Enterprise backup solutions are notoriously complex to operate and difficult to integrate into IT environments. Most high-end backup products require dedicated servers, complex policy definitions and the distribution of clients or agents to systems targeted for backup or restore.
Cloud services provider Zetta.net reduces the complexities of enterprise backup by taking on all of the technical burden and associated integration chores and offering a simple-to-use but powerful browser-based interface to deploy, configure and manage an automated suite of backup services.
Perhaps the best way to think of what Zetta.net offers the enterprise backup market is to invoke the Pareto principle, commonly known as the 80-20 rule. When it comes to software, the rule suggests that 80% of users will only need 20% of the features. Zetta.net probably unconsciously used the Pareto principle when designing Zetta DataProtect. After all, the most important thing about a backup service is the ability to back up and restore your systems quickly, easily and successfully. Simply put, do extraneous features such as FTP-based backup, backup server load balancing, multiple encryption levels and so forth have a purpose for most backup customers, other than to add to software bloat?
A Closer Look at Zetta DataProtect V4.6
As a cloud-based service, Zetta DataProtect eliminates much of the configuration and worry associated with traditional backup products. What’s more, the company also houses the primary backup storage in its own data centers as part of the cloud service. The offsite data store proves to be an important concept when it comes to backup. By geographically distributing the storage, backups are protected from regional disasters, allowing businesses to retrieve their data even if an Ebola outbreak shuts down company headquarters.
Backup-as-a-service offers several other advantages as well, such as the elimination of capital expenses incurred by software licenses, backup servers, backup media, backup appliances, and etc. It shifts the costs over to a budget-able, recurring fee for the service, which starts at $175 per month and is based on the amount of storage required. Other advantages include 24/7 support, automated upgrades and patches, ease of deployment, geographic distribution for more reliable disaster recovery, ease of scale, and affordability.
Primary features of the cloud-based backup service include:
- Advanced data compression
- WAN traffic optimization
- Multi-threaded data transport
- Local backup and restore
- Mapped network drive access
- Multi-platform support (Windows, Linux, OSX)
- Plug-in support (SQL, Exchange, Hyper-V)
- File-by-file and/or image-based backups
One of the more underrated facets of the platform is the speed with which it can accomplish backups and restores. Speed is normally lacking in cloud-based storage offerings, due mostly to bandwidth and other constraints. Zetta.net overcomes those limitations by combining some 17 patented capabilities, including multi-threading, WAN optimization, and data compression, to accelerate backup and restore speeds.
Hands-on with Zetta DataProtect v4.6
Getting started requires the setup of an account and then the deployment of a client application for the systems to be backed up. The client application, ZettaMirror, runs in the system tray and interprets defined policies to execute backups. It is actually a very simple concept. Administrators use a web-based management console to define and schedule backups. The client application maintains the service connection and then executes the backup process when commanded to by the admin-defined policy/schedule.
The ZettaMirror client also functions as a login to launch the cloud services management console, which runs in all of the popular browsers. The management dashboard offers several customizable views, which can focus on servers, policies, reports, and so on. Administrators should have no trouble navigating the management console, which dispenses with technical jargon and offers context-sensitive help.
The ZettaMirror client resides on the system to be backed up. The client can be distributed and accessed remotely and provides a shortcut to launch the management console.
Management chores take place in the Zetta Service Management console, which uses a dashboard paradigm to inform administrators of the status of backups and restores and offers pull-down menus to define storage targets, backup clients, policies and users.
The Zetta Service Management dashboard offers relevant information as well as pull-down menus to access additional features.
As stated before, Zetta uses a policy-based paradigm, in which administrators define backup policies for an individual system or a group of systems, or create a default policy. Regardless of which is chosen, administrators have quick access to some very powerful tools for scripting policies.
Zetta DataProtect enables storage elements to be quickly defined with retention rules, as well as metrics to control restore points and other backup related elements.
One of the first tasks to tackle when setting up the product is defining storage. Here, Zetta DataProtect provides a hierarchical view of the storage elements and gives administrators a relatively simple way to set data retention times, restore points and so forth, all with the basic ideology of conserving space, while still offering ample options to locate data for restoration.
Administrators can choose from a predefined list of tasks in Zetta DataProtect.
Storage retention policies are carried over to system policies, where administrators can further define the backup parameters. Policies, which are called tasks in Zetta’s parlance, are defined for each system or group of systems and include incremental controls for elements such as volume selection, drive selection, frequency, and so on.
Managing a backup or restore job in Zetta DataProtect all comes down to “task settings,” which control the associated processes. Multiple tasks can be assigned for each device.
One very important capability to note is Zetta’s ability to perform local backups as well as remote. When defining a backup task, an administrator has the option to set a local target for the backup files, such as an attached hard drive, NAS or SAN based storage device. As long as the target storage element has a drive letter and enough space, it can be a secondary backup location.
Zetta DataProtect offers traditional file-by-file backups, as well as imaging and VSS-based controls.
When defining a backup, administrators can also pre-define job preferences, which are automatically included in each task. The preferences also include elements such as backup scheduling and data throttling (to conserve bandwidth).
Zetta DataProtect lets administrators throttle bandwidth consumption using a schedule as well as use VSS or local backups.
In practice, Zetta DataProtect works pretty much as a “set it and forget it” service. Administrators can define backup tasks and then let the service take it from there. Daily notification emails show progress and report any errors, problems or concerns. Ultimately, that makes Zetta DataProtect one of the easiest enterprise backups to use. Just set it up to back up everything on a subject endpoint and then go about your other chores and not worry about backups any more.
For those that like a more hands-on approach, Zetta DataProtect does offer some very informative dashboard screens which show backup progress and warnings, errors or other problems.
Restoring files proves as easy as backing them up, if not easier. Since all of the data is stored in its original formatting and is not locked in a different or proprietary format, administrators can simply search for files to restore and then execute a restoration task. Files can be restored to their original locations as well as to alternative locations. Administrators can select directories for restoration and redirection as well.
For those using the service’s image-based backup option, Zetta provides an image browser that allows administrators to delve into the backups as if they were traditional directories or files, eliminating the need to mount the image or restore a whole image to just locate a single file or directory.
Zetta.net has done a fine job of turning a cloud-based service into a viable enterprise-grade backup system. By eliminating extraneous features and focusing on simplicity and speed, the company has created what may be an ideal backup service for smaller enterprises looking to save money, keep backups geographically isolated, and reduce training and support costs for IT staffers, all without giving up the security and business continuity options that a backup system can bring to the table.
Of course, no product is perfect. Zetta DataProtect does come up short in some areas, such as estimating the time a backup may take and not providing buttons to explore volumes on the management screens (in other words, you have to input paths and file names by hand, without the benefit of a lookup tool). But the company has added features and enhanced the product with each revision, all based upon customer feedback. So, those using the product will need to make their voices heard if they find a feature lacking in any way. Odds are, Zetta.net will look into it for a future release.
Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock. Product photos courtesy of the author.