Product Review: Idera Server Backup Enterprise

Product: Idera Server Backup Enterprise

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Having a backup solution is a key pillar for any business continuity strategy. Idera Server Backup is a good choice for organizations that need a backup product that is both fast and reliable. Idera Server Backup can be used to back up not only physical servers but also virtual machines running on VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix Xen and other hypervisors. Supporting multiple platforms, Idera Server Backup can be used to back up servers running supported versions of Windows Server and common Linux distros such as RedHat, CentOS, SuSe, Debian and Ubuntu. You can also use the product to back up databases for server applications such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL.

Instead of using full, incremental and differential backups, Idera Server Backup uses a technology called Virtual Full Backup to create an initial full replica of the remote server. Subsequent backups only store disk blocks (called block deltas) that have changed on the remote server. A database called a Disk Safe is used to keep track of these block deltas and identify which blocks constitute a given recovery point. By ensuring that unique disk blocks are stored only once, Idera Server Backup helps minimize the amount of disk space needed to store recovery points. Synchronization enables recovery points to be merged in different ways to provide organizations with flexible solutions for archiving business data.

Backups can be managed in Idera Server Backup by configuring policies using Backup Manager, the web-based management console for the product. A set of default policies is included that can meet the needs of most organizations. Backup agents can automatically be deployed to Windows servers, and encryption can be used to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of backups.

For my review of Idera Server Backup, I focused primarily on five areas:

  • Ease of installation
  • Intuitiveness of user interface
  • Backup speed
  • Restore speed
  • Ease of remote agent deployment

Ease of installation

I evaluated the latest release (5.2) of the Enterprise version of Idera Server Backup by installing it on a Dell T300 system that had Windows Server 2012 installed. The system was a member server in the CONTOSO domain of a test network in my lab. The test network also included a domain controller and several Hyper-V hosts with virtual machines running either Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012.

Installation went smoothly once I had installed the .NET Framework 3.5 features on the server. It so happened that the server I installed Idera Server Backup on already had the Web Server (IIS) role installed. Because of this I believe, the setup program selected a non-standard port for the web-based Backup Manager console as shown here:

Figure 1:
Backup Manager using TCP port 81 instead of the default port 80.

Once setup was finished, Internet Explorer displayed the login page for Backup Manager:

Figure 2:
Logging in to Backup Manager.

After entering the administrative user credentials for Idera Server Backup (which need to be specified during setup) I was able to activate the 14-day trial license for the product. At this point the Backup Manager console was displayed, and I was prompted to enter a server that needed backing up:

Figure 3:
Adding the first server to be backed up.

At this point I was ready to begin using the product.

Intuitiveness of user interface

Clicking Add a Server in Figure 3 launches the Add Server wizard. This wizard is a new capability added in version 5.2 of Idera Server Backup, and it makes configuring backups easy. As Figure 4 shows, I began by specifying the IP address of the first server that I wanted to back up. This server was a physical server running Windows Server 2008 R2, and I selected the checkbox to try deploying the of Idera Server Backup agent software automatically on the server. Remote deployment of the backup agent is another new capability added in version 5.2 of the product. I also selected the checkbox to reboot the server after agent deployment since such a reboot is required before Backup Manager can perform backups of the remote server:

Figure 4:
Adding a server that needs backing up.

Next, I selected a volume for storing backups. For this purpose I used one of the attached disks on the server I had installed Backup Manager. Volumes are basically folders on a specified hard drive:

Figure 5:
Specifying a volume for storing backups.

Next, I selected a policy specifying the type of backup I wanted to be performed. I choose the Standard policy, which runs every hour and keeps the 10 most recent recovery points. Other policy presents include Mission Critical, which runs every 10 minutes and keeps the 50 most recent recovery points; On Demand Only, which only runs when you manually trigger it and keeps the 10 most recent recovery points; and Customize, which allows you to define your own custom backup schedule and number of recovery points to keep.

Figure 6:
Choosing a backup policy.

I then clicked Add Server on the Finish page of the wizard, which added the selected server to the Backup Manager console, created the volume and disk safe on the Backup Manager system, and created the policy for backing up the selected server. The backup agent software was then automatically copied to the remote server and installed on the server:

Figure 7:
Deploying the backup agent.

I continued my testing by adding other servers in my test environment to the Backup Manager console. I found the web-based console easy to use, particularly the Dashboard which has been improved in version 5.2 of the product. Figure 8 shows what the dashboard looked like as backups were being performed on one of the servers in my environment:

Figure 8:
Data transfer activity is shown for backup being performed on server SRV-G.

I found the Dashboard simple to understand, and the menu items on the left allowed easy access to additional views where I could add more servers, configure disk safes, view tasks and task history, initiate restores, and perform other actions that the backup administrator must be able to do.

For example, the Policy menu item allowed me to view the configuration details of different backup policies I had defined and to create new backup policies:

Figure 9:
Viewing the details of a backup policy.

The Recovery Points menu item displayed the devices (disks on remote servers) that had been successfully backed up and are available for performing restores:

Figure 10:
Viewing the available recovery points.

Backup and restore speed

Backups were performed faster than I had expected and were continually updated according to the policies that had been configured for them:

Figure 11:
Average backup times were excellent with this product.

The task of restoring files, folders or volumes (including virtual disk files) was simple to perform. For example, to restore a deleted folder named Software on C: drive of SRV-G using the recovery point shown previously in Figure 10, you simply browse the recovery point and select the folder:

Figure 12:
Restoring a deleted folder.

You can restore the folder and files to its original location or to an alternate location:

Figure 13:
Options for restoring files.

Restores were blazingly fast and limited only by available network bandwidth:

Figure 14:
The restore was successful.

Idera Server Backup can also perform bare-metal restores using either the Live CD you can download from the Idera website or by configuring PXE network boot for your environment. Because of hardware limitations for my test network, I was unable to test this particular functionality of the product.

Ease of remote agent deployment

I found it easy to deploy the backup agent software remotely to Windows servers in my environment. I only had problems with one server; it turned out to be a firewall issue involving misconfiguration, and once it was fixed the agent was easily deployed.

The option to automatically reboot the remote server after agent installation worked for servers running Windows Server 2008 R2 but not for servers running Windows Server 2012. I’m not sure why this happened, but it was easy to remotely reboot the latter using Windows PowerShell, so it wasn’t really an issue.

The Task History menu item was especially useful for verifying that remote agent deployment was performed successfully:

Figure 15:
Verifying remote agent deployment using the Task History pane.

Evaluation Summary

Idera Server Backup Enterprise 5.2 more than exceeded my expectations in the areas of usability, manageability, and backup/restore performance. My rating for this product is therefore 5.0 out of a possible 5.0, which gives the product Gold Award. Rating 5/5

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