System backup is increasingly important consideration for Information Technology professionals and businesses they support. The organization needs a great solution that gets their data moved to a safe place to ensure files are available in the event they are needed and the technology professionals need to find a tool that can meet the business needs in the backup area for their organization(s).
I have been working with Acronis Backup for the past few weeks and will be reviewing the capabilities, likes, and dislikes of the application here. The focus was on the cloud or browser based controller for the backup application, and the process to backup files and data on a system.
**The Interface and configuration**
Configuring Acronis Backup 12 was fairly straightforward, the installer was a “Next, Next, Finish” operation with a stop for local user account login along the way. Once the installer was finished, the console opened. To my surprise, the console is cloud focused and lives in a browser, listening on a predetermined (and configurable) port on the machine. Cloud focused in this case intends to point out browser based and capable of controlling remote workload backup on your network and cloud based workloads in Microsoft Azure. The version of Acronis Backup that I used for this post was not a cloud hosted appliance, although I did find this in the Azure Marketplace.
The interface, shown below in figure A, is all browser and was very easy to navigate.
!(https://storemystuff12.blob.core.windows.net/blogstorage/2016/10/Acronis Backup 12/figure a.png)
As you can see, the interface can distinguish between the host machine and any Hyper-V machines and/or Virtual Machines it finds. This environment is Hyper-V based – I was not able to test against a VMware environment, but I would imagine the behavior is similar.
Each detected workload can be scheduled to backup and behave differently, or the schedules created can be used to group Virtual Machines (VMs) with similar functions. For example, if you will be backing up VMs that are running the various components of your Microsoft Exchange organization, you might wish to use a custom schedule for this group of machines – not because of a function of the backup application, but for ease of use.
**The application sections**- Devices – this section, shown by default, lists any and all devices that Acronis Backup 12 is configured to backup. - Backups – this section will display the locations where backups are written. You can integrate Cloud Storage, network storage, and local storage as targets in the application. Acronis provides some free cloud storage for new accounts – more information can be found at the following link. - Activities – this section shows any successes, errors, and progress of current backups. - Alerts – displays any notifications, success, or failures of backups that have run. - Settings – This displays configuration options for the backup (host) server as well as any agents deployed in an environment.
In addition, this is the area where licensing for the application is configured.
Data management was an interesting discovery in this application. With Acronis Backup 12, the encryption settings are handled by the backup target as it gets configured within the application. When I created a target on local disk, I was able to tell the backup application that it should be encrypted rather than needing to worry if the storage system was going to handle this function. It just needs to be enabled when the backup plan for the system is created.
**Creating Backup Plans**
From the devices view, select the settings gear for the device for which you wish to create a backup plan and select Backup as shown in Figure B.
!(https://storemystuff12.blob.core.windows.net/blogstorage/2016/10/Acronis Backup 12/figure b.png)
Choose Add Backup Plan
Choose Create new
In this panel, shown in figure C, you will specify the item(s) to backup, the target, the schedule, and the retention period. In addition, you can enable or disable encryption at this point.
When all of the options are configured, enter a backup plan name and click apply.
**Figure C !(https://storemystuff12.blob.core.windows.net/blogstorage/2016/10/Acronis Backup 12/figure c.png) **
Now the backup plan is available for assignment and backing up devices
**Running a Backup**
For a device with a configured backup plan, you can click the Backup Now button from the devices main screen. This will allow you to select a backup plan (if more than one is associated with a device). Select the backup plan and the backup will be off to the races.In addition, if the device is connected to appropriate storage media when the scheduled time occurs to run a backup, the agent on the device will kick off a backup at that time. You can also run a backup form the backup tab of the device settings pane by clicking the Run Now option for the applied backup plan, shown in figure D.
!(https://storemystuff12.blob.core.windows.net/blogstorage/2016/10/Acronis Backup 12/figure d.png)
**Recovering a Device**
Recovery is similar, available from the devices pane within the application or from the device settings recovery pane. To recover a particular backup, select the Recovery pane from the device settings pane. Then you will select a backup date and time from the list to use as the recovery point.This is shown in figure E below.
!(https://storemystuff12.blob.core.windows.net/blogstorage/2016/10/Acronis Backup 12/figure e.png)
To recover the system over the existing system, simply click recover and wait for the restoration to complete. In some cases, however, you may not want to simply roll back changes on a system to a previous date and time. Suppose there is an issue you are working to correct, but you cannot recall what may have broken a computer since last backup. It might be helpful to understand what the differences were between the backup and the current state. In this case, you can choose Run as VM to create a functional virtual machine from the backup. This keeps your current system in tact while allowing a previous instance to be run independently. Figure F shows the options to configure when selecting to run a backup as a VM.
You can see that there are no network interfaces configured. This is a good thing, if two machines pop up with a similar name, network configuration, and other settings you may encounter problems trying to operate line of business applications, causing a few headaches for your users and technical staff. You will need to select an existing VM or create a new one – because almost all situations where you might use this feature are different, I would recommend creating a new one to avoid any overwrites using this feature.1. Select Run as VM 2. Select the option to use an existing VM or create new 3. Select your virtualization host type (VMware or Hyper-V) 4. Enter a name for your VM or choose an existing VM 5. Click OK 6. Click Run now to spin up the VM from backup*
*Take note of the path where the VM will be created and any other setting
Figure G shows the process of the backup VM being created and Figure H shows the Hyper-V manager where the VM has been added.
**Considerations and Missing features**
Because Acronis Backup 12 operates in a way that allows it to work with any of the workloads that may exist in your environment it is worth considering. There is a management console that could be installed on a server within an enterprise or SMB environment if that is required, but I found the cloud / browser based interface to be simplified in a way that removed things I didn’t need to see. If I were evaluating this application outside of a lab environment, I would likely have been inclined to use either the cloud based appliance or the enterprise focused server management console.
I did not evaluate those features here for two reasons: 1.Limited lab space – my lab is small and the lightest weight tools often keep things easy 2.The majority of the feature set was available in the tools I used.
The look and feel of the browser/cloud interface was perfect and did just what it said it would – no extra work or fluff required.
I did contact Acronis about one feature I felt was missing – there was no way to script configurations of devices using PowerShell (or other tools). PowerShell support is coming in a future release. Using these management tools, when they become available, will help bring your backup solution into your workload deployment process. This will ensure that it gets deployed with your systems and can be managed in a repeatable way for any workloads where backup is needed – read all of them.
I list PowerShell management as a missing item because more and more workloads are moving to the cloud. IT administrators will need to begin looking at ways to automate the process of building a machine and getting backup configured should be something done at that point rather than as a post-configuration step before the box is released into the wild.
A feature that would be cool to see, in relation to backing up workstations or mobile worker environment might be a standard backup schedule – so if the PC is on a network where a backup schedule has been configured (or the machine can be seen by Acronis) the backup gets run with that particular schedule. If, however, the laptop is traveling, but has an Acronis agent on it, and the user plugs in a USB storage device that has been designated as a backup target, the agent runs a backup on connection of media. If the device is removed, pause the operation until next time the drive is connected. I am not sure if an import would be feasible if the laptop returns to an environment where backup is managed and the drive is connected, but it would be cool to handle backup for both managed and remote situations where the user could connect a drive.
Overall the Acronis backup solution was easy to work with in my environment. If you are looking for a backup solution I would definitely give Acronis Backup 12 a trial run to determine if it is a workable solution for your organization.