Unitrends Steps Up

Multi-drive archiving unit, bare-metal restoral, and other features bolster recovery

April 27, 2007

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

A year after adding disk-based archiving to its data protection product, Unitrends has added a multiple-drive unit and enhanced software that could broaden its SMB appeal and pit it against the big league. (See Unitrends Unveils SMB Archive and Unitrends Trends Toward CDP.)

Unitrends' Data Protection and Rapid Recovery 3.0 is based on the premise that SMBs mean "data restoral" when they say "backup." Data restoral options include "bare metal recovery," the ability to bring back entire servers, even restoring them on different hardware.

"If your HP server blows its brains out, you can go to Dell for a replacement," quips CEO Duncan McPherson.

The vendor has also focused on SMBs' apparent wish to unite backup with archiving, preferably in a single-vendor solution. Up to now, Unitrends' basic appliance has been a backup box called the Data Protection Unit (DPU), which can house anywhere from 250 Gbytes to 100 Tbytes. Now, the Multi-Drive Archive, a four-drive add-on device connected to each DPU, gives the option to store 10 Gbytes to 10 Tbytes of additional data on SATA drives in a range of sizes up to 750 Gbytes per drive.

A Web-based monitoring tool reports backup status for multiple DPUs and Multi-Drive Archives at remote sites. Users also have the option to pipe their data from the DPU to an offsite server or service provider's vault.What's different here? At least one analyst says it's the combination of features. "They're following the whole desire to collapse different data management functions, like archiving and backup, in one place," says Laura DuBois, research director for storage softare at IDC. While a number of mid-market systems do this, she says, few have the bare-metal restore in the same product.

EMC, for instance, offers the AX150, which scales to 6 Tbytes for SMB backup. But separate software is required to perform archiving and bare-metal restore. Likewise, HP's Virtual Library Systems (VLSs) do not perform bare-metal restores. Instead, HP relies on a tape-library application called One Button Disaster Recovery (OBDR) for that function.

Like HP and EMC, Unitrends' systems pricing starts low, at $5,000, but can range up to $100,000, depending on features. But Unitrends claims it licenses systems based on the amount of data protected, instead of on an a la carte basis.

What's not to love? Unitrends doesn't support CDP or data de-duplication. "We provide near-CDP for Exchange and SQL only," McPherson acknowledges. Later this year, the vendor plans to add "more advanced CDP capability for near real-time backup." As for data de-duplication: "It's certainly something we'd look at for vaulting," he says. Presently, de-dupe requires more hardware than Unitrends' engineers like, and they don't want to introduce performance hits in the backup process.

All that said, the new wares could help the 60-employee company get closer to what's termed small/medium enterprises (SMEs), as opposed to SMBs. Unitrends boasts about 1,000 customers today, many of which are mid-sized companies such as Fortune Industries (Indianapolis), Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (a 29-hospital network), Whyte Hirshboeck & Dudek (a Minneapolis law firm), and the Precision Metalforming Association (based in Ohio) -- to name just a few. (See Unitrends Lands DR Partner and Unitrends Trends Toward CDP.)Indeed, Unitrends seems to have a solid following among SMBs. "We rely on Unitrends' complete data protection and rapid recovery systems," said Steve Schrader, information systems manager at Zero Zone Inc., a refrigeration firm, in a prepared statement his week.

"We are using Unitrends software and evaluating the upgrade," says Darrell Statz, director of support and telehealth at Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative. He says he's not doing the evaluation himself, but he thinks it likely Unitrends' new stuff will stay. Statz first commented on his use of Unitrends in 2005. (See Unitrends Adds Capabilities .)

The hardware and software upgrade could add larger firms to the mix. Lately, Unitrends has boasted that FedEx, USPS, Intel, Sears, and NASA are among its takers.

Of course, the big league includes vendors who don't take well to upstarts and are more than willing to tackle them fiercely. Watch this space; could be Unitrends has a fight on its hands.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch0

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights