Note: This product review is a paid service by Joel Oleson. I hope you enjoy it.
I have to admit that the most common product I see purchased by customers is a backup solution. Most customers do shell out money to purchase a third-party product or work to find ways to integrate it with their existing third-party purchases. The built-in SharePoint backup has gotten better from version to version but has failed to include features for the complex environment, which often requires a good answer for both disaster recovery and granular recovery. Different products address these different areas in different ways.
Idera SharePoint backup's focus is to help you provide a great granular recovery experience for your users in a self-service mode while also providing full farm protection. Imagine the ability to provide self-service recovery. The reason why folks purchase a third party product is because of the time it requires to get a database backup from tape, get it mounted, then build up some recovery farm, mount it, get the mappings and troubleshoot to get it right to then find you got the wrong database and again and find you have the wrong date. Recovery SLAs in SharePoint can be quite poor without a robust tool. Rather than have the admins struggle and make the users wait and wait. Why not put the power in the hands of the user to easily search across multiple backup sets and recover their own data?
Common Backup and Recovery Issues:
- Backup is slow
- Backups take up too much space
- Farm recovery is complex and unreliable
- Users who need to restore a file will request and wait and get disappointed and wait
- Admins can't find the right file
- Wrong database file is restored
- Recovery time is too long
- Service App recovery is unreliable
Idera has found many of their users purchase Idera SharePoint backup to supplement their existing investment in BackupExec or Microsoft's own Data Protection Manager because of the powerful user interface.
Figure 1: Idera SharePoint Backup Management Console – Realtime Backup Monitoring
Idera SharePoint backup Key Features:
- Full-farm protection for SharePoint 2010 environments
- High-fidelity granular protection for SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2007
- Easy, self-service document recovery for site users – saves administrator time
- Quick file operations and powerful compression create compact backup sets
- Automated scheduling of backup operations and automated backup set grooming
- Real-time monitoring of progress and data throughput for backup and restore operations
- Fault tolerant architecture to reduce single point of failure
Figure 2: User Self Service Recovery Right in the SharePoint UI
How It Works
First, the design is about getting the entire farm backed up—it protects SharePoint 2010 content databases, service applications, search, and farm configuration data. Beyond the databases it works to back up all of your SharePoint configurations across the website, such as: web.config, IIS config, the webroot, .NET global assembly cache, and the SharePoint hive. Idera SharePoint backup leverages the power of Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to take quick and consistent snapshots of SharePoint 2010 environments. As a result, recovery can quickly leverage the snapshots for fast restore. Behind the scenes Idera leverages SQLsafe™ technology to ensure encryption and compression to keep backups safe and compact. On top of that the product also supports differential database backups. n differential mode, only those things that have changed from the last full backup require any space. Easy automated scheduling allows you to determine time and frequency, and in the console you can quickly see the time to backup and backup throughput. You can also quickly see any failure and manage it through easy-to-configure alerts.
My Experience with Idera SharePoint backup
Frequently, in my experience, it's large data that make the backup and recovery of SharePoint complex. I've personally tried to stick with 200GB as a maximum database size, but even with those sizes when you've got dozens or sixty or more than 100 databases, that's a lot of data to get backed up and off disk on a nightly basis. That's when I first started looking at VSS writers and taking advantage of database backup compression. The world of backup has gotten a lot better, and Idera knows SQL management very well. That's the world they started in. The solution they have put together is based on the latest of what Microsoft provides, from VSS snapshots for differencing and their own SQLsafe technology for encryption. I've found the management interface to be very intuitive. Having used a number of backup solutions in the past, I enjoyed the rollup and bubbling up of what's going on into a single management console.
Although, it seems most backup and restore focuses exclusively on the IT Pro or the SharePoint admins, Idera has bridged that gap and really has reached out to meet the needs of the business user by providing a search interface. I was fascinated to see both approaches of granular backups and full-farm backups in the same tool. Idera has done a great job on the user interface. The backup management console makes it easy to get a reading on disk space, quickly see failure alerts, as well as makes it easy to configure and schedule backup jobs. Document recycle bins and even the new site recycle bins have not eliminated the need to provide recovery. If you've heard that… it's a myth. As long as a user can edit a page, and as long as you can save a document without checkout, there will be needs for recovery. It is still too easy in most Microsoft products to simply save over the existing file.
It was cool to see the recovery search work. Right in the same management tool you can search content and get a quick restore. The restore can go back to the original place, out of place to another library, site, farm, or even to a local folder. Narrow down the selection with a date range or filtered view. Not sure if you have the right document? Do a quick preview of the document.
Figure 3: Restore Search: Search Results Flat List View
When searching for a document the backup set which contains it is shown and the file is highlighted for quick restore:
Figure 3: Granular Recovery: In Place, Out of Place or Local File System
Pros and Cons
Over the years I've found different approaches in how some SharePoint backup tools try to address the need for granular business recovery, and others try to approach the farm recovery which has become more complex over time especially with services like Search and the User Profile Service. I almost didn't believe it when I heard Idera say they could reliably provide consistent recovery of Search and UPS. That's just a real challenge, and is vastly preferable to a time-consuming re-index operation. The only way they are able to do it is with solid VSS writers, and it's just plain impressive that they can pull it off. One Con I see is the fact that the backup sets for granular and farm component data are two separate backups. You end up with the backup of the farm and the granular backup, which amazingly enough is multi-threaded and fast. The farm backup uses the snapshots while the granular backup uses an approach that provides a user interface of backup sets by which users can do their recovery. The backup set search can provide a flat list or a filtered or expandable tree view for browsing to the file. It's important to understand that.
Looking for a place to provide feedback, I'd say it may be easier if they put the restore interface in its own module and separate it further from the backup UI even for the administrator-driven recovery operations. The user restore is much easier to understand, and it could make using the tool slightly easier for granular restore. Idera SharePoint backup's interface is a powerful console and they have done a great job making it easy to see what's going on, but at the same time it's yet another tool that admins need to use to manage the farm. The wizard approach to farm backup is very helpful for sure. Some still may prefer seeing the UI in Central Admin. That said, I've seen a lot of the competitors' UIs, and Idera has done a good job of making the interface work for both farm backups and granular backups. It makes sense to keep it uncluttered, so it might be good to see the backup and restore pieces separated from other management tasks.
As a focused tool, Idera has done a good job of keeping price very manageable at $995 per server.
The backup and restore space in SharePoint is in high demand. You do have choice, and quality matters. Even if you have an enterprise backup tool, if that vendor is not specialized in SharePoint you should consider investing in a SharePoint Farm and Granular backup recovery solution. Vendors in this space take very different approaches and it is easy to get confused. I think Idera has taken a very straight forward approach and has leveraged excellent paths to get the best bang for your buck. Even if you have a tool but struggle either on farm recovery or providing quick restores for your users, you should consider Idera SharePoint backup.
If you struggle with getting a handle on backup and restore I recommend downloading a trial, viewing a demo, and see what Idera can do for you at http://www.idera.com/SharePoint/SharePoint-backup/.
This product review is a paid service of SharePointJoel.com voted by the community as Top SharePoint blog and viewed monthly in over 100 countries worldwide. How did I do? Do you need your tool reviewed?