled, documentation was fantastic, and their support was simply FABULOUS. I’d have random off the wall questions or comments and I’d call up their support center and just shoot some time with their agents, they treated me much more than just a customer, I was a friend. There was a bug we found early on, which caused the unit to think it had become ‘disconnected’ when doing a differential on a _VERY_ large CIFS share (1TB, 10M+ files), because it would go for so long without finding changes. Their HEAD OF DEVELOPMENT called me, apologised profusely, and assured me it would be fixed by the next week. Sure enough, few days later, I got a call, an updated file, and everything was fixed. We’ve also purchased a vaulting unit to eliminate the need for sneakernet or cloud backups, our vaulting unit automatically pushes deltas offsite, so in the event of a disaster we could be up in 24 hours or less! I’ve been known to email Mark Campbell, their COO and just bounce ideas off him, and he responds to each and every email he gets, and that brings me to my next point.

After falling in love with my Unitrends unit, I knew I had to get them on Spiceworks, I had to get this product out there, so I spoke with Mark, and Jennifer Sipala, the wonderwoman of the marketing department. Fast forward to now, Unitrends is growing rapidly, their feature set grows with every release, and they have support from Mac to iSeries to *nix and beyond, now with instant recovery of virtual machines as well! I think they’ve definitively seated themselves into the Spiceworks community, and have to thank everyone who’s been kind enough to put me as their referral, Unitrends is simple backup love, and every person I know who’s gotten a unit that’s on Spiceworks absolutely loves it.

In the end, Unitrends is for business backup, and no backup system is perfect, but, Disk to Disk backups are the future, and unless you’re doing some serious long time archival, tape is really losing its grip on the backup market, it may be cheap, but is that what you want your backups on? Cheap? Make the switch today, and leave that dusty tape behind. Find the backup system that really works for you, not one that you have to work to please. The days of settling for crummy backup are officially over.

What are your preferred backup options? Chime in and keep the discussion going!