Symantec enters online backup with SaaS

By Kevin Komiega

—Symantec's long-awaited entry into the online backup and recovery services market has come to fruition in the form the Symantec Protection Network (SPN), a new Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, and two new services ? an online backup service for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) and an online storage option for the newly announced release of the company's Backup Exec 12 software.

The SPN provides a suite of IT infrastructure technologies, a single portal and registration interface, consolidated billing, and a common customer support model for all SPN-based services.

The first SPN offering is the Symantec Online Backup service, under which customer data is backed up, managed and maintained in Symantec-operated data centers. Users can browse their files, manage protection settings, and initiate restores from anywhere over the Internet via a web browser interface.

The second service is Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec, which is integrated with Symantec's latest product for data protection in Windows environments, the newly announced Backup Exec 12.

With Symantec Online Storage for Backup Exec, Backup Exec 12 users can manage off-site storage for their backups from within Backup Exec. The hybrid service gives users a single offering to back up and store data onsite with tape or disk and securely store a copy of their data online for disaster recovery.

Symantec Online Backup is packaged and priced based on a variety of factors. The first decision facing customers is how long to maintain their file system history. The second is how much data they need to back up. More specifically, there are 15 different service plans with five different capacity tiers as well as several additional options. A 5GB plan starts at $25 per month.

Pricing for the Online Storage for Backup Exec 12 is slightly different, with a minimum requirement of a 10GB plan for $38 per month in addition to the normal licensing fees for the Backup Exec software. Estimated pricing for Symantec Backup Exec 12 starts at $995 per server.

John Webster, principal analyst at the Illuminata consulting firm, says Symantec is offering two flavors of SaaS storage and believes end users need to differentiate between the two before committing their IT dollars to a contract.

"I think there's confusion between two different kinds of SaaS," explains Webster. "One is software as a service and the other is storage as a service. Symantec's offering is a combination of both and there are different charges for each service. Once users understand this, they need to take a step back and ask themselves what it will cost."

Webster says the Online Backup offering delivers software as a service in the form of a product that looks like Backup Exec, but is totally online with the backup target being the SPN bunker. Contrast that with Online Storage for Backup Exec, which gives customers the option managing backups locally and using the SPN as a backup target.

"To me, the Online Storage for Backup Exec option is storage as a service because you have to buy the software license yourself in order to leverage the SPN option under Backup Exec 12," says Webster. "That is where you have to consider what you're buying and whether it fits the financial model within your organization."

Webster adds that the Online Storage option for Backup Exec offers SMBs a way to potentially eliminate the need to send backup tapes offsite.

"I think everybody agrees that sending tapes offsite is not a good business practice because it has become too risky," says Webster. "Not because someone can come across a tape and reproduce it, but risky because you don't want to live with the kind of publicity that comes when you lose a backup tape."

Symantec Protection Network will be available through Symantec's channel partners and the Symantec website.

Backup Exec 12

The release of Backup Exec 12 is all about Windows support, offering backup and recovery for Windows Server 2008 environments and existing Microsoft applications.

Backup Exec 12 introduces certified support for Windows Server 2008, enhanced granular recovery of application data, and faster backup and restore performance for Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Active Directory, and SharePoint environments, as well as support for non-Microsoft environments and integration with Symantec's ThreatCon global security alerting system.

Backup Exec 12 for Windows provides disk-to-disk-to-tape backup and recovery and features continuous data protection (CDP) for file servers, workstations, and Exchange and SQL servers.

Backup Exec 12 restores data from a single pass backup with Symantec's Granular Recovery Technology, which eliminates the need to run mailbox backups to recover individual Exchange emails, and makes it possible to restore SharePoint, SharePoint Services, and Active Directory data.

Backup Exec 12 has been integrated with other products in the Symantec family as well. Integration with Enterprise Vault provides backup and recovery for archives, while integration with Endpoint Protection delivers proactive backup in the event of an elevated Internet ThreatCon level. In addition, Backup Exec 12 extends protection to Macintosh systems as well as Lotus Domino servers, and adds support for IBM N series devices and LTO-4 tape drives.

"Optimizing support for Windows Server 2008 is important because Microsoft has changed a lot of things in the operating system, including how storage vendors need to back up files and data," says Brian Greene, senior director of product management for Backup Exec. "They changed the file system, file attributes and how to do encryption."

Greene says while Backup Exec 12 is the first backup package to be certified with Windows Server 2008, it is not exclusive to the platform. "We did not create a special version of the product just for Windows Server 2008. Backup Exec 12 is backward compatible with older versions of Windows," he says.

Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), says the debut of Windows Server 2008 is a "catalyst event" for the IT industry.

"Implementing [Windows Server 2008] breaks the incumbent backup application's ability to adequately back up data and necessitates an upgrade of the backup application," says Whitehouse. "Microsoft has tightened up the security model and introduced a new transactional file system, clustering architecture and virtual server to improve enterprise scalability. Microsoft also made it mandatory to use Volume Shadow Copy Service [VSS] to back up data in order to guarantee complete protection for the platform. Windows Server 2008 also supports 64-bit platforms. These changes all add up to the fact that older applications are likely to break."

Whitehouse believes Backup Exec 12's designation as the first backup application certified for Windows Server 2008 sends a message to Symantec's customers that their backup software will continue to work when they make the shift to the new operating system. She also says Symantec has even managed to get the jump on Microsoft in the area of data protection.

"I think it's smart for them to get out ahead of this wave of change," she says. "Don't forget, Symantec is competing with Microsoft in the data protection arena. Not only is Microsoft shipping a new backup utility with Windows Server 2008, but Microsoft's Data Protection Manager [DPM] should have the inside track on platform and application integration. It's significant that Symantec is the first to get certified given that DPM is a Microsoft solution."

Enhanced Windows recovery

Symantec also announced the availability of the latest version of its Windows system recovery product, Backup Exec System Recovery 8. The software features new tools for offsite protection and enhanced recovery capabilities, integration with Symantec security and systems management solutions, and certified support for Windows Server 2008.

Backup Exec System Recovery 8 now enables administrators to automatically copy recovery points to a remote server using FTP or to an external hard drive or network share. A new Granular Restore Option enables organizations to recover Microsoft Exchange mailboxes, folders, messages, and attachments; individual Microsoft SharePoint documents; and individual files or folders in seconds from a single, multi-tab interface.

In addition, Backup Exec System Recovery 8 also includes integration with the ThreatCon infrastructure to enable system recovery points to be captured immediately and automatically in the event of an elevated Internet ThreatCon level.

Integration of Backup Exec System Recovery 8 with Altiris Notification Server enables administrators to manage backup tasks from their familiar interfaces and database frameworks. Backup Exec System Recovery 8 can now communicate with external USB drives and run backup jobs to a given device, even if Windows changes the drive letter for the device.

Also new with Backup Exec System Recovery 8 is logo-certified support for Windows Server 2008, including Restore Anyware technology for dissimilar hardware and physical-to-virtual restoration.

Rounding out the upgrades to System Recovery 8 is support for physical to virtual (P2V) and virtual to physical (V2P) conversions to VMware ESX Server, VMware Server, VMware Workstation, and Microsoft Virtual Server disk formats.

Estimated pricing for Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8 starts at $1,095 per server and $69 per workstation.

This article was originally published on February 28, 2008