Unitrends Delivers Scalable Data Backup for Businesses of all Sizes

REVIEW: Unitrends combines the concepts of virtualization with disaster recovery to create a robust backup platform suitable 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.