Acronis isn't exactly a household name. But the company's backup software should win it some fans, especially among organizations trying to move to a virtualized infrastructure.
While it also supports traditional servers, Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 Advanced Server Virtual Edition is tailored specifically to backing up and restoring virtualized servers on VMware, Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and Parallels platforms. The software provides strong continuity-of-operations capabilities in an easy-to-configure, easy-to-license form.
One of the product's biggest selling points is the simplicity of its administrative interface. I found its console to be so intuitive that I could do most tasks without having to check the documentation. The Dashboard, designed for quick operational decisions, provides an all-in-one glance at all configured and running backup and recovery operations, with color-coded alerts for successful or failed tasks.
Like CA ARCserve and Symantec Backup Exec, Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 Advanced Server Virtual Edition offers agentless backup for virtual machines. For VMware environments, the tool integrates directly with vCenter, so you can manage all virtual machines from within the Acronis management console. Acronis pulls a list of all virtual machines running on a host from vCenter, and can automatically register virtual servers for backup.
The integration goes both ways: Information on the status of backups and configuration changes show up in vCenter's console to give administrators a full picture of what's going on.
Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 offers an agent for VMware ESX hosts that installs as a module within the host. Through Acronis' VMware integration, you can install the agent remotely on each ESX host from within the Acronis Management console. And if you're using VMware's vSphere platform to move toward a cloud computing environment, Acronis integration is available there, too, plugging directly into vSphere's VMware Centralized Backup interface.
Acronis offers an "instant restore" for both physical and virtual machines. When either fails, a full restore can be instantly pushed to a virtual server while you hunt for the cause of the failure. A mouse click from the management console provisions a virtual server and loads a full restore of the failed server on it. This capability proves instrumental to continuity of operations planning.
The instant restore feature also makes Acronis an excellent tool for migrating physical servers into a virtualized environment. If you're backing up physical machines, you can rapidly redeploy them on a VMware or other virtual machine host. Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 also includes an unlimited number of migration licenses, so you don't need to invest in agent licenses for the machines you're moving to the virtual environment. Acronis can also restore to bare-metal machines, making it well-suited for replication of server configurations anywhere on the network, even on different hardware.
For organizations using tape as part of their backup scheme, Acronis supports a number of robotic tape libraries. There are built-in tape-handling strategies for backups, including the Grandfather-Father-Son scheme (monthly, weekly and daily backups) and the automated Tower of Hanoi scheme, which supports up to 16 levels of backup.
Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 Advanced Server Virtual Edition supports data deduplication at both the backup client and at the storage server, but the deduplication technology is a separate add-on feature for storage nodes and agents. Deduplication is included as part of CA ARCserve backup software.
Also, Acronis does require an agent for ESX, the older version of VMware. That agent doesn't support the free version of VMware ESXi. When the evaluation period for ESXi expires, Acronis Agent for ESX/ESXi will stop functioning because it relies on access to VMware's Remote Command Line Interface (RCLI) in ESX and ESXi hosts. If you want to continue to back up virtual machines on a free ESXi system, you'll need to purchase and install backup agents for the operating systems of each of the virtual machines on the host.