While backup appliances are positioned as an easy-to-implement alternative to traditional backup, appliances come with their own set of deployment and management complexities. Organizations need to be fully aware that the category doesn't always stack up as promised.
As part of a cloud backup solution, the backup appliance is positioned as a turn-key, pre-integrated platform to help simplify the initial configuration of the backup environment, while also streamlining maintenance and support on an ongoing basis.
A closer look reveals a number of holes in that value proposition, especially when compared to cloud backup solutions that don't require a dedicated appliance. As companies and MSPs push forward with transitioning backup and recovery operations to a more flexible and cost-effective cloud infrastructure, they need to consider both the pros and cons of an appliance-based approach. Here are seven myths and facts about backup appliances to keep in mind.
Fact: Appliances have their own set of deployment and management issues.
Given the mission-critical nature of backup, many organizations want to test drive solutions prior to signing a licensing deal or service contract. Yet instituting a trial run on a backup appliance is much more involved than demoing a native cloud backup solution. While the latter is simply accessed and activated via a browser-based portal, a backup appliance needs to be physically shipped to an organization, which means a larger administrative burden and having to wait for shipping. Once there, the appliance will need to be integrated with the system so it can be tested – before the purchase decision has even been made.
Companies with multi-site backup requirements can experience additional challenges after deciding to purchase an appliance solution. Appliances need to be routed and deployed at each site participating in backup, which increases the distribution and management burden, especially if the remote sites are globally dispersed.
Fact: Appliance costs can be high and unbalanced.
Since backup appliances have a hardware component, there are significant upfront capital costs to buy and deploy a solution much like a traditional storage investment. In addition, many appliance-based backup solutions have a separately priced auxiliary cloud component. Ongoing integration, support, and maintenance fees may also factor in to additional costs.
In comparison, many native cloud backup solutions require no upfront capital expenditures on hardware or additional fees for cloud usage. They can also scale so you only pay for what you need.
Fact: Appliances introduce a single point of failure.
Any kind of hiccup with the backup appliance can compromise an organization's entire backup operation. While vendor SLAs (Service Level Agreements) might specify that a new appliance will be shipped out in the event of a problem, it's important to consider other potential issues that can arise, like data loss or a natural disaster impeding delivery services.
With a native cloud backup solution on the other hand, data is available for recovery as long as there is a network connection.
Fact: Multiple vendors can lead to finger pointing when issues arise.
Many solutions combine an appliance and a cloud component, typically from different vendors. Aside from integration issues, there can be a lot of back and forth between vendors if a backup or recovery problem occurs. A cloud backup solution from a single vendor means one point of contact for support and troubleshooting, which simplifies the resolution process.
Fact: Scalability with appliance is far from seamless.
Say you hit the capacity of your current backup appliance. How do you address additional backup requirements going forward? Organizations will either need to replace their existing appliance with a larger, higher performance model or buy a second box and potentially deal with integration issues.
Both approaches require companies to make an upfront investment in additional capacity that may be too much or too little to adequately address future needs. In comparison, cloud-based backup can scale seamlessly, growing and shrinking elastically in accordance with ongoing storage requirements.
Fact: Appliances can easily become bottlenecks.
There are multiple steps involved in an appliance-based backup architecture, which can impede performance. Typically, data is backed up from a source server to the backup appliance and then out to the cloud.
Because data is copied from one location to another, there is an extra hop in the data flow, which can turn into a performance bottleneck. In addition, some backup offerings include an appliance to compensate for architectural limitations in their cloud capability that can lead to slow transfer of data to the cloud.
Fact: Restore functions with an appliance can be limited.
Most appliance-based backup solutions require restoration through the appliance, which can narrow down recovery options. Cloud-based backup, on the other hand, can be restored from virtually anywhere with a network connection and browser-based access.
Backup appliances that do support cloud restores tend to be slower than native cloud backup solutions because they weren't created with that use in mind. Finally, most appliance backup offerings support only full-server image backup, which can make for an overly complex restore process if you only need to restore a single file.
While there are upsides to appliance-based backup, there are real cost, management and performance issues that often get overlooked in the hype. Companies need to take a step back and examine both the pros and the cons in order to make the optimal backup match.