I have been using Backup Exec for most of my IT career. I “loved” version 2010, loved because I got used to all of it’s quirks and 2010 seemed the most stable. Backup Exec as a classic backup tool was ok, it could backup physical servers, AD, Exchange, Oracle database, SQL… and it had an option to backup NAS devices. It also had a great feature – ability to set the backup to run on the last day of the month. Why is this a great feature? Because in 2014 there are still products that lack that feature. Oh, and once you configured tape library, backup to tape worked quite well.
But, it’s not all roses, you see, there were also problems. Problems that still plague BackupExec. I don’t know why, but every time Symantec released a hefty service pack I was trembling if update will bork installation or not. When you installed Backup Exec you had to spend a while to download and install all the patches / Service Packs. You could be updating for an hour or even more, if you were lucky and got an update that borked something. Sometimes it was not possible to continue with patch installation. It also happened that one patch failed to install, when that happened, Live Update failed to update Backup Exec with remaining patches. As for support, it was terrible. If you had a problem and called in, you had to wait for a long time for a lady to tell you that technician will call you back. When that didn’t happen you called Symantec support again, you had to wait, again, polite guy would answer, get the same information from you and again promise you that technician will get in touch. Technician never got back to you and you had to browse for solution in their forums. For the most part, solution was there. Imagine having a major incident, your infrastructure borked, you try to restore and nothing. Or your backup works until it decides to stop. How long can you afford to be without backup? In my case it was a week. Horrible. Horrible. There had to be something better, affordable solution.
Symantec Backup Exec vs Veeam
We migrated most of the infrastructure from Physical to Virtual. BackupExec was not an option as it had horrible support for VMware backup. We compared several solutions and said hey let’s do some testing and compare products available. I received mail to my inbox in the morning, that Symantec just released version 2012. They promised heaven. For the first time, I noticed enormous marketing push and extent of online campaigns. Twitter, Facebook, blogosphere, they were all praising latest and greatest. Symantec provided product videos and they were twitting several times a day success stories and how great is their latest product . Until version 2012, most of upgrades went fine. But 2012, sigh, it changed a perspective and respect I had for Symantec. User interface changed 1000%, it was basically a new product, not related to BackupExec at all. All the jobs that we had were gone and logic for tape backup was 360 degrees away from old – correct way of doing backup to tape. Job monitor was gone and multi-server job feature was non existing. You were not able to group jobs and the way product worked was so different that was not humane.
We found Veeam, did a test, liked what we saw and moved away from Backup exec.
Why did this happen? How come that market leader lost a customer? And I guess we were not the only one. To understand this phenomenon, let’s take a look at Google trends. Comparing Veeam vs Backup exec, we can see that in year 2006, time of Backup Exec 11d, interest from the market was huge, it kept somehow steady interested until 2009, the time when Veeam was launched. Then it began to fall. Interestingly Veeam picked up interest from the market and it began to rise. In 2009 VMware released ESX 4. Most of the companies gained trust in virtualisation, time when it was ok to virtualise Active directory.
If we change search term from backup exec to backupexec we can see that interest in Backup Exec was indeed fading. There will all ways be percentage of people who don’t type mistype product name. If we focus on those people we can notice two things, that interest in Backup Exec is falling and that new users who are are looking for a backup product, not familiar with Backup Exec, don’t even consider it.
When Backup Exec 2012 was released, users rebelled. Even though Symantec tried all it could do, to change the perspective with enormous marketing push, it could not persuade it’s user base to keep using latest version. IT Forums were filled with complaints, rage and anger. Some users fell back to previous version, some left Symantec for good. When our maintenance was about to expire, I received numerous calls from Symantec trying to persuade me to extend agreement. That was funny. Symantec board decided that people responsible for such a mess had to go. They were sacked. They came up with a cunning plan. Let’s bring bloggers and users who complain the most and are most heard to our quarters, lets listen to them and promise them fixes. For plan to be more realistic, let’s promise that we will bring back the missing features in pieces included in Service packs. They succeeded to some extent. There was less complaining as people were assured that version 2012 will recive features they needed. Symantec delivered some features in SP1 and SP2, even though they slacked and failed to deliver service packs at promised time. They also had another problem, they just couldn’t keep up with latest versions of VMware and Microsoft offering. When it’s users started to complain why it doesn’t support latest VMware, Symantec responded with FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), they tweeted that latest VMware had a bug and that backup is not reliable with latest version.
People at Veeam were amused about such claim and posted official response, you know, that Veeam officially supports version in question and is not affected by the same issue. Sometimes things get funny in a backup world.
To keep long story short, Symantec decided that they will rebrand 2012R2,version that would include missing features to Backup Exec 2014. Because it contained ”enough improvements” over 2012 to call it 2014. They also hoped that new version would loose the bad karma surrounding 2012.
First thing you will notice when you install Veeam is how easy it is to use. Unlike Backup exec where you need to read 600 page manual, you can be up and running with Veeam in 1 hour. You may be shocked that Veeam does not use Service packs, they provide couple of bug fixes per release. Support is miles ahead of Backup Exec and they have a great forum with active members and users who are willing to share their experiences.
Why bother, backup is backup
True, so true, but…
When your server fails and you need to recover fast, Veeam can provide recovery speed you expect from your backup tool. With Symantec you have to restore your backup first. With Veeam, you just select point in time and run the VM from within the backup. Veeam would mount it’s backup store in VMware / Hyper-V and run affected VM from the backup. There is no long restore time.
Replication. There used to be a time when you you had to rely on expensive storage for replication. Veeam can replicate your infrastructure. Do you have a slow link? Veeam does have WAN acceleration built in. Deduplication and compression? Included in the price. While Deduplication is per job only, it’s faster when you need to restore fast. But still, they achieve great results with MS Server 2012+ in built deduplication. With Symantec, you have to pay additional fee for deduplication, in my case It wasn’t even working . Now imagine that you have to be 100% sure that AD and Exchange can be recovered on your secondary location. Veeam has a feature called Sure backup / Sure replica which in combination with Virtual lab, starts all the servers and makes sure that they are able to run and that services work after the backup. it’s smart as it knows that for Exchange recovery you need working AD. First it starts AD server, once up and running it starts Exchange and it makes sure that both work and can be recovered so you can sleep. Veeam can also backup Storage snapshots. And you can easily recover files, Exchange objects, Sharepoint objects, AD objects… Veeam is really a powerful tool, easy to use, reliable and most of all, compared to Symantec – affordable. You don’t have to worry about additional licences for Exchange or deduplicataion. The last thing you won’t have to worry about is OS support, Veeam is one of the first to support latest Microsoft and VMware solutions.
Is there life after Backup Exec?
Backup Exec lost huge market share with 2012 fiasco. Some users reinstalled older 2010 version, some users struggled with 2012 and made it work somehow. For those users version 2014 will be a relief, I guess. But still, there are users who were expecting more of latest and greatest. Those users may be looking for alternative. For IT it’s hard to change software they relied on for so many years, they know how it works and what to do when it breaks. Also some may rely on ”You can’t be fired for using market leader” mantra. It’s also difficult to step out of comfort zone. I can tell you that Veeam is a great software and you will be in great hands. But what Veeam is not, is universal solution – it won’t backup physical servers. And they don’t care about that. In that case you can still rely on your old backup software for physical server and use Veeam for virtual infrastructure. In the end, Veeam is not perfect and it has it’s flaws.
In case your budget allows for maintenance agreement only and could not bare expense for buying Veeam licences, there is an alternative. Nakivo Backup is cheaper and works just as well. It may not have every feature but it has a great deduplication and can be installed on Linux or used as virtual appliance.
If you require backup that would backup both worlds you can rely on Unitrends. Great solution which can completely replace Backup Exec in features. Has the best pre sales and support, period.
I am sure you can strike a great deal if you mention that you are moving off Backup Exec with each company.
In the end you could find Backup Exec 2014 to be everything you needed. In that case I would love to hear your story. Backup should not be hard and it should make your life easier not harder.