Backup Exec 2014 restores popular 2012 features

With Backup Exec 2014, Symantec restored popular features it removed from Backup Exec 2012, as it hopes to restore faith in its SMB backup app.

Symantec this week made Backup Exec 2014 generally available, with hopes of repairing damage done to the platform's reputation by Backup Exec 2012.

Backup Exec 2014 actually started out as Backup Exec 2012 R2, and includes restored features -- such as Job Monitor -- that Symantec removed from BE 2012. BE 2014 also supports platforms -- such as Microsoft Windows 2012 and Windows 2012 R2 -- that Symantec never got into BE 2012.

BE 2012 had been a thorn in the vendor's side since its release. Angry customers took to Symantec forums and social media to complain about the redesigned user interface, and Symantec executives talked about fixing BE 2012 for two years. The poor reaction to the product prompted Symantec to merge the BE product and development team with those of its enterprise NetBackup platform.

Brian Greene, Symantec senior director of product management, said backup and deduplication speeds have increased significantly in BE 2014, and Symantec also added granular recovery for Exchange and SharePoint 2013 and cloud backups with Riverbed SteelStore (formerly Whitewater) and Quantum Q-Cloud. Support for Amazon Cloud Gateway VTL is planned for later in 2014.

So far, even some of the unhappy BE 2012 customers have praised BE 2014.

Naples, Florida-based managed hosting services firm Horizon Business Services began beta testing the new version in late February and has already begun upgrading production servers to BE 2014. Horizon director of IT Jacob Ackerman said his company has been a BE customer since 1999 when the software was sold by Seagate, and uses it to protect about 150 of its own and its customers' servers.

Ackerman said the performance bump and Windows Server 2012 R2 support were the key additions to BE 2014 for him. He said he considered BE 2012 a big improvement over BE 2010, which kept him from switching to Dell AppAssure. He did struggle with the new BE 2012 interface at first, though.

"With [BE] 2010, our deduplication and backup times were so long that we could no longer complete backups in one night," Ackerman said. "We were about to dump Backup Exec because of that. Performance was a night-and-day difference with 2012, but there were a lot of challenges with the UI [user interface] changes. I was used to the same interface for 10 years, and really hated the new one at first. After I got around to putting in time to learn it, I stopped doing the, 'Hey, who moved my cheese' thing."

Ackerman said he was happy to see Job Monitor back in BE 2014, although he doesn't use it much. "I stayed with the new [BE 2012] interface," he said. "I only use the Jobs view to troubleshoot."

Ackerman estimated a 10% performance increase for BE 2014 over BE 2012. The other benefit is that he can update his BE media servers to the latest version of Windows.

Julian Moorhouse, IT manager at Commercial and Industrial Property in Australia, was a disgruntled BE 2012 customer who said he was "thrilled" to have his favorite features from BE 2010 back, along with performance improvements. Moorhouse was a prominent critic of BE 2012 on social media when it came out. He was among the unhappy customers Symantec invited to a June 2012 meeting at its engineering site who cheered when the vendor said it would restore the Job Monitor and make other changes in service packs. However, he was disappointed that Symantec missed its deadline with those promises.

Moorhouse said Symantec has finally made good on its promises with BE 2014. He was part of a High Touch beta program that included on-site visits to customers from Symantec product managers.

"They did indeed deliver on all the promises from post-Backup Exec 2012, as well as other notable improvements," Moorhouse wrote in an email to SearchDataBackup.

He said the biggest improvement was restoring the Job Monitor in a split-screen view that shows running jobs on top and the job history log in the bottom half. That is combined with a new sort and filter function that lets users see only running jobs, jobs scheduled over the next 24 hours, or allows them to filter by job type or keyword.

"[Windows] Server 2012 and Hyper-V 2012 support was absolutely critical for us," he added. "During the wait [for BE 2014], a number of workarounds had to be put in place."

Moorhouse also wrote that he doesn't think Symantec realized how many people used the multi-server job feature of BE, which saves users from having to create a separate job for each server. "Yes, the server-centric job creation method is more complex, but it allows you to manage jobs in greater detail and, if one backup job fails, it does not interfere with any other server's backup jobs," he added.

Moorhouse also added that the BE 2014 interface is "more snappy," and his testing showed a 20% performance improvement over BE 2012.

"Backups have gone back to where they should be, in the background, nicely ticking away, no longer requiring our staff to check every few hours to make sure all is well," he wrote.

Of course, he still has a wish list for further improvement.

"We customers are never satisfied," Moorhouse added. "Now I want to see what else they can do. I want to see an iPad app for remote monitoring and control, maybe an HTML 5 interface, third-party app integration to monitoring systems, and anything else they can think of."

Not all unhappy BE 2012 customers have embraced BE 2014, however. Justin Livitski, a systems analyst for Canadian IT service provider Lowerys, said he signed up for the BE 2014 beta but hasn't bothered to test it. "I was pretty dismayed that the improvements promised for 2012 were pushed back to the next major release, leaving many 2012 customers out in the cold," he wrote in an email.

Livitski said he still uses mostly BE 2012 for backups, with some BE 2010.

BE 2014 pricing starts at $995 per media server, with optional pricing per hypervisor socket (starting at $1,285 per socket) and capacity pricing ranging from $5,025 for 1 TB to $3,266 per TB for 26 TB or more. The software is available now and Backup Exec 3600 appliances with BE 2014 will start shipping in September.

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