Feeds

Review: Unitrends backup appliances

Backing up, disrupting and... worth it?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Review In my experience, backup software sucks. Normally, I chalk that up to a lack of exposure to non-crap alternatives on my part. Talking to backup admins and doing the maths on the licensing leads me to believe my original assessment is correct; there are precious few backups applications and vendors that don't cause some form of significant angst among their userbase. While at Spiceworld, I voiced this opinion.

Unitrends stuck out for me among vendors at Spiceworld for the tenacity of their marketing folk. Along with other startups in the field, they're out to make a name for themselves - attempting to reach the "explosive growth" phase. They have a loyal core customer base, decent technology and a pricing structure that threatens to destabilise the market for incumbents.

Unitrends offers its backup software via two different routes: a virtual appliance and a physical one. The company sent me one of its backup appliances for review: a Recovery 833 designed to back up about 20TB worth of data. It has an MSRP of just under $50,000. I've also taken the time to play with its virtual appliance so that I can compare and contrast between the two offerings.

The software: What do you mean, easy-to-use interface?

The heart of Unitrends' offering is its software. Whether offered as part of a virtual appliance or a physical one, it is really the software that you end up paying for. Unitrends uses both agentful and agentless backup methods. This allows Unitrends to back up operating systems via operating system images, databases such as SQL, Microsoft Exchange and so forth by being application aware. It will also back up virtual machines, virtual hosts, as well as file storage. They do just about every kind of backup you can imagine, from standard differential and incremental through to vaulting, P2V/V2V/V2P and "incremental forever" protection. (Incremental forever is Unitrends marketing lingo for near-continuous data protection in which data backed up is never more than 15 minutes old.)

Unitrends agent software

Unitrends and I could have a very long conversation about our differences of opinion regarding an easy-to-use interface. Not being an enterprise backup admin, I personally found the Unitrends software to have a steep learning curve; it took me the better part of four days to figure out how to get the software to do everything I wanted it to do. I purposefully didn't use any of the tutorial videos before diving in to the software, as I wanted to get a feel for how intuitive it was out of the box. I did take a look after the fact, and the videos are actually quite good - if you start there, you'll be fine.

Unitrends Interface

I'm not a big fan of the agent software. I really like the fact that the Windows agents install themselves without requiring a system reboot, so they get a cookie there. I otherwise find the agents to be clunky, counterintuitive, and completely lacking in what I would consider to be pretty basic setup functionality. Ideally, when I install an agent on a system, I should either be prompted with a nice wizard to connect to the relevant backup server, there should be a button that scans the network for appropriate backup servers, or both.

Instead, there's some complicated process involving selecting the appropriate backup server, registering with it, going over to the server software to configure backups and triggering it from there. Fortunately, I can generally get away without having to use the agent at all.

Once over the initial learning curve, everything within the software is laid out quite logically and there are a number of interface elements I quite like. One that endears me is the repeated use of auto-generated charts and graphs.

Unitrends Storage Use Circle
Graph (click to enlarge)

You can easily identify your storage usage, deduplication impact, and more with a simple to understand visual reference: great for copying and pasting into a presentation with the pointy-haired boss.

I'm less impressed with the error handling within the application. If your backup encounters an error, a great deal of information about that error is recorded.

Unitrends Exchange Error
(click to enlarge)

There is, however, no remediation information presented. This means your Google-fu must be strong.

Despite my grousing, Unitrends' offering is still significantly easier to use than any of the other enterprise backup software I've had opportunity to work with, the virtual appliances I played with (version 7) were easier to deploy than I would have expected. Once I figured out the underlying logic behind how things were laid out, it proved easier and more efficient than System Center Data Protection Manager, Tivoli Storage Manager, Symantec's NetBackup, or even my beloved Retrospect. It absolutely wrecks Appassure.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Docker's app containers are coming to Windows Server, says Microsoft
MS chases app deployment speeds already enjoyed by Linux devs
IBM storage revenues sink: 'We are disappointed,' says CEO
Time to put the storage biz up for sale?
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
SDI wars: WTF is software defined infrastructure?
This time we play for ALL the marbles
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
Symantec backs out of Backup Exec: Plans to can appliance in Jan
Will still provide support to existing customers
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.