If you have a hodgepodge of Windows, Linux, and virtual machines that need to be backed up by one product, Acronis Backup & Recovery delivers.
Using Acronis Backup & Recovery, you can back up local and remote physical computers running Windows 2000 with SP4 or later (with the exception of Home Editions of Windows client OSs) or Linux with kernel 2.4.20 or later. The latter includes Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0 and later, Ubuntu 9.10 and later, Fedora 11.0 and later, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10.0 and later, Debian 4.0 and 5.0, and CentOS 5.0. If you have a virtual environment that you would like to back up directly, Acronis Backup & Recovery supports Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware Infrastructure 3.5, and VMware vSphere Hypervisor (formerly VMware ESXi) 4.0 and later. Supported file systems include FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, ReiserFS 3, ReiserFS 4, XFS, JFS, and Linux Swap.
Acronis Backup & Recovery comes in a 1GB installation file. Although the installation took some time to complete, it ran flawlessly and was completely hands-off. It even took care of all the prerequisites, such as installing SQL Server 2005 Express.
After the installation was complete, I opened up the management console and proceeded to set up a backup schedule for the domain controller (DC) in my test domain. The first step was to install the backup agent on the remote DC. However, the remote installation of the agent failed initially, as the DC didn't have ports 9876 and 25001 open. After I opened up those two ports, the agent was installed.
You have many installation options for the agents as well as the main program. The most obvious way is to double-click the application executable and walk through the setup routine. However, you can also install the software remotely through a scripted method (e.g., using an .mst file in Windows, using the command line in Linux) or by using Group Policy. I like the Group Policy method. You simply create a Group Policy Object (GPO) for the parent Servers OU to ensure that every new server added to the domain has the correct Acronis components.
The heart of Acronis Backup & Recovery is the Management Server component. It is used to configure and manage the backups on the network. The first step in backing up a network is to create a backup plan in the management console, which Figure 1 shows. This process involves completing four sections.
What to back up. In this section, you identify which servers or services need to be backed up. This includes entire volumes on servers. You can't choose individual files to back up, but you can choose specific files or file types to exclude, such as hidden or system files and folders, or files with a specific extension (e.g., files with an .mp3 extension).
Where to back up. Acronis Backup & Recovery offers a wide choice of target locations to store your backups. In addition to tape drives (Advanced version only), backups can be stored in a local folder on a hard drive, a remote network share, an FTP or SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) server, a storage node, or online via Acronis Online Backup.
If you want to kick the tires of Acronis Online Backup, you can try it before you buy it. You can back up as much as 1TB of data for free for 60 days. The registration process is quick and doesn't require a credit card. In just a few minutes, I was able to back up my test server online. If the online backup (or restore) fails due to a communication problem, Acronis Backup & Recovery will try again every 30 seconds. It will do this five times by default, but this parameter can be changed.
How to back up. In this section, you specify the type of backup (i.e., full, incremental, or differential). You also configure the schedule, retention rules, and validation rules in this area.
Retention rules can be set to either keep the backups indefinitely or delete the backups that are older than a specified number of days. If you need a more comprehensive backup scheme, older backups can be moved to another medium. For example, the backups can be initially stored on disk drives, then later migrated to tapes or an offsite location.