Still looking for a reliable backup and recovery product? Use this handy guide to compare solutions from Microsoft and third-party vendors.
To protect your company’s data and be able to recover data quickly, you need to select the right backup and recovery software for your servers. The buyer’s guide table on page 66 lists enterprise backup and recovery products and features that can help you make that choice. Windows OSs include built-in backup and recovery tools, but if these tools don’t fit your needs, you might want to consider a third-party solution (including Microsoft’s separate Data Protection Manager—DPM). Let’s review some essential characteristics of backup and recovery software products.
_ You’ll want a product that will scale to the size of your environment and is compatible with your current and future OSs and applications. You’ll also need to choose a product that’s compatible with your existing backup media. You might want to consider buying a product that uses a different backup media type to supplement your current backup strategy. For example, a common approach is to implement a disk-to-disk (D2D) backup system to ensure continuous data protection, then periodically archive the backup disk to tape to use for disaster recovery.
Backup Types: Differential, Remote, and VSS Snapshots
To save time and reduce the number of unnecessary backups, many products run periodic differential backups, which include only data that has changed since the last full backup, in contrast to a complete backup of all data on a volume or system. Consider whether a product that performs full or differential backups makes more sense for your environment.
Remote functioning is another feature to consider. If your environment includes remote systems, you might need to back up to and recover data from those systems. The ability to back up and recover your systems from a remote location is essential, especially for all those times that you’re away from the office—whether at a conference, on vacation, or just at home for the weekend.
In addition, you might want your backup and recovery software to be compatible with Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), which takes point-in-time snapshots of data and lets applications continue to operate while the backup runs.
As virtualization becomes more prevalent, being able to back up and recover data on virtual machines (VMs) is more important than ever. If you use VMs, your backup and recovery solution should support backup and recovery of data on VMs. A growing trend is for businesses to use virtualized environments specifically for disaster recovery—to provide a mirrored recovery environment that you can switch over to if your physical servers or production virtual servers are damaged in a disaster.
Analysis, Scripting, and Reporting
Capabilities such as pre-backup analysis, scripting, and reporting can give you additional, useful information about backup and recovery in your environment or automate backup and recovery tasks. A pre-backup analysis will determine whether your storage device has enough disk space to contain the backup and how long the backup will take. In addition, many of the products in this buyer’s guide will let users schedule backups by date and time, by a defined interval (e.g., three hours, one week), by specific events in the event log, by the amount of data changed, or even by specific triggers (e.g., when the computer starts or shuts down, when the user logs on or off).
Scripting your backups can also be helpful, so that you don’t have to schedule them manually. Most of the products in this buyer’s guide are scriptable and support a wide variety of scripts, such as command-line interface, various shell languages, and Windows PowerShell. Calling a backup program from your own script can save time and effort down the road.
Systems administrators don’t have time to babysit their backups, so built-in reporting features are handy for monitoring backup and recovery status. Common reporting options include email notifications, pager alerts, or reports that are output as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, comma-separated value (CSV) files, HTML files, or other file formats.
Ever-changing compliance requirements mean that your backups must be as current and complete as possible. Although choices abound for enterprise-level backup and recovery software, selecting the right product for your environment can be confusing. See the table on page 66 for a comparison of more than a dozen options.