Unitrends Delivers Scalable Data Backup for Businesses of all Sizes

By Frank J. Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2013-04-17

Unitrends Delivers Scalable Data Backup for Businesses of all Sizes

Unitrends brings reliability and simplicity to data backup with the Unitrends Enterprise Backup, which bridges virtual, cloud and physical into a unified target for the backup process.

Delivered as a virtual appliance, Unitrends Enterprise Backup proves to be simple to deploy and delivers performance on demand as dictated by the administrator who configures the virtual appliance. What's more, a virtual appliance can be deployed in the cloud, centralizing data backup, regardless of the physical, virtual or cloud-based infrastructure in use.

I was recently able to put Unitrends Enterprise Backup through its paces in a hybrid test environment, which included cloud storage, virtualized servers and several physical servers, as well as a network-attached storage (NAS) device and a remote storage area network (SAN). The test environment was heterogeneous and incorporated Microsoft Server technologies, VMware virtualization, an Oracle database and Microsoft Exchange.

The test environment, which normally would be an almost insurmountable backup challenge for most backup and recovery software applications, proved to be a minimal challenge for Unitrends Enterprise Backup, thanks to the product's flexibility and integration options.

Naturally, the first step of deploying the product is to install and configure it. Here, the virtual appliance implementation proved to make things very easy, especially if you have a VMware vSphere platform (or Microsoft Hyper-V) installed and functioning.

With vSphere running, the installation proved to be simple, pretty much the equivalent of installing any other virtual appliance onto a hypervisor-based virtualization platform. I chose to use the vSphere implementation, because Unitrends delivers a high level of integration with the virtualization platform and supports many of the native VMware monitoring and reporting features.

Once installed, the management console is accessed via a Web browser. I was able to use Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari without encountering any major problems. Configuration followed a very logical progression, enhanced by a wizard-driven GUI, which stressed ease of use.  A "settings button" on the GUI brings up the system settings, where a multitude of options are available. Here, administrators can define critical elements (such as users, locations, clients and policies); set up storage, retention and replication rules; and create instant recovery policies.

Unitrends uses a dashboard approach for monitoring the system, executing backups and restores, and creating schedules. The primary dashboard can be found under the "status button" on the GUI and offers a triple-pane view of the system statistics. I found it easy to use the navigation tree to navigate to a particular backup group. From there, I was able to quickly see the status of each backup client. Another pane in the GUI displayed a tabbed interface, which gave a historic view of alerts, backup jobs and replication jobs over the last seven days. From there, I was able to drill down into further details about the particular event selected.

I found that using Unitrends amounts to defining backup schedules, configuring replication tasks and defining instant recovery policies as the core basis for protecting data, which should be the primary goal of any backup product. However, Unitrends brings a new flavor to the process—one that minimizes the physical interaction needed and leverages the virtual representation of the systems involved. Simply put, you don't have to worry so much about the nuts and bolts of the network elements; Unitrends does that for you.

Unitrends Delivers Scalable Data Backup for Businesses of All Sizes

What's more, Unitrends leverages logical definitions of the hardware to abstract the physical components from the data. That brings incredible flexibility to the backup and restore process, where physical server backups can be moved over to virtual servers or cloud-based entities and back with little fuss or muss.

Unitrends can use both agent-based and agentless backup methods, allowing the product to back up operating systems via OS images, databases such as SQL, Microsoft Exchange and so forth, thanks to its application awareness. It will also back up virtual machines and virtual hosts as well as file storage.

The product also offers an amazing array of backup case scenarios, ranging from standard differential and incremental through to vaulting, P2V/V2V/V2P and "incremental forever" protection. (Incremental forever is Unitrends marketing speak for the company's near-continuous data protection in which data backed up is never more than 60 seconds old.)

Another interesting feature is called "instant recovery," which proves to be an ideal element for those looking to support business continuity or disaster recovery processes. Instant recovery is currently available for VMware environments (Hyper-V in the future, as well); instant recovery uses a failover ideology to support virtual machines/servers.

Instant recovery works by allowing an administrator to launch a bare metal image of a failed system on a new hypervisor, giving the administrator the ability to quickly access the image of the failed system to either reconfigure it and bring it back online or retrieve critical information needed to remediate the problem. Either way, the ability to quickly launch a failed system as a bare metal virtual machine definitely puts the "instant" back into recovery.  Another innovation comes in the form of the product's ability to restore a failed system to a dissimilar bare metal environment, in effect allowing administrators to move servers over to new platforms.

For administrators looking for geographic diversity in backup, or in other words off-site backups, Unitrends supports third-party vaulting capabilities, where backups can be stored on remote storage hosts, such as Unitrends' own Vault2Cloud service. Additional features that add to off-site backup capabilities include single- and multi-tenant support that brings replication across multiple sites and even private clouds.

Other notable features include global deduplication, over the wire compression and change block tracking (CBT), which all assist in speeding up backups and reducing the amount of storage required.

The company offers multiple pricing plans and even offers a "free edition," which can support as many as four Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware vSphere virtual machines. Otherwise, pricing plans are based on several different factors such as the number of processors.

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