Enterprise backup software is a safety net that keeps businesses running when application errors, cyber-attacks, negligent workers and countless other IT mishaps strike. Technical approaches between vendors vary somewhat, as do each organization's data protection requirements and objectives. But essentially, all enterprise backup solutions keep a duplicate copy of information on a storage device, separate from a primary server, PC or storage system for safekeeping.
Backup software solutions have also grown more sophisticated over time, reflecting the advances that have shaped the modern operating system, application and data center markets.
Accordingly, many of today's backup products do more than just transfer files and application data from one storage device to another. They can include resource-optimizing data management capabilities and other features that once used to belong to distinct classes of data protection tools.
A key concept here is backup software and disaster recovery: Turning their attention to the entire data lifecycle, many backup vendors imbued their product lines with features historically found in archiving and disaster recovery software. Now, it's common for the terms to be used interchangeably to describe platforms that fulfill not only the short-term and long-term backup data retention requirement of organizations, but also enable businesses to retrieve that data when the need arises.
Enterprise backup software plays a critical role in storage security, and can span several storage media.
What should you look for in enterprise backup applications? That all depends on your specific IT environment and the kinds of data that need backing up.
Cover all your options: Chances are that you will be evaluating and perhaps investing in a couple of products to cover all your bases. Although all-inclusive backup applications exist, specialized solutions may provide the data protection that's better suited for virtual machines than basic PC and laptop file recovery, for example.
Virtual vs. bare metal: Some products excel in heavily-virtualized environments and others in applications that run on bare-metal or physical servers. Does your business run Oracle, SAP or Microsoft SQL databases? Are your developers using Docker containers to power their applications?
Remember the Cloud: Increasingly, the cloud hangs over many decisions made by CIOs and IT managers, and finding the right backup and data recovery software is no exception. Lured by comparatively inexpensive cloud storage costs and rapidly-maturing service delivery models, enterprises are turning to the cloud for their data protection needs. If the cloud factors into the calculus used to determine your IT investments, a cloud-enabled backup software solution may be in your future.
Volume and scalability: Other considerations include the sheer volumes of data that a backup solution must effectively manage and whether it can scale as your data backup requirements grow and change. Do they deliver the acceptable performance or bog down the network during backup operations?
Below is a snapshot of the backup and archive software provider marketplace to help guide the evaluation process.
Other key factors in selecting backup and recovery software:
Realize that once backup software has been implemented, it tends to implemented for a long time horizon. for years. This is true for any number of factors, not the least of which is that storage admins are reluctant to replace such core software.
Having a backup software that fits your needs is critical. While some storage vendors offer general solutions, others focus on a targeted approach that may be for more efficient and cost effective of your company. Among the questions to ask:
1. The elements of your current storage infrastructure.
2. The level of on-staff expertise in storage administration.
3. What is your RPO (recovery point objective; which is the amount of data at risk) and your RTO (recovery time objective; the amount of time it takes to recover data and return to effective service).
4. Your encryption strategy.
5. Most important, of course, is budget, and whether a given vendor has product at your price point. Key point: the budget considerations must work not just for this year, but for the foreseeable future.
Veritas bills Backup Exec as "unified data protection solution software" that can handle practically any type of data thrown at it. It supports physical and virtual servers and integrates with VMware vSphere, Microsoft Server and Microsoft Hyper-V. On the cloud front, it be used to store backups on AWS (Amazon Web Services), Azure and Google Cloud Storage.
Commvault's backup and recovery solution is another multitasker, enabling data protection for files, applications, virtual machines and databases, including Microsoft SQL Server and PostgreSQL. Businesses running SAP or Oracle ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications are covered, and the software supports for more than 25 cloud storage providers. Built-in deduplication helps reduce network backup traffic by up to 90 percent, according to the company.
Although Arcserve Unified Data Protection (UDP) focuses on ease of use and manageability, it doesn't come at the expense of the functionality and adaptability that users expect from enterprise-grade products. Arcserve UDP protects physical and virtual servers, Windows and Linux applications and cloud workloads. The company claims its global deduplication technology can slash backup storage footprints by up 95 percent.
It's only fitting that enterprise storage giant Dell EMC offers a variety of backup software. Its Data Protection Suite casts a wide net, providing data backup, archiving, replication and snapshot and covering virtualized, hybrid-cloud and virtualized environments. It supports data deduplication, backup to tape and cloud storage. Other backup solutions from the company include NetWorker, Avamar and Data Protection Advisor for monitoring and analysis.
Veeam made a name for itself by focusing on environments that favored server virtualization. Now, Veeam Backup & Replication, a part of the company's Veeam Availability Suite, provides backup and disaster recovery services for physical servers, cloud workloads and application VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. Other features include built-in WAN (wide area network) acceleration, end-to-end AES 256-bit encryption and data deduplication.
Sensing a theme here? Like other major enterprise backup software providers, Big Blue's IBM Spectrum Protect product can also handle virtual machines, databases, ERP and other large business applications. It can send backups to flash drives, disk or tape, and major cloud storage platforms, namely Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure Blob storage, and of course, IBM Cloud Object Storage. Data compression, compression and "incremental forever" capabilities help keep storage costs in check.
Micro Focus, now home to HPE's Data Protector software after the company merged with HPE's software business in 2017. The automated backup and recovery solution offers extensions for several popular business application environments, including Microsoft Exchange, Oracle and SAP. As is now common in enterprise-grade offerings, it supports virtual servers and cloud-based backup targets, in addition to disk and tape.
It's not enough to find a good fit for your particular environment, businesses must also weigh their regulatory obligations and compliance standards that govern how they manage and protect their backup data.
Is credit card information included in your backups? The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (DSS) has some guidelines worth reviewing. HIPAA also has rules on how health data is to be managed, secure and retained. Make sure the backup solutions you're considering can adapt to the regulatory and corporate governance schemes that affect your business.
Additionally, can a product support the backup and recovery service-level agreements (SLAs) set by an IT department and an organization's various stakeholders?
Failing to meet realistic agreed-upon recovery times can have consequences that ripple throughout a business, particularly if the data in question involves a critical application or customer database. To ensure that your data protection setup can meet SLAs, seek out monitoring and analytics capabilities that accurately report the status and health of your backup and recovery systems so that no one is caught off guard when called into action.