Symantec Backup Exec 2014 review
The 2012 edition of Backup Exec introduced a new interface with a steep learning curve that proved controversial. It also wasn’t compatible with Windows Server 2012, severely limiting its usefulness. This follow-up release retains the fiddly front-end, but finally supports Windows Server 2012 and R2, and Symantec’s granular recovery technology also now supports Microsoft Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013. Backup and deduplication speeds have improved too, and the Job Monitor that was sorely missed in 2012 is happily reinstated.
Backup Exec 2014 (BE2014) keeps to the streamlined workflow introduced in BE2012. This makes job creation simple: from the Backup and Restore tab you select all the servers you want to protect, then choose a strategy from the dropdown list, which will be applied to them all. Choices are based on defined storage and active licences; you could easily create a backup with tape staging for all your servers with one click.
The default for new jobs is to start with a full backup, then follow up with daily incrementals. Jobs can be modified prior to release, so you can edit the sources and destinations, set schedules, replace incrementals with differentials and add further stages if you so wish. With the Job Monitor back in its rightful place, it’s easy to keep an eye on things: two panels show jobs and job history, and can be filtered to refine the information on display.
Deduplication works by creating a special Disk Storage device with the feature enabled. As with previous releases, this capability comes as an optional extra – the best online price we’ve found is £370 exc VAT per server. It’s a bit of a liberty, since CA’s ARCserve Backup r16 (web ID: 373744) includes deduplication at no extra cost.
To test the software, we installed BE2014 on a Broadberry server with dual E5-2470 Xeons equipped with 16GB of RAM and running Windows Server 2012 R2. The installation completed cleanly in less than 30 minutes. Upgrading from an earlier version of Backup Exec ought to be plain-sailing, as BE2014 will import all your backup jobs and settings.
It’s also necessary to install an agent on each server to be backed up. This can be pushed out from the console; we tried a selection of hosts running Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2008 with the Hyper-V role and Windows 8.1, and again hit no problems on any of them.
Lastly, you’ll need to configure backup storage locations. We used local storage and an LTO-6 tape drive on the Backup Exec server, plus a Boston IP SAN server providing multiple disk targets.
We tried backing up a Windows 8.1 client to an IP SAN target
with deduplication enabled, and saw that 90GB of data from the host had been reduced on the target to a mere 35GB.
The process of restoring the data is just as easy as configuring the backup: when you select a server, BE2014 presents the relevant options for this system, so for our Exchange server we saw choices for restoring the data store or individual mailbox items, in addition to the file and folder options shown for regular servers.
The package also includes a new, simplified disaster-recovery (SDR) feature; to make use of it you’ll need to download the 3GB Microsoft Assessment and Deployment Kit, so you can create ISO files for restoring protected systems. It’s a shame that the SDR environment in BE2014 is based on Windows PE, since this doesn’t support Windows Server 2012 R2 or Windows 8.1: if you need disaster recovery for a host running one of these OSes, it must be done manually.
Backup Exec 2014 removes the major limitations of BE2012, and with its improved migration options it’s a more tempting upgrade. Anyone considering the switch is still advised to investigate the new console before investing, but the return of the Job Monitor sweetens the deal for users of earlier releases.
However, it’s hard to excuse Symantec for having taken so long to bring its flagship backup software up to scratch; plus, the pricing isn’t exactly competitive. Unless you can get by without deduplication, CA ARCserve Backup is much better value.
|Software subcategory||Backup software|
Operating system support
|Other operating system support||Windows 8 and 8.1|