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Experts pick top backup products

Recently, one of our readers asked our backup experts to name their favorite backup products. Curtis Preston and Pierre Dorion weighed in with their lists.

Editor's note: Recently, one of our readers asked our backup experts to name their favorite backup products. Curtis Preston and Pierre Dorion weighed in with their lists.

What are the names of what you would consider to be the top five backup products?

Pierre Dorion: Unfortunately, there might not be a straightforward answer to this pretty straightforward question. I could spend a fair bit of time praising the merits of each product, comparing architectures, features and performance. In the end, I would have produced a competitive advantage glossy similar to what most vendors already have.

There are numerous products out there fighting for market share. In the end, they basically all do the same thing, sometimes with a different twist, sometimes with no difference worth mentioning. For many organizations, it has come down to choosing a backup product based on a single feature or a cultural fit (i.e.: Sun and Veritas).

Without wanting to bash the smaller players, I would personally make my backup software choice based on the importance of the installed base. Not to say that the most sold software is automatically the best. However, the more a product has users, the more you will find user groups, forums, cross vendor support, etc. Hardware vendors also tend to qualify the most popular software first.

For the above reasons, I would list my preferences (alphabetically) as being the following solutions, for both their features and their installed base: CommVault Galaxy, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, Legato NetWorker, Veritas Backup Exec and Veritas NetBackup.

W. Curtis Preston: The top three (for enterprise backup) are easy: Veritas NetBackup, Legato NetWorker and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (in alphabetical order). Some would argue that they're only the top three because of their market share. I'd say that each of them has earned their place in the market and they are market leaders for reasons other than just having good marketing departments. The next two (in your top five) would be hard, as there are several mid-tier players that are giving the big three a run for their money. The next tier would include, but is not limited to, Bakbone NetVault, SyncSort Backup Express, BrightStor Enterprise Backup from Computer Associates, Commvault Galaxy and Atempo Time Navigator. These are the ones I see consistently being considered by companies looking for mid-tier players. If you're looking for workgroup level products, Veritas Backup Exec and BrightStor ARCserve are the leaders in that space. Avail Solutions and TapeWare are also interesting up-and-comers.

How do you choose among them? It's simple. First decide whether you're looking for a workgroup product or an enterprise product. Then decide whether you want to consider mainstream products, up-and-comers or both. (I would place a value on which you find more appealing, and include the weight of that value in your final decision. Some like big players for their stability, others like smaller players because they feel they move faster.) Then do an extensive, weight-based comparison of the features of all products that are on your list. (A weight-based, comparison assigns a weight, or importance, to each feature, and gives a higher score to a product that has a feature with greater importance to you.) Find the top two products that meet most of your needs, as none of them will meet all of your needs. Then do a price war between the two. (Notice I am doing price last.)

My personal experience shows that most end users do not have the time, energy, or expertise to do what I just described. The biggest issue is that the space is moving so fast, it's hard to even know what questions and features to ask for. The second issue is that what I described above takes a lot of time if you haven't done it already. Therefore, I believe that the best way to do that is to hire an independent consultant to do it for you. Just make sure that they're not being compensated by any of the vendors you're considering. The two national companies that do that type of service right now are The Storage Group and Glasshouse Technologies.

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