Rollout: SonicWall Continuous Data Protection 4440i

SonicWall's new storage appliances promise quick deployment and off-site options, but small enterprises with lots of data should think twice.

May 10, 2007

4 Min Read
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Data backup and recovery is just as crucial for small enterprises as it is for big ones. But backup can be expensive and require separate hardware and software. Plus, conventional schedule-based solutions leave a gap between when data is created or changed and when it's backed up. During this gap, data may be lost.

SonicWall's new line of CDP (continuous data protection) appliances aims to solve these problems. It simplifies installation by bundling the hardware and software. The four models in the line range in capacity from 200 GB to 1.2 TB, depending on the compression level (see table, below). SonicWall also plans to offer off-site a new backup capability that will let customers send data to a second appliance off site--a nice perk for small and midsize enterprises that need disaster recovery. And data is backed up nearly instantaneously, reducing the risk of lost information.

SonicWall is aiming at customers that want options outside software, such as CA Arcserve, Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, and Symantec Backup Exec 11d, all of which offer disk-based CDP. However, such customers also may be looking at online backup services from EVault, Symantec and others. These services can be as easy to use as an appliance, provide disaster recovery and don't restrict storage capacity.

We tested the SonicWall CDP 4440i. It includes a base level of 600 GB of storage, along with the software agents installed on Windows PCs and servers for data and application backup. SonicWall says you can get about 1.2 TB of storage with compression, lowering the total cost per gigabyte to less than $7. But vendor-provided compression figures should always be taken with a grain of salt.On the management front, SonicWall's Enterprise Manager software lets you control multiple CDP devices from one computer, useful for remote management.

You create policy-based quotas and file filters for each CDP client. You can also configure policies to exclude certain file types from backup to the CDP and limit storage space for each client. The appliance's storage disks are encrypted using AES 256.

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The 4440i can back up an unlimited number of workstations or servers and will store both Microsoft SQL and Exchange data. Also, much like Windows Volume Shadow Copy, the device can keep "snapshots" of files. An add-on feature, Bare Metal Recovery (BMR), lets the device capture an image, the OS, apps and files of a client machine, which can be stored on the device or other media. The BMR option costs $299 for a server license for one year.

In our tests, Office files were copied within seconds of being changed on the file server; restoration of an "accidentally" deleted file took just seconds and could be restored to an original or alternate location.For $353 a year, customers can get off-site backup by sending data to a SonicWall data center. The planned upgrade will let customers use a second CDP instead.

The 440i lists for $7,999, which includes the SonicWall hardware, software and media. For small enterprises that don't mind buying hardware and software separately, Symantec's Backup Exec CPS plus 1 TB of disk would cost about the same, but would be expandable.

Online backup services offer appliance-like ease of use as well as expandable storage capacity. Since the data is stored offsite, the service also acts a disaster-recovery system. However, online backup services are scheduled rather than instantaneous, and many admins are reluctant to entrust critical data to a third party.

Ryan Elstad is a system administrator at Syracuse University's Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Write to him at [email protected].

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