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Which enterprise data backup software is right for your business?

Explore whether backup software for the whole enterprise or environment-specific data protection is the better bet for your organization. The cloud can be an option, as well.

Backup software is "sticky." Once IT picks the backup software it wants, it tends to stay in use for years -- if not decades. The reason for the adhesion is not because the IT team is in love with the software. Often, the implementation process was so bad that the team fears going through it again with another product.

Having backup software that fits your organization is vital. Even though implementation causes headaches and instills fear in even the bravest of IT professionals, it's important to reassess your backup application and seek a new one if it's warranted. There is backup software that will apply to your entire enterprise. But while some backup offerings can hit general checkboxes, others concentrate on specific applications and can solve problems that an overarching backup product cannot.

When the time comes to make the switch or install your first enterprise data backup software application, it is critical to articulate the organization's goals for data protection. Make sure the potential backup software -- whether all-encompassing or niche -- and vendor will meet those goals. In general, most organizations will need multiple data protection products to meet all of their data protection goals.

Evaluating enterprise backup software suites

If your goal is data protection, you should consider an overarching backup application that handles bare-metal database applications, virtual environments, laptops and desktops and that integrates with the cloud. These options are limited.

Enterprise data backup software attempts to provide support for your entire data center by giving you one product to manage and one vendor to handle. The challenge with these apps is keeping pace with the rate of change. For example, the majority of enterprise data backup software vendors took so long to fully support virtualized infrastructures that newcomer Veeam Software seemingly came out of thin air to become a major player in the backup business.

The good news is that enterprise applications usually have rock-solid support. A good example of this support is how well these applications support bare-metal database server environments like Oracle and Microsoft SQL. However, their size can slow them down if they lack support for the modern NoSQL applications establishing a foothold in enterprise IT.

Enterprise backup software applications are a good choice for those looking for a wholesale replacement.

Enterprise backup applications include Commvault, EMC NetWorker, HPE Data Protector, IBM Spectrum Protect, Unitrends Enterprise Backup and Veritas NetBackup. These applications all have strong bare-metal application support and, in most cases, are making gains with virtualization and laptop or desktop backup. Still, their support in these formerly niche areas may not be as robust as applications that specialize in those types of data protection.

You will have to do some testing to determine if these features meet your needs. If those test results are good, you can consolidate to a single enterprise backup software suite. If not, you may need to add more environment-specific data protection applications.

Enterprise backup software applications are a good choice for those looking for a wholesale replacement or who have general backup requirements. More often than not, specific functions require more focus. There are some niche backup software vendors that address environment-specific data protection issues like NoSQL and the cloud.

Environment-specific data protection

Running multiple applications for data protection is nothing new. Environment-specific data protection was around long before enterprise backup even existed. Many IT organizations will use environment-specific products until slower-moving enterprise backup applications catch up in quality. For example, in the 1990s, there were dozens of database-specific applications providing online backup support for applications such as Oracle and Microsoft SQL. But most of those were replaced as enterprise applications enhanced their backup support.

There is much the same situation occurring in the data center today with virtualization. It is common for a virtualized environment to be protected by an application from Nakivo, Unitrends or Veeam. If an organization's data center is 100% virtualized, or at least close to it, then the virtualized application is essentially an enterprise app, and the organization may consolidate around this "point" offering.

Virtualization-specific applications are usually easier to implement than their enterprise alternatives and tend to more fully exploit virtualization data protection features. Many of these apps are now adding enterprise features like tape support, bare-metal backup support and cloud support, blurring the line between environment-specific and enterprise products.

Does NoSQL equal no backup?

A gaping hole in most enterprise data protection offerings is the lack of support for modern applications like Cassandra, Couchbase and MongoDB that are built on NoSQL. Similar to the situations with online database backup and virtualization backup, enterprise data backup software is slowly moving toward supporting them, but, in some cases, they may be years away from full support. In the meantime, NoSQL data protection looks very similar to the early days of database protection with administrators cobbling together scripts or using environment-specific applications, like Datos IO.

The cloud, the cloud, the cloud

IT can use the cloud in a variety of ways for data protection. For example, it can be an extension to existing data protection applications where IT stores old backups in the cloud instead of on site. In this scenario, the enterprise has to be careful to calculate the long-term, repetitive cost of the cloud versus the upfront cost of owning its own storage.

An alternative consideration is a cloud-only (or mostly cloud) deployment option from vendors like Asigra, Axcient, Datto, Infrascale, Zetta and others. These vendors deploy their backup software as a service. This results in low or no upfront cost.

Vendors also tend to use an agentless approach, meaning there is no software to deploy on the organization's servers. These applications typically provide an on-site appliance that receives the backup and replicates it to the cloud. As a result, the data center has the most active data on site for rapid recovery and all of the data off site in the event of a disaster. Many of these services also offer disaster recovery as a service to enable them to not only store data in the event of a failure, but to host the data center's applications for a period of time.

Cloud-based backup technology must go through the same qualification process that enterprise data backup software does. IT must verify that the product will cover the organization's most critical applications and environments. Then, the administrator must address specific cloud questions, like how quickly will the organization get its data back if there is a failure? Or, if the service offers DRaaS, the organization needs to understand how quickly its applications can be ready in the provider's cloud and return service to its own data center.

What's the best backup software for you?

There is no one backup software application that is perfect for all data centers. Each IT organization needs to test and evaluate these products for themselves. Enterprise backup still offers the best chance at consolidation, but the organization may have to accept some compromise on features.

Virtualization-specific applications may also provide a point of consolidation, especially as virtualization products begin to offer physical system backup. The cloud doesn't change the software consideration, but it does offer a new purchasing model and a new destination. Organizations looking to outsource backup, recovery and disaster recovery may find the cloud very appealing.

Next Steps

See how backup software has evolved to protect your corporate data

Explore what else backup software can do for your enterprise

Your data protection strategy has to evolve, too

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Which backup software vendor best suits your businesses' needs and why?