If you asked this question five years ago, I would say no. It was the only way to do large server backups. However, the advent of CDP and near-CDP has created real alternatives to server-free backup. And, I think the large ISVs are agreeing with that. Many, if not most, of them have either acquired CDP technology or they are writing it themselves.
With a large server, I don't have enough time in the day or enough CPU cycles to back up this server in a reasonable amount of time. So, how are we going to do that? You have to take a step back. Really, what is a backup? Its just an alternate copy of your data for restores. CDP and near-CDP solve the problem in a different way. They don't do the full backup or the nightly backup in the traditional sense. So CDP and near-CDP essentially remove the problems associated with large server backup. Because you are backing up the data as its changing, CDP and near-CDP work really well when you are backing up a large data set.
With CDP, you are transferring data to the backup system literally every second so you are spreading out the load over the course of a whole day. With near-CDP you have the option of doing it that way or you can transfer it in small chunks -- say every hour you transfer the blocks that were changed during that time. Either way, you are moving a significantly smaller amount of data than you are during a traditional backup.
One could argue that CDP and near-CDP products are server-free backup in a general sense, because the work happens outside the server. Perhaps we should broaden the definition of server-free backup to include CDP and near-CDP. If someone is considering server-free backup, I would strongly urge them to consider all three of these technologies and select the one that is the most appropriate, the least expensive and the least complex while meeting their needs.
Check out the entire Server-free Backup FAQ.