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Stating the case for using agents in Backup Exec

Created: 26 Dec 2010 • Updated: 29 Dec 2010 | 10 comments
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CraigV's picture
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Trawling through the Backup Exec forums sees a number of postings regarding whether or not it is worth using the agents that BE has at its disposal. It’s interesting seeing the responses, with 2 sides arguing for, or against the use of agents.

In light of this, I decided to put forward the argument for using agents, as opposed to not using them.

Some of the questions that need to be asked when evaluating whether or not to purchase agents should include:

  • How quickly do you want to recover your application?
  • How easily to you want to set up and maintain your backups of your applications?
  • How critical is my data by spending the money on the required agents. Vs unnecessary and possibly costly downtime to recover your application or site?

Backup Exec ships with a number of agents that, if licensed, unlock more functionality in the programme. Examples include:  Symantec Backup Exec Agent for Microsoft Exchange; Symantec Backup Exec Agent for VMware Virtual Infrastructure, and Symantec Backup Exec Agent for DB2 on Windows Servers.

The only argument I can see for not using an agent is cost. There is the initial outlay to purchase the agent, and the yearly renewal of the license. Many small to medium-sized companies simply do not have the finances to purchase the required agents, which leaves the backup admin to find a solution to get around this. Most of the time, this involves stopping the particular application in order to do a flat-file backup. This in turn, causes the following issues:

  • Unnecessary downtime of an application/business – in order to back up Exchange without an agent for example, Exchange itself needs to be taken offline. This would mean a possible critical messaging system being taken down (even at night) in order to run a backup, for the duration of the backup. Dismounting/mounting the Information Store would have to be scripted, causing an additional complication.
  • Restoring of data would be more difficult – using the example of Exchange again, to restore any emails into Exchange, the Information Store would have to be staged/restored to disk. Once done, it would have to be mounted on either the same server (risking data loss of the production IS if not done correctly), or manually mounting on a standby server. The same goes for the SQL agent, and the Oracle agent for example.
  • Trying to hash a backup – BE has Active File Exclusion (AFE) built into the application. What this means is that certain files (like *.mdf/*.ldf and *.edb) are excluded automatically. Selecting the installed directory for applications like Exchange/SQL/Lotus Notes etc. means those files are left off, unless you put them in as an inclusion (you’d still need to stop your application services to enable this!).
  • Wasted time – time to ensure that agent-less backups run successfully and that your data is indeed being backed up by doing long and complicated restores.

The other side of the coin to using agents would include:

  • The ability to do easier backups and restores – Agents allow easier backups and restores by doing both while the application is still online. The application never needs to be downed, meaning no unnecessary downtime for the business or users. This leads to better application uptime, and no chance of a monetary cost to taking the application offline.

Agents allow for easier restores in the same way, and some go a step further (like the Exchange agent) by allowing for Granular Restore Technology (GRT) restores of individual items.

  • Easier configuration of jobs – enabling the agent by entering a license allows BE to see the application when browsing the server concerned. Simply clicking the application’s database adds it into the selection list details…no other tinkering needed.
  • Ease of use – adding a license in takes no more than a couple of minutes. Once done, there is nothing else to it.

LiveUpdate installs required updates on the media server, and if needed these are pushed to any remote servers. No individual installations required.

For these reasons, and probably many more, I’d recommend going the route of buying the required agent. In backups, the idea is to simplify the entire process, not complicate it. If proper backups and restores are what is required by your business, then make some provision to purchase the tools for BE to enable this.

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amolnimbore's picture

hi i have some problem with my symantec  back up my license has expired what i doing i have no idea that how to use this product please help me

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James McKey's picture

Nice post; I've had to help people on the phone who didn't have the agent and in some cases we hit a roadblock where they'd have to call Microsoft to see if at least some Exchange data could be restored using isinteg.

James McKey
Backup Exec BETA Program Manager

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Steve Meek's picture

It amazes me how many people don't use.  Of course, some of those don't even know if their backups work. 

I find SQL experts tend to prefer to run a backup using online SQL and I suggest to them to do both (they usually aren't copying the disk backup offsite, so this helps).

Since I deal with many small businesses, I regularly find businesses doing things like using NTbackup or equivalent to backup up to USB drives, using robocopy and other scripts to manually copy data.  I very much understand that owners and managers do NOT want to spend big bucks on backups as they may not see the value.  These processes probably worked when you set them up, but they don't last a year later when a different server is there or the USB drive failed and nothing alerted people that it doesn't work anymore. 

Backup Exec isn't free/cheap, and Backup Exec may not be easy to use for a part-time administrator but it does provide a regular mechanism to conduct backups and help you recover from minor issues.  It provides logging and notification that can help make sure backups are running perfectly.  If your boss/owner is telling you they can't afford backup software, please help them understand the risk of not having the right tool for the right job, including the agents.  Thanks for the article.

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CraigV's picture

@Steve: Yep, that is the challenge. Even big companies want to cut corners, and the challenge is to convince them that cheaper is always nasty.

Me personally? I've seen NTbackup corrupt every backup...needed to restore last year and couldn't. Try explaining that to a client =/

Alternative ways to access Backup Exec Technical Support:

https://www-secure.symantec.com/connect/blogs/alte...

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Bob Thing's picture

...why the agents are licenced in such a way that people feel the need to avoid them?

When I am already paying per machine for backup, requiring agents per machine on top is just a kick in the teeth. Options that apply to the whole media server arn't so bad but this whole double charging strategy leaves a bad taste.  In a lot of cases the agent would be handy but is not vital and so can not possibly be justified. 

With VMs the situation becomes even more ludicrous. For the slight convenience of backup in machine rather than a small incremental fee you are expected to pay for the agents all over again.

The way backupexec is licenced causes me all sorts of unnecesary extra work to fit the licencing model rather than backup fitting my solution.  There are many situations eg. where I would like to restore something once in a blue moon to some other machine, just bung the agent on there?, oh wait we arn't licenced for that.  Restore it over here instead, redirect it there, copy it around a bit more - pointless.

In many cases a business would be prepared to pay a little more if it wasn't made so difficult to justify and if it covered occasional usage.  As it stands simply buying the agent and getting on with it is NOT the easy option.

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CraigV's picture

Well, then you need to rally against IBM with TSM, CA with ARCserve, EMC with NetWorker etc. They ALL have agents. There would be no business sense for them to spend R&D money on a product, and then simply give away every feature as free.

Some people don't need an SQL agent to be licensed for example, so why saddle them with that additional feature?

Fact remains...agents DO make life easier. Without an SQL/Exchange/Lotus Notes agent for example, you need to bring that application down to back it up. That means a couple of minutes, or a couple of hours of downtime for your site, which as a business case, means you lose money depending on what sort of industry you're in. For the company doing business 24/7, that's a lot of downtime!

Alternative ways to access Backup Exec Technical Support:

https://www-secure.symantec.com/connect/blogs/alte...

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Bob Thing's picture

That is reasonable when it is one of my main DB servers that I might need to restore something to at a moments notice and has high importance to the business.  But its not going to apply to some generic server where a not so important app happens to have installed MSDE, that I just need a flat copy of. (not to mention the open files option used to work on them just fine)

Causing me extra hassle on servers where I have no way of justifying a purchase of the agent gets symantec nothing.  It doesn't even stop piracy because for pirates everything just works.  What it does do though is annoy a paying customer and make me think of looking elsewhere next time.

No one is denying that people should get paid for their work.  But that doesn't have to be done in a way that is a nuisance to the paying customer.  The OP is justifying why people should buy the agents and his points are valid but why then are so many people having the discussion?  It is not just a case of saving money, it is about justifying value for money at the licensible unit level.

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my1ststeps's picture

What makes me a spammer.  I own and use a copy of the program.  I thought this blog for meant for people like me to ask questions.  My license entitles me to participate on this blog.

You must be a spammer since you have set yourself up to decide who can post here.  Get both a job with Symantec and a life and quit trying to cause trouble.

My question is just as legitimate as any you will ever ask.  I'm the person they would have to spend a lot of time on the phone with.  At least I am searching for answers.

You have stepped over the boundaries on blog edicate.  Sorry I wasted my time thinking about you.

 

My1ststeps

Real Estate Investor

 

My1ststeps

[url=http://www.my1ststeps.com]Real Estate Investor[/url]

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CraigV's picture

Hi,

 

Apologies...it was the URL in your post that made me think it was a spam message.

Unfortunately this is how the site has been spammed at times. I would suggest taking it out, as it might cause some issues, like now.

I have removed the flag as well. That said...not sure why you would think that backups were automated? If you aren't sure, then this is the forum you can check out.

 

Laters!

Alternative ways to access Backup Exec Technical Support:

https://www-secure.symantec.com/connect/blogs/alte...

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ziggy's picture

Thank you for the update.

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