Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery is a silver bullet for small and midsize businesses. It is the single most effective tool in the IT expert’s toolbox—the “Swiss Army knife of backup and recovery.”
I first became familiar with Backup Exec and System Recovery while training for the Symantec Small Business Specialist accreditation and was quite impressed with the capabilities of the tool. I quickly employed it in our work with clients, using it to migrate applications from an old server to a new HP ProLiant system, a task that previously would have taken at least 24 hours; however, with Backup Exec System Recovery, it only required two hours.
Traditionally, to upgrade or migrate a server operating system to new hardware, a full backup of all data must be run, followed by the installation of an operating system on the new hardware and recovery of the data from the completed backup. This process required a minimum of 12 hours, including planning and working out snags such as driver, tape drive, and third-party application integration issues, among others.
With Backup Exec System Recovery, you simply install the software using a simple wizard-driven process, which takes roughly 20 minutes. Once installed, you can initiate the backup, which consists of a complete snapshot of the server operating system and existing data, including Exchange, SQL, Active Directory, and any other applications on the server. If you run the backup to a RAID device, you not only guarantee that the data is available for restore, but the backup is fast; for example, a 250GB backup typically takes two to three hours.
Boot up and recover
The next step is to boot the new hardware platform from a Backup Exec System Recovery disk (SRD). You then point the data restore utility at the recovery point and recover the server and other applications to the new platform. With the new hardware up and running, backup snapshots are set at regular intervals—from every few minutes to once a day. The deduplication features in Backup Exec System Recovery 2010 provides additional flexibility for backup intervals, and there’s a smaller data store because duplicate data isn’t backed up multiple times. Also, backup windows become much easier to manage because only new or modified data is backed up.
Unique benefits for less
Vitality Consulting Services likes Backup Exec System Recovery because it strips out any reference to hardware from below the Hardware Abstraction Layer. The new hardware platform can be anything—from a laptop to a virtual or physical server. As a result, since the solution is hardware agnostic, a multitude of disaster recovery and business continuity options are available.
But there’s more. Once we have an on-site backup stored on a NAS device, we can make an FTP copy of the recovery point off-site using the built-in offsite backup utility. This combines the best of cloud computing and business continuity via a physical-tovirtual conversion of the recovery point to a cloudbased Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware server. As a result, we are able to offer our clients a full off-site business continuity infrastructure for a fraction of the cost typically associated with doing so.
Some might have concerns about upstream bandwidth. This isn’t a problem for us; we rely on the off-site backup utility to break the recovery point into smaller chunks, allowing for a successful off-site transfer that can be “throttled” to allow an ADSL link to be shared with other services.
We also are leveraging integration points across different product sets. For example, when combined with Symantec Protection Suite Small Business Edition, we are able to include threat driven backups that are triggered by elevated Threatcon conditions. In addition, because Backup Exec System Recovery is included with Protection Suite Small Business Edition, we are able to offer our clients an integrated solution at a reduced cost.
For remote employees, disaster recovery is possible for them as well. Backup Exec System Recovery can be configured to enforce remote backups and protection automatically. Automation is the supreme feature built into Backup Exec System Recovery. Businesses no longer have IT risks because someone forgot to change or collect tapes; it is done automatically—and remotely. And with Granular Recovery technology, we are able to offer clients individual Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint recovery.
With Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery, you not only receive the essential blade, but the entire Swiss Army Knife of backup and recovery. It is a solution that our clients—as well as Vitality Consulting Services—simply cannot afford to do without.
10 Tips on Implementing Backup Exec System Recovery
1. Create a Symantec Backup Exec SRD for each new hardware platform.
2. Copy to two disk-based devices such as a fast NAS device and a portable USB drive when creating the initial recovery point. If performing an in-place upgrade utilizing existing hardware (such as upgrading newer 64-bit hardware from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008), make three copies of the recovery point.
3. Select the recovery point on the NAS device when booting from the SRD. This is the quickest way to recover an entire server or desktop.
4. Define a new backup and then select Create Recovery Point Set once the recovery is complete and schedule to run at a frequency that suits your business—ideally backups should be performed twice a day but remember bandwidth constraints if creating an off-site copy.
5. Create an off-site copy that allows the business owner to automate the backup.
6. Ensure the lowest file size is selected when creating an off-site copy to break down the recovery point into smaller chunks. This one step alone will do more to improve the success of your off-site backup than any other.
7. Implement Backup Exec System Recovery as part of Symantec Protection Suite Small Business Edition and also ensure that all key workstations are backed up.
8. Include laptops in your backup strategy because data is at risk on your laptops, too.
9. Deploy the Backup Exec System Recovery Management Suite to track which laptops are in the field and manually run a backup if the employee skips it!
10. Create an off-site backup repository in the cloud with a virtual server for scheduled restores. Include a DNS control panel to enable record redirection in case of a disaster, thereby allowing uninterrupted email and remote access to your virtual server.
George Ilko is founder and CTO of Vitality Consulting Services Ltd.