Backup & Recovery

I work on an outsource team on a very big client, who for a number of years had used ARCserve as their backup solution.A project was started just before I moved across from another outsource client to see whether or not ARCserve needed to be replaced by another backup oackage, and if so, which it would be.

The project looked at ARCserve 12, Backup Exec 11D, and Tivoli Storage Manager, and the pro's and cons weighed up.Up until this time, ARCserve had given its fair share of hassles, and licensing was apparently going to prove to be expensive. The project set out to see which software could best be used to protect a large enterprise with multiple sites worldwide, and offer the best features and stability to go with it. The BIG decision-maker was cost. For what we were paying, Backup Exec was ahead of the other 2 by a fair margin.

Tivoli Storage Manager was excluded due to the complexity of setting it up, and the skills needed. It might be an excellent piece of software, but it is best used an a large, single site with multiple servers being backed up. The cost, implementation, and support (I had worked with it at the previous client) counted against it, and it was therefore excluded.
This came down to ARCserve and Backup Exec, and whether or not we had the best chance of moving onto a more stable platform. If not now (beginning of 2008), we'd have to wait another year to relook at this.

I'd worked with older versions of Veritas Backup Exec 7, 9 and 10, and never had any problems, and was very happy that we went with Backup Exec.
Backup Exec offered a number of additional features, and was more simplistic in it's setup and configuration. Based on this, we decided to discontinue using ARCserve on the sites, and went with Backup Exec. Unfortunately, we were unable to use Backup Exec in our data center due to the lack of support for Itanium servers.

A project engineer ran with getting the backup servers installed with Backup Exec, but we were given rev. 6235, which immediately ran into errors. These included:

  • Backup jobs not running at all'
  • Backups starting and getting stuck in  QUEUED state;
  • not accessing the autoloaders correctly; etc.

A call logged with Symantec got us to install rev. 7170, and most of these issues were cleared up. All patches were loaded, and backups kicked off.
It has been good to see sites that used to have issues while on ARCserve backing up 100% with Backup Exec. However, equally frustrating have been some of the weird errors that cropped up for no reason. A site would be backing up for a month successfully, and then, without anysoftware/hardware changes, backups would begin failing. Along with this was cryptic solutions, or none at all when trying to browse the Symantec site.

It got to the point where I was advocating pulling out Backup Exec, and replacing with either a newer version of ARCserve or Tivoli Storage Manager Express.
THat said, when I started calling Symantec Support, they were incredibly helpful in getting a number of my problem sorted out. Issues like restoring Exchange/individual items from Exchange were also documented (I posted this elsewhere in Articles), so that was a saving grace.

At present, I am rolling out Backup Exec 12.5, and have already seen a couple of nice changes. Adding a server into our CASO for example is a lot quicker. Previously, it would take up to an hour to do this.

Backups now show as Completed, with exceptions, which will help my reporting.I've got niggles on 3 servers, but out of 29, it's minor compared to the previous version, and this time I know what needs to be done to fix it.

Lastly, since upgrading to 12.5, a number of my previously problematic sites have been sorted out...I have no reason to complain anymore =) Based on the past 8 months, it has been good to relicense Backup Exec, and I am hoping that 12.5 improves our efficiency and backup environment reliability.

My learnings about our implementation were as follows:
  1. Even if you're thinking that the replacement application is going to be the be-all and end-all, you WILL have problems! The best thing is to have read up about them, and be prepared.
  2. Make sure you have the correct, and latest version of your software. We were put 2 weeks behind by not having the latest version.
  3. Make sure your rollout is planned, and have enough time set aside for troubleshooting. Although the rollout was planned, we found we had to go back on occasions to fix problems that had cropped up.
  4. Read up on the documentation. We weren't aware that AOFO shouldn't be used when backing up Exchange or SQL, but went ahead and used it. Works on some sites, but on others I don't use AOFO.
  5. Make use of the Symantec support. They have proven to be pretty useful in getting errors sorted out.
  6. Consider the benefits of what your replacement software offers. For us, CASO is proving (and going to...) very useful as a central management area for our Service Desk; notification works very well; jobs and policies are easy to setup and configure; and it was the ideal opportunity to get a fresh solution in place. You're then in an ideal place to make a good judgement.
  7. If possible, keep your old backup software installed, but disabled. This will allow you to revert to it if need be when you experience problems during your rollout.
  8. Remote Agent installation from the backup server has cut down our installation time of remote agents, allowing us to sign off a site much faster than any of the other 2 products.
  9. Configuring Backup Exec (standard GFS, autoloader partitioning, mail notification, selection list) could be done in about 15 minutes. This was another time saver allowing us to focus on other work a lot sooner.
  10. If you have a SAN-environment, make use of Backup Exec's SAN SSO option. It will cut down your backup times quite substantially.
Good luck!