Backup Infrastructure Redesign – Part 2: Choosing a Backup Solution

Near the end of 2019 I researched, trialed and installed a new Secure Email Gateway solution for our business. We were replacing an existing open-source SEG solution and wanted something a bit more SMB/enterprise level, so the gates really were open to consider just about any product out there.

And so I went through a fairly lengthy period researching options, sitting through many hours of vendor pitches and demonstrations, and setting up a 3 month Proof of Concept before finally deciding on FortiMail as being the best fit for our needs and budget.

For the current refresh of our backup design and infrastructure, there simply won’t be a need to repeat this process for a backup vendor. It’s a no-brainer; we’ve already purchased perpetual licensing and renewed annual support for Veeam as recently as two months ago, so without even hearing costs from other vendors there is simply no way any other solution will come close in monetary terms.

Would I like to approach a backup design from a purely green-field perspective? Absolutely! Despite the extra work it would entail, I would love to be starting from scratch, and I would jump at the opportunity to delve as deeply into backup solutions as I did with SEG solutions. SEGs were something I had very little prior expose to before we set about deploying a new one, and I learnt a shed load about email security along the way.

I did take a cursory glance at Rubric, and had a short demonstration with their team, but it didn’t even cross my mind for one moment that this would be a suitable replacement for Veeam. I didn’t like the fact that it was reliant on Rubic hardware, which would result in vendor lock-in, and I didn’t like how sheepish they were about providing a guide price without a POC; something that raises a critical alarm in my mind! Their backup and restore process was touted as being simply and intuitive, but I didn’t rate it as being any better than Veeam’s workflow.

A quick Google would suggest Rubric is one of the more expensive solutions. I won’t speculate on what the costs would have been to deploy in our environment, it’s disappointing that the vendor and reseller were not more open on this, but I think it’s safe to say that for a fraction of the cost I would be able to completely refresh and expand our current backup hardware and purchase far more Veeam socket licenses than we’d ever need for years to come.

Green-field or not, Veeam is a market leader in enterprise backup solutions, and so Veeam is what I will be sticking with. In fairness, Veeam has been running without issue on this network for many years before I arrived, and in my short time here I’ve never had a Veeam restore fail. I like how simple and straightforward it is to use; I feel like just anybody could connect to the GUI and quickly figure out how to take a backup and perform a restore. I think their licensing model and costs are fair and flexible, and I like that you are not locked down to any hardware or vendor appliances. It’s very easy to deploy, and I’ve always found their support team to be quick and responsive when needed.

One further plus point to Veeam is their free Backup & Replication Community Edition. I run v9.5 of the Community Edition on my home lab, and it is absolutely ideal for this purpose. It is limited to 10 instances (so 10 VMs for example), and of course is missing some of the more advanced (and niche) features, but I’d go so far as to say that any sysadmin running a small environment could confidently use this for all their production requirements. But the main reason I highlight the free Community Edition is because I highly value being able to replicate as closely as possible a production environment in a home lab or test environment.

Currently we run Veeam v8.0, a very old version, which is causing lots of issues when it comes to targeting newer ESXi hosts. And of course we have plenty of older ESXi hosts that a new version of Veeam won’t support! A bit of a chicken and egg situation, but the next step will be to get Veeam updated to a more recent (and supported) version, and then take a look at the hardware and infrastructure surrounding it.

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