Symantec Backup Exec 12.5 for Windows Servers review

£599
Price when reviewed

It’s been too quiet on the backup software front for some time now but Symantec gets the ball rolling early this year with a new release of its Backup Exec for Windows Server. There aren’t as many new and wonderful features as introduced in the previous version and the majority centre round additional or updated remote agents.

It’s no surprise that this release focuses strongly on virtualisation support and Symantec now offers agents for VMware’s Virtual InfraStructure and Microsoft Hyper-V allowing entire virtual machines (VMs) to be backed up to disk or tape. Integration with the VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) allows snapshots to be created and backups taken of VMs on LANs or IP and FC SANs without the need for scripting or to have an agent on the ESX Server system.

Symantec’s Granular Recovery Technology (GRT) adds an extra dimension to VM restoration as it allows individual files and folders to be recovered on the source VM or redirected to another one if required. The price for each agent may seem high but bear in mind this is per physical server so you can buy one and secure all the VMs on that system.

You get a new remote media agent for securing and restoring data on DAS devices on Linux servers and Backup Exec can now discover arrays and provide optional provisioning tools for managing storage more efficiently. The latter creates virtual RAID-5 arrays from physical disks but to use this feature your storage vendor must have a VDS (virtual disk service) hardware provider available. More first time assistance is provided with video tutorials and direct links to Symantec??s knowledge base whilst the SQL Server and SharePoint agents have been updated.

We loaded Backup Exec on a Boston Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 server running Windows Server 2008. General installation has always been simple and you have an optional environment check which scans the backup server to ensure that it meets the minimum hardware and software requirements for the Backup Exec media services. The base product and multiple components can be selected at the same time and you can also remotely deploy extra media servers and remote agents during this phase as well.

We wanted to look closely at the virtualisation support and to test this we employed another Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 system running VMware ESX Server 3.5 with a bunch of virtual Server 2008 systems configured. Setting up the VMware agent requires some extra legwork as you need to create a VCB proxy server and the chosen host system will need the VCB framework tools and Backup Exec remote agent installed.

We went for the recommended option and used the media server to host the VCB proxy. A temporary staging server is also required and our media server got this job as well. With these in place we could now browse for our remote ESX server and select individual VMs for backup. We found this process easier that that used by CA’s ARCserve r12 as you have to run an extra utility from the VCB proxy system to populate the database and that’s the only way VMware VCB servers can be added.

it_photo_32189For Backup Exec, you can only secure an entire VM as an image using the agent but during job creation you can select the GRT option. This allows you to restore individual files and folders but note that GRT operations are only supported for VMs running Windows. We took Symantec’s advise and created a backup-to-disk folder on the media server rather use a tape drive and configured a GRT enabled backup job to secure a VM with a freshly installed copy of Server 2008. The task took a shade over thirty minutes to run over Gigabit Ethernet and secured around 7GB in total for an average speed of 4.4MB/sec.

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Software subcategory Backup software

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