The top 10 unwritten Backup Exec hints

Some articles are more technical in nature. This article skips the technicalities, and gives you the simple hints that should make your Backup Exec experience smoother.

  1. Don’t buy Backup Exec (yet). If you’re installing Backup Exec for the first time, make use of the 60 day trial. Evaluate which agents and options you need to buy for the first 30 days or so, then buy what you need and enter the license keys before the 60 days is up. By buying once, and buying the right options, you minimise wasted expenditure, and simplify relicensing in the future, when it all needs renewing at the same time.
  2. Start simple. Before you install all the agents and options in the trial, and select every tickbox, just install the core components to start. Make sure you understand them before you add the agents and options, and then add them one-by-one. Backup Exec’s design allows you to do this simply. By doing this you know which bits of your backup policy are dependent on each option.
  3. Use the Administrator’s Guide. This contains all the technical detail of how to install and operate Backup Exec. Have the PDF downloaded and to hand. Yes, it’s a large document, but that’s because it contains a lot of information. It’s logically laid out, and usually it will contain the answer to your question.
  4. Don’t assume that it doesn’t do what you want. Backup Exec has a lot of functionality, and it scales greatly from single-server environments to environments with thousands of servers. If you need it to do something backup related, usually it will do it, though it may not be in the way you initially envision.
  5. Understand OPP (Overwrite Protection Period) and APP (Append period). Understanding these two small terms can greatly help you decide and configure your media rotation strategy. Failing to understand them can lead to a lot of “Why is it doing that”-type questions.
  6. Let Backup Exec manage your media. Backup Exec includes rules that define how your media is selected, and it can run reports to tell you what media to move off-site. Combine these with a sensible strategy, and all you need to do is what the report tells you to do.
  7. Don’t skimp on hardware. If you’re backing up to tape, buy a device that has a high throughput. If you’re backing up to disk, make sure your disks can read and write at a high speed. You’ll be shuffling data through network cards and controller cards, so make sure the server running Backup Exec has plenty of bus bandwidth. Often when people query the performance of Backup Exec, it’s the underlying hardware that’s the bottleneck.
  8. Test. We backup to restore, not for the sake of it. If you’re backing up a system for disaster recovery purposes, then finding out that you have an issue when it’s too late can be very costly.
  9. Have a support contract. At risk of sounding like a sales pitch, a support contract will enable you to do two things. Firstly, if you have a problem, you can contact support! Symantec Connect is a great resource, but sometimes for extremely technical problems, Symantec Support are the people you should be speaking to. Secondly, it allows you to upgrade to the latest version of Backup Exec. The latest version includes not only the latest features, but also the latest support for applications, so when you go to upgrade your Exchange server or your SQL server, Backup Exec will probably already work with it. This saves you then having to re-purchase Backup Exec for the latest version. Buying a support contract each year works out cheaper than re-purchasing Backup Exec every couple of years.
  10. Have a backup strategy. Don’t forget that Backup Exec is just a tool. We don’t backup for the sake of it. You should have a strategy that defines what you want to backup, when, how, to where, how long you will retain it and so on. Backup Exec will help you implement this, but the strategy itself, and the understanding of what you are protecting, how and why is more important than the software itself.