Q

Appliance-based backup products may not fit your needs

As more companies lean on virtualization to enable flexibility, dedicated backup appliances may be falling out of favor.

Is it better to use backup software or a dedicated backup appliance for my virtual environment?

Choosing between a software-based or an appliance-based backup product is largely a deployment decision that will depend on an organization's particular needs. Both will support backups, but it's important to consider some of their pros and cons.

Software-based backup platforms are the most common type of backup product. Software is typically less expensive than a dedicated appliance and can be installed on almost any suitable server. This allows organizations to test and adopt different backup products with less capital outlay (and less danger of vendor lock-in). However, software installation, configuration and patching can be problematic -- especially for small organizations or ones with limited IT staff. In some cases, the underlying hardware may not be optimized for peak backup performance.

Dedicated backup appliances are basically servers that already have backup software preinstalled and set up. This allows an organization to install the appliance and get it running quickly with almost no fear of software glitches or configuration problems. But appliance-based backup products are considerably more expensive than software-based backup products, and this may lead to undesirable vendor lock-in as organizations seek to get the most value from their investment in a major appliance.

In an age where flexibility and choice are regarded as vital business benefits, hardware-based appliances are falling out of favor as a deployment choice. We see this as technologies like network functions virtualization seek to implement complex network devices -- such as firewalls, security devices and other appliances -- using standard IT servers, switches and other equipment. This dramatic rise in the use of virtualization is opening the door to virtual appliances. Rather than installing software from scratch or installing a dedicated hardware device, an organization can simply spin up a preconfigured virtual machine containing the backup software onto any available virtualized server.

This was first published in June 2014

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