Many of the reasons for a backup/recovery job failure -- including tape drive failures/errors, media errors and scheduling errors -- are beyond the control of backup/recovery software. However, backup/recovery software does control the ability to operate unattended (i.e., "lights out") without interruption due to bugs and can handle errors effectively.
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The statement, "I can operate this product in a lights-out mode" generated low marks for most products. Only Galaxy (5.71) and Data Protector (5.30) stood out with scores above 5.0. The other enterprise products with favorable ratings were NetBackup (4.81) and TSM (4.79). Among SMB products, Retrospect's 4.71 narrowly nosed out Backup Exec's 4.68.
Also generating low scores across the board was, "This product experiences very few bugs." With no product breaking the 5.0 barrier for this statement, Galaxy was the highest rated with a 4.96, followed by Retrospect (4.88). Interestingly, the survey showed an almost direct correlation between the ratings for this statement and the overall rankings of the products. The message to vendors is consistent: Spend more time solving existing problems to create stable products rather than implementing the latest "whiz-bang" feature.
Given the low user satisfaction concerning product reliability, and especially the number of product bugs, product support gains importance as a purchase criteria. Because most backup/recovery software is sold through resellers, Level-1 support is usually handled by the reselling organization. When asked to respond to the statement, "The vendor's third-party partners are knowledgeable," 11 of the 14 products in our survey rated above 5.0. Retrospect led the SMB group with a whopping 6.56; among enterprise products, IBM's TSM earned the highest mark on this question with a 5.83, followed by a 5.75 for EMC Legato NetWorker.
But support isn't the only criterion for sticking with a product. "We uncovered some shortcomings in the [Syncsort] product along the way," said Westchester County's Wood. "The product was faulty in some areas, but the support was just great."
The timeliness of problem resolution is also an important issue. Responses to the statement, "Problems are resolved in a timely manner," were consistent with the overall curve of the study. Retrospect received the highest score (5.94) among SMB products, and HP led the enterprise group with a 5.20. The survey also found a correlation between this statement and "Support issues rarely require escalation." When problems escalate from Level-1 support (reseller) to Level-2 support (vendor), there's a necessary hand-off between the two. Individual vendor scores for these two questions were similar in every case. Clearly, knowledgeable Level-1 support that avoids problem escalation is an important factor in overall customer satisfaction.
Diogenes Labs and Storage magazine congratulate CommVault Galaxy and EMC/Dantz Retrospect on taking top honors among a large field of backup/recovery products. And thanks, too, to the nearly 500 users who took the time to complete the survey and provide such insightful responses. Storage reported the results for enterprise-class arrays in its August 2005 issue. To see which company won this category click here. Other product categories will be addressed in the coming months.