Unitrends Recovery-3 review

£3932
Price when reviewed

Despite the proliferation of cloud backup services, many businesses still have reservations about entrusting their data to a third party. Unitrends offers an interesting alternative: its Recovery appliances provide on-site backup, archiving and disaster recovery services for every server, client, OS and app you own, without any hidden costs.

All you do is buy the model with the capacity to handle the amount of data you want to protect. Each comes with all the features enabled, so you have support for Windows, Unix, Linux, Mac and NetWare platforms, Exchange and SQL Server apps, and VMware and Hyper-V virtual environments.

We’ve tested the SMB level Recovery-312 appliance, which is supplied with a pair of 2TB mirrored SATA hard disks. Taking into account the storage needs of the onboard CentOS-5 operating system and Unitrends Enterprise Backup software, you have about 1TB of usable backup storage.

It doesn’t sound like much, but in-line data compression and Unitrends’ block-level deduplication can increase capacity significantly. Data can also be archived, and the Recovery-312 supports locally attached eSATA devices, plus NAS shares and SANs.

Unitrends Recovery-3

Deployment is simple, since you start with a local connection to provide network details. Then it’s over to the Unitrends web console, where you follow a wizard to set up basic operational details, including secure admin access, users and appliance roles. Small businesses will most likely use the appliance as a local backup system, but it can also be a replication target for remote Unitrends appliances; both roles can run simultaneously.

Client deployment is a cinch. We tested using Windows Server 2012, Windows 8 and three Windows Server 2008 R2 systems, one running Hyper-V and two running VMware 4.1 and 5. From the console, we provided the addresses of our Windows systems and authentication details, and the appliance automatically loaded backup and bare-metal recovery agents on each one. Prior to deployment, it can also create and apply a default backup policy.

The preferred backup strategy for Windows systems is Incremental Forever, which runs a master backup followed by regular incrementals. These can be scheduled as often as every 15 minutes, and full recoveries aren’t delayed, since the appliance creates synthesised full backups from the latest incrementals.

Performance isn’t great. A bare-metal master backup for our Windows 8 client took 1hr 34mins to secure 37GB at an average of 9MB/sec, while restoring a 23GB folder with 10,500 files averaged 22MB/sec. Similarly, backing up 180GB on our Hyper-V system returned a low 18MB/sec.

The Unitrends Instant Recovery feature uses the latest backups for a downed Windows system to create a virtual version on the appliance. This is a great way of getting a failed critical system quickly back into action, but it requires sufficient storage set aside on the appliance.

Once the agents were loaded on our Hyper-V server, we could see all its VMs from the console and select them for backup. Unitrends uses Microsoft’s VSS, so you can protect online and offline VMs, access file-level restores, and have your backup policies automatically include any new VMs.

Unitrends Recovery-3

Our VMware hosts were added in seconds, as Unitrends’ vProtect feature doesn’t require an agent to be installed on them. Once registered at the console, all the VMs were visible, and we were able to choose which to back up. You can run on-demand master, incremental, differential, selective and bare-metal backups, which can be customised with inclusion and exclusion lists. These need to be created by browsing the target system from the console, saving the selections and dragging them onto the relevant client.

Users can get involved in the process, too, since they can load the local agent and run their own backups. For data recovery, they can also browse the appliance for their own files and folders and restore them on demand. There’s even a DVD writer, which can be used to burn bootable discs from ISO files created by the bare-metal recovery agent. We tested this with a Windows 8 desktop, and it worked perfectly. We were able to use a DVD created by the appliance to boot up a Windows recovery environment and run a full system restore.

The Recovery-312 packs in more data-protection features than any SMB backup appliance we’ve seen so far. It’s easy to deploy and use, although the low backup and restore performance we saw is a concern.

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