nito - Fotolia

Unitrends backup goes to infinity with Forever Cloud

The Unitrends Forever Cloud initiative lets customers back up offsite at a monthly cost of 10 cents per 500 GB increments, and retain annual backups longer than the standard 30 days.

Backup vendor Unitrends is diversifying its cloud strategy with a service that lets customers archive backup copies indefinitely in its private cloud.

Known as Forever Cloud, the new offering enables Unitrends backup customers to keep data needed for rapid recovery on-premises and ship long-term retention storage to its proprietary Unitrends Cloud.

For Forever Cloud subscribers, Unitrends retains the most recent successful backups from each of last four previous weeks, each of the previous 12 months and one comprehensive annual backup. Forever Cloud also provides retention of all annual copies during the life of a subscription.

Forever Cloud requires customers to have either Unitrends Recovery-Series backup hardware or Unitrends Enterprise Backup software running on-premises. Forever Cloud supports VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and virtualized images of physical Windows servers. Cloud data resides on servers in a Unitrends physical data center and customers access it with a Web interface.

Unitrends aims its storage at SMBs and midmarket enterprises. The vendor also sells its No Limits Cloud that updates virtual images of physical servers to the Unitrends Cloud. The No Limits Cloud requires users to purchase block storage that matches the physical capacity of their on-site storage and comes with standard 30-day retention.

Forever Cloud customers pay only for protected capacity. Customers buy Unitrends storage in minimum 500 GB increments and pay 10 cents per month for each half-terabyte.

Jason Buffington, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) specializing in backup, said Unitrends combines traditional on-premises backup with a cloud strategy.

One of the things Unitrends does well is offer an alternative to the unified legacy players and the modern point players. "Unitrends is relatively unique in that it still covers a wide variety of workloads and yet tends to take a fairly modern view of how storage gets consumed. If you're going to take a modern spin on data protection in general, having a true approach for hybrid and pure cloud scenarios should be part of that," Buffington said.

Source-level dedupe; replication at file, segment, block levels

As with No Limits Cloud, Forever Cloud can be used in conjunction with Unitrends ReliableDR disaster recovery-as-a-service software platform for virtual machines (VMs). Unitrends backup customers also have the option to use Forever Cloud to hook into hyper-scale public clouds for archival storage.

Unitrends CTO Mark Campbell said Forever Cloud is designed to help customers automate management of cold storage and reclaim capacity on physical storage hardware.

Unitrends is relatively unique in that it still covers a wide variety of workloads, and yet tends to take a fairly modern view of how storage gets consumed.
Jason Buffington

"Customers told us they want the ability to buy smaller chunks of storage and use it to provide extended data protection on only some of their virtual machines. They wanted the granularity of protecting a portion of their local backups in the cloud," Campbell said.

"We had other customers that already have disaster recovery, but want to extend retention to seven years or longer. The third thing customers told us was: 'Don't make us buy raw blocks of storage in the cloud.'"

Unitrends Forever Cloud uses WAN-optimized source-level deduplication and replication to analyze data at the file, segment and block levels. Unitrends notes any block changes, but does not ship the data until it verifies that the changed block does not already exist.

ESG's Buffington said he expects Forever Cloud to appeal to customers who want long-term retention while moving away from tape.

"We see five, seven, even 10 years as a reasonable amount of time for data retention in general, with or without regulatory compliance (mandates). There are a lot of good business-operating practices for keeping your data that long," Buffington said.

Crescent Baths & Kitchens, a small remodeling and contracting company near Pittsburgh, recently installed a Unitrends Recovery-Trends 201 appliance for local disk backup and plans to integrate Forever Cloud as an archive tier. Company president Emil Neufeld said Crescent Supply paid $1,300 for a three-year subscription, starting with 500 GB of Forever Cloud storage.

"The big thing for us is tape-replacement costs. [We also get] improved reliability. I was spending about $1,000 a year to replace older magnetic tapes. If we had to have an old tape drive replaced, it was a crap shoot as to whether the [new] tape drives could read the old tapes. Going to the hard disk for backup improved our reliability. Going to the cloud gave us more security," Neufeld said.

Next Steps

The evolution of cloud-based backup

Why cloud backups appeal to customers

Cloud-based services move beyond backup

Dig Deeper on Cloud backup