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Customers still waiting for requested Backup Exec 2012 features

Symantec has yet to fulfill promises made nearly a year ago to restore popular Backup Exec 2012 features that it cut, such as Jobs View.

LAS VEGAS -- Customers are still waiting for popular Backup Exec 2012 features Symantec promised 10 months ago, and they will be waiting at least a few more months. A Backup Exec roadmap session this week at Symantec Vision revealed those updates will not be included in the next service pack, scheduled to go into beta next month, and neither will full support for the latest version of Microsoft Windows.

The Backup Exec 2012 release early last year drew an outpouring of complaints on social media and a Symantec online forum. Unhappy long-time users of the SMB backup application balked at Symantec's switch from a job-centric view to a resource-centric view. Symantec invited unhappy customers to a session with developers in June 2012 in Heathrow, Fla., and promised to return features such as Job Monitor and the All Jobs button in Backup Exec 2012 service packs. Customers who attended that session told SearchDataBackup they expected to have the popular Backup Exec 2012 features restored last fall.

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But that hasn't happened. Blake McConnell, the Symantec vice president who took over product management of Backup Exec last September, said Symantec is emphasizing platform support over features in Backup Exec 2012 and his predecessors who promised the changes didn't realize how long they would take.

Symantec's Drew Meyer and Brian Greene also emphasized the need for platform support when they laid out the roadmap for upcoming Backup Exec releases Monday in a session that drew about 20 attendees. Meyer and Greene admitted problems with the Backup Exec 2012 release and vowed to fix many of them in the upcoming "Capri" and "Columbus" releases.

The Capri service pack is expected in beta next month and for general availability in July. Columbus will follow at least a few months later. Capri will include support for Windows Server 2012 through agents, as well as support for Hyper-V 2012 and VMware vSphere ESX 5.1. The changes will be made for Backup Exec 2010 as well as 2012 because most Backup Exec customers have yet to upgrade to 2012.

Columbus – for which no release date is currently set -- will support Windows Server 2012 on the media server and offer agent support for Oracle 11, Red Hat 5.8 and 6.2 and Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint with granular recovery technology; and that is the release when Job Monitor, Job Management and Job Scheduling will go back in, Meyer and Greene said.

Meyer, who is the director of marketing for Backup Exec, said more than 50% of Backup Exec customers are migrating to Windows Server 2012, and Symantec research shows 40% of SMBs are moving to Windows Server 2012 because of Hyper-V. "We're late on Windows Server 2012," he said. "I would not classify what we've delivered as timely platform support because it's been out since September and we don't support it."

Greene, senior director of product management for Backup Exec, added: "One way to find out if something is important to somebody is to take it out. Columbus is all about putting Jobs Monitoring back. The whole jobs concept is coming back. One of the overwhelming things we heard from customers is, 'We're not sold on the resource view; we really love our Jobs and we don't want to learn something new.'"

In email exchanges with SearchDataBackup, two customers who attended the Heathrow meeting said they were disappointed that the changes in Backup Exec 2012 features promised to them in Florida last year are still roadmap items.

"At first, the service pack was going to be late last year, then the end of the year, then February, March, April, May and now they have stopped promising a specific month and instead are saying they are working to get it out as soon as possible," wrote Julian Moorhouse, IT manager of Commercial and Industrial Property in Sydney, Australia.

Moorhouse is also bothered by the late support for Windows Server 2012.

"It is really concerning because a company like Symantec used to be so far ahead of the game, supporting all new operating systems well before they came out of beta," he wrote. "Now, it is well into 2013 and they still do not support [Windows] Server 2012. Even in the next update, it will support backing up a Windows 2012 server via an agent, but it still won't be able to have Backup Exec installed on it. It is pretty dangerous for Symantec to go this long with a product as big as Backup Exec and not fully support Server 2012 and Windows 8. It still also has a long list of stability and usability issues to attend to."

Moorhouse credited Symantec for keeping in touch with the group that it brought to Heathrow, although he said about half of them have switched to backup software from other vendors. He has had one-on-one meetings with Symantec reps several times since the Florida meeting, but he added that his company may "have no choice but to change backup providers" if he doesn't get the support he needs by the end of June because [his company] is planning major upgrade projects for its enterprise resource planning and document management systems applications to Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V.

Justin Livitski, a systems analyst for Canadian IT service provider Lowerys, said he is sticking with Backup Exec despite the long wait for satisfaction.

"Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I have stuck with BE 2012 so far," Livitski wrote. "In fact, I have upgraded most of my BE 2010 customers to 2012. For all its flaws, there are some redeeming qualities, i.e., the bare-metal restore capability. For a small business with only a few physical servers, this is a very important functionality.

"I believe many of the improvements will be coming, but not to Backup Exec 2012. I am very much hoping -- and have pleaded the case with Symantec -- that existing BE 2012 customers will be entitled to upgrade at no or low cost to the next version with all of the recommended enhancements. But the more time that passes before the next version is released, the less likely that is to happen."

Meyer said Symantec will not push the improvements to Backup Exec 2013 or any future version. "We can't ask customers to pay for a new version with the features we didn't get into 2012."

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