Symantec defends ‘bold’ changes in Backup Exec 2012 upgrade

Backup Exec 2012 upgrade has angered long-time customers, but Symantec executives say the changes were needed and users will adapt.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Symantec executives at the company’s Vision user conference this week defended the changes made to Backup Exec 2012 in response to severe online criticism from many of the SMB backup software company's long-time customers.

The Backup Exec 2012 upgrade includes a redesigned interface that Symantec intended to streamline disk-based backups. But the change has been jarring for customers, prompting them to take to Symantec forums to complain. Symantec executives say they are monitoring the reactions but they believe customers will adapt to the changes and see them as positive.

A forum dedicated to impressions of Backup Exec 2012 on the Symantec Connect Community is a stream of criticisms from unhappy customers. The rants began April 4 and have continued for more than a month, mostly complaining about the usability of the new interface. Some threaten to drop Backup Exec and switch backup software vendors.

A sampling of comments:

“Menus are now hidden behind other menus, and everything has a completely counter-intuitive feel … At first, I thought that the feeling would pass as I grew more familiar with the product, but in fact my dislike has grown as I have found more issues.”

“I can see getting used to the change, but not loving it.”

“Can't understand why such a drastic change in the way the product now handles backups. If you didn't have too many servers to backup I can see it not being too bad but the more you are trying to backup the worse it looks.”

“The new BE 2012 totally destroyed my jobs and now I have been working 4 days to get everything back to normal.”

“It looks really nice, but you can’t use it.”

“Either we go back to BE 2010 or we will change for a real solution from another vendor.”

“What was Symantec thinking? Whomever provided their input during beta did not run this in the real world.”

Perhaps the most telling post was one that pointed out -- more than a month after the thread began -- that there wasn’t a single positive comment on the board. Outside of one post pointing to links and videos explaining the new features, there is no response from Symantec on the board either. But Symantec execs have noticed, starting at the top.

In an interview with this week, Symantec CEO Enrique Salem said he thought it would take time for long-time Backup Exec users to accept the changes. “First time users of Backup Exec love it, they say it’s the way to go,” Salem said. “For existing customers -- like any change, it’s going to take a while for people to get used to it.”

The Symantec executive in charge of the backup products agreed that newcomers have taken to the new interface better than existing customers. Deepak Mohan, SVP of Symantec’s Information Management Group, also defended the changes. Mohan said the interface in Backup Exec 2010 was 10 years old and badly in need of an upgrade. He said the previous interface was designed for tape backup and didn’t take into account new features such as virtual backups, deduplication and the cloud.

“We made a bold decision to bring it to today’s workloads and make it disk-centric,” Mohan said of the Backup Exec 2012 upgrade. “We didn’t do that while sitting in our office. We conducted user experience studies, hired a consultant to look at it, and ran some of the changes through customer forums.

“We’re finding new customers love the interface. There’s a fraction of existing customers saying they want the old stuff, they don’t want to move to the 21st century. They don’t have the time to spend learning the new interface.”

Mohan said he is reaching out to customers who have been critical online and in social media to explain the changes. If there are features that a lot of customers are adamant about bringing back from Backup Exec 2010, Mohan said Symantec will add them in the next upgrade. He said there have been 30,000 installs of BE 2012. Symantec claims 1.5 million BE customers.

An existing customer who says he likes the changes spoke during a Backup Exec session at Symantec Vision. Brandon Mosak, network manager at Valparaiso, Ind.-based fire equipment manufacturer Task Force Tips, was asked by Backup Exec product managers to give a few tips on using the Backup Exec 2012 upgrade. Mosak was also quoted in the Symantec press release announcing Backup Exec 2012 in February.

“Don’t freak out,” Mosak advised users. “After you do an upgrade, everything is all there and it will continue to run, but there can be a knee-jerk reaction if you’re not ready for what’s to come. The first inclination is to think it chewed up half of your backup job.”

Mosak said Backup Exec 2012 has reduced his backup window by 24 hours and he finds it much easier to run disk backups. He said it took him about two hours to get used to the new version. “It’s different,” he said. “But as soon as you realize the reasons why changes were made, it makes perfect sense.”

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