I have been part of the Backup Exec development team for over 15 years. During that time, I have primarily focused on the user interface/user experience aspect and I have never been more excited about the product and its future. Over the coming months I intend to write about Backup Exec's product design and user experience and hopefully hear feedback from many of you.
Backup Exec 2012 was recently released, and long-time customers will notice dramatic change in the product's design. These changes run deeper than just the user interface. They represent changes in the direction of the product design itself. To understand why we changed the product, let's first take a look at where we've been.
Backup Exec has a long successful history in the backup world. It started with NetWare and Windows NT and grew to become a dominant player in the backup space. Originally, backup was pretty simple. You installed a backup product on a computer, hooked up a tape drive to that computer and configured a backup. It was local and almost exclusive to tape or other removable storage. How times have changed! We now have multiple types of destination storage that have their own characteristics (disk, tape, cloud, deduplication storage, etc.). We also back up multiple systems over a network. And it's not just about files anymore: application servers such as SharePoint and Exchange are now at the center of what users protect. And let's not forget about trends in archiving, legal discovery, cloud, and virtualization. Throughout much of the evolution of backup though, Backup Exec's basic "use model" has remained largely the same. This was both an advantage and a disadvantage. It was an advantage to long-time customers who were already familiar with the product. But as the features, storage, and other capabilities multiplied, it became a disadvantage to newer users – and to some long-time customers – due to ever increasing complexity in the user experience.
While the user interface itself changed in appearance over the years, the basic underlying model did not. All of that has changed with Backup Exec 2012. This release has dramatically changed how the user interacts with the product. It also looks much more modern as you can see below.
As you can see, Backup Exec 2012 features a "resource-centric" model where you configure and monitor from the perspective of servers rather than backup jobs. The server view lists servers and distributed/multi-node applications, which improves the user experience. For example, since you select a server before configuring a backup, Backup Exec detects what data and applications are on the server and presents only choices that are valid for that data. This reduces the "noise" of irrelevant options from which to choose. The resource-centric design also provides a guided restore workflow so the user sees only relevant restore options.
Another significant change to the user experience is storage handling. As the product incorporated other types of storage in addition to tape, it did so in a way that all storage was treated the same. There were pros and cons to this approach. Existing customers didn't have to do anything differently or learn anything new to use different types of storage, but as disk and other forms of storage grew in popularity, the old concepts surrounding tape became limiting and irrelevant. In Backup Exec 2012, we differentiate how we treat types of storage, so that each type can be configured according to its own characteristics. For example, if you choose to target deduplication disk storage, the backup options automatically change to show relevant options like enabling client-side deduplication and appropriate retention options. You will not see media sets or media overwrite options since they do not apply to disk storage and are only relevant when backing up to tape. Again, our goal is to provide the customer with relevant options to select and to avoid flooding them with options that don't apply to what they are doing.
We wanted to take all of the great capabilities of the product and make them simpler and more usable to our customers. I hope we've achieved that and now have a stronger foundation to build on going forward.
To learn more about Backup Exec 2012 and how to use it, see the videos at http://backupexec.com/videos. They are short (5-10 minutes) and do a great job of explaining how to use the product.
If you'd like to post questions and comments, go to our forums at https://www-secure.symantec.com/connect/backup-and-recovery/forums/backup-exec.
If you have additional ideas for what you'd like to see in future releases, submit them at https://www-secure.symantec.com/connect/backup-and-recovery/ideas.