Every Customer has their own wish list of features that they want in any software. The more features you provide, the more happy they are. I have seen many vendors striving to meet this wish list but it seems very difficult as this list goes on increasing day by day. Every Customer wants to make each and every administration job automated and they evaluate as many software’s to make sure that they meet their entire requirement or at least they are very closer to what they want to achieve.
I have worked on many solutions provided by different vendors. But one thing I would really say that SYMANTEC has always worked on increasing the feature list of each and every product and as per what I have seen in most of the solutions and products over these years, Symantec always seems to be faster in increasing the feature list than most other vendors.
I would here like to speak about a product, which has grown leap and bounds over these few years. You will always hear about this product almost everywhere. Whenever you talk about Backup and Windows environment, I can really think about only one product BACKUP EXEC.
There are many technical advantages that you have when you deploy Backup Exec in a Windows Environment. In case of environments, where Microsoft SQL and Microsoft Exchange are deployed, it would be very difficult for any product to beat Backup Exec. Why I am telling you this, you will find in once you finish reading this article.
One of our Customers, in the Mid Size Business Segment was using CA Brightstor ARCserve to backup the data in his organization. His environment consisted of a few Microsoft SQL Servers, Microsoft Exchange Servers, File Server hosted on Windows, Active Directory and about 350 Desktops/Laptops. Most of the applications were home grown applications, which used Microsoft SQL as the database.
The size of these databases was increasing day by day and with the increase in the numbers of Users, the Exchange Database was also growing. It was getting difficult taking the backup of these huge sized databases. With the increase in the size, the time window for the backup was creeping up every day. Also, there were few requirements from the Business heads, which the administrators were finding it difficult to execute.
I was scheduled for this customer’s call regarding some technical discussion on Storage Device with the Technology Manager. When discussing, he started this topic of backup. He asked me in general how other organizations of similar environment strategize their backups and what software they use. However, with this question, I knew that I had a chance to enter into the backup zone of this organization. So keeping the same in mind, I answered this question in a very general way but started collecting his environment details. As the best rule of the sales go, “First Understand the Pain Points of the Customer”, I started noting down all the pain points that he was facing for his backups.
1. Backup’s happening very slow and not getting completed in the Time Windows that has been allocated for the backup.
2. They were facing lot of issues and error when backing up Microsoft SQL databases. Many a times they had to skip the database backup for the day and initiate it the next day.
3. They found the restoration process to be time consuming.
4. They wanted to backup the exchange database every 6 hours so as to minimize the data loss and tighten the Recover Point Objective (RPO). But in the current scenario, it seemed impossible.
And some other issues which were not that important as the above 4 points. They had a few wish lists in their mind but they were keen on getting the basics right. Their main worry was the recovery of Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SQL. Not much recovery was needed till date and they didn’t have much expertise on the recovery. They had tried to do a Disaster Recover drill for Microsoft Exchange on a Weekend, but they took a lot of time to recover the complete data and the closest data that they were able to recover during the drill was 20 hours old.
After looking at this case properly, I knew that I had the solution ready for them. I suggested him that he could try the Symantec Backup Exec software and check its performance in the same environment. Also, I told them that they would be able to see a lot of features which would be really useful in their environment. The Customer was willing however since renewal of the ARCserve software was due in about 40 days and that’s why he had to make his decision within 25 days. He told me that he could give me a time of 15 days to sit with his team and implement backup exec in his environment. I told him a YES without much thinking but I knew in the back of my mind that I would need proper planning.
I decided to solve his basic issues and show him some of the important functions of Backup Exec, which would be helpful to him in his environment. So the deal was pretty straight forward, Just show him the advantages of Symantec Backup Exec in his environment and close the case.
I gave him a proper plan of Action and the prerequisite on the first day. The customer arranged for the server and the other prerequisite quickly and he asked us to come for the deployment the next day. We deployed a very sound engineer who had a good working knowledge of Backup Exec. We did not start the deployment immediately but we started checking the current backup schedule, the number of backup’s policies, the servers that were backed up, the size of the backup and the storage/tapes that were used for the backup.
There were total 12 backup policies that were set in the ARCserve backup and it was backing up about 1 TB of data in a LAN environment. We checked the backup reports for a week in which we found that quite a few backups were failed for some or the other reasons. Now we had enough data with us to start the installation. We made a chart of this data in a tabular format listing the servers, time window, backup size, backup storage, directories, and system state wherever applicable and made quite a few changes in the same, which we were confident would work with backup exec given the list of feature that it has.
So once all the prerequisite were ready, we started the installation. And we were really successful in installing Backup Exec and convincing the customer that Backup Exec was indeed the best software in his environment. We showed them many Features of Backup Exec but I would like to share the important features which really proved that Symantec Backup Exec is the best.
1. Backup Exec 12 completely eliminated the need for daily and weekly backups of Exchange mailboxes. Actually it used the Granular Recovery Technology (GRT) to do the same. Most of the other software including CA use traditional Microsoft MAPI technology to perform”brick-level” mailbox backups. These backups are very slow and Media intensive. Also, such backups generate errors. All these problems were solved by using the Granular Recovery Technology used by Backup Exec. The backup’s happened much faster and there was no need to do a comparison of the backup’s as it was clearly visible that a lot of time was being saved by using this technology.
2. Backup Exec allowed granular recovery of individual mails and folders along with the mailboxes of all users. This was a boon to the customer and this feature along with the first point directly defeated the CA software. In fact it gave the privilege to the customer to do a granular recovery in the original location of the mail server or to another location using a redirect restore. To add to this, it saved a lot of time for recovery since it was possible to restore the individual mails. Recovering individual mails was even possible in the CA backup however the easiness and time saving feature of Backup Exec had the impact on the customer and the customer didn’t really had to think twice. It even extended its granularity to restore individual message, contact, calendar item, journal entry, task item
3. One of the features that were on the Customer’s wish list was a continuous online backup of the Exchange server. He not only wanted to make the recovery time objective (RTO) lower but also wanted a tighter recovery point objective (RPO). In case of Microsoft exchange, loss of data was intolerable. He was actually looking for a solution which would continuously backup the data or a solution which will replicate the exchange data. Now with Symantec Backup Exec, this feature was inbuilt i.e. he was able to use the continuous protection feature for his Exchange Database. With this feature, now he can recover his exchange data to any given point of time. With this feature, he also saved his cost of buying any replication software.
4. To fit all the backup’s to be completed in the given backup windows we used the option of multiplexing the backup to disk. With this option, we were able to write multiple jobs streams to the disk and then archived them to a tape. With this Disk to Disk to Tape strategy, not only did the backups become faster but a faster recovery was also possible. Most of the archives were written to the tape after the backup window.
5. All the backup’s for Microsoft SQL were successful and error free.
6. Not the least the Customer enabled Continuous protection for one of his very critical Microsoft SQL server.
The above features really proved to be a boon to the customer and he was satisfied with a lot of things including
1. GUI: The Symantec GUI is very easy, User friendly. All his helpdesk team were was easily able to monitor the tasks very easily
2. Reports: The customer got all the reports that he required. Some of the reports that the customer really like was the Policy-Jobs-by-Resource-Summary report, Backup Sets By Media Set, Audit logs and few more of them.
3. Symantec Support: Most of the installation and configurations were done easily. Only one time we got stuck was when we were not able to write to the tape device on our first tape job. We call Symantec and they directly logged the call on the phone by just asking the Customer name and license number. Then they gave us a call back in about 30 minutes which was very impressive. But what the customer was surprised was the call was routed to a Specialist who only handled the calls for the Device Management on Backup Exec. Yes its very true that Symantec have specialist not only for the product but also for the different streams in the product. Actually one of the most important advantage the Customers have when selecting Symantec is it TAC support.
4. Pricing: The Customer never thought of comparing the technical capabilities of Backup Exec with CA ARCserve but then he wanted to compare the pricing and the Return of Investment he would get by investing on Symantec Backup Exec. Symantec provided a very competitive pricing and also provided him some inputs in the ROI. So the deal was ON.
The Customer even expanded the Bill of Material by adding Desktop and Laptop options. He also started looking out for Backup Exec System Recovery for quick bare metal restoration for some of his important servers. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to manage this project as I had a different project assigned to me.
Just to add my point to it, I really believe that Symantec Backup Exec is very Feature Rich software and Symantec has ensured the same by continuously updating its features. This software has become very popular in the mid sized segments and on all segments where the environment consists of Windows Server. It’s really a software where selling, Deployment and Management is very easy. I always think that once you get a chance to show a demo or a POC of Backup Exec to the customer and on proper execution, the customer is bound to purchase it. Feature wise, most of the backup software in this segment would find very difficult to compete against Backup Exec.
I always love Symantec Products and Backup Exec has a very special liking to me and TO SYMANTEC - We all love your products. They are simple and feature rich. They have really helped us save Time and Money.