First Impressions

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

New Symantec Protection Network aims to transform fat backup clients into thin-client, Web-based, e-vault hosted storage solutions.


Our first impression (after creating a user and system account) is that the portal seems very slow, especially when compared to traditional fat client backup agents or backup application software. The slow speed of the portal becomes apparent once you begin browsing for files to tag from your backup source. The file browser uses a split pane approach with the folders on the left of the divider and the files on the right. One big nit to pick is when you drill down in the files pane there is no "up arrow" to return to the parent folder. That forces users to find the original folder by navigating through the folder view pane. In short, navigating the portal interface can be a pain!

For our initial backup test, we selected 3.2GB of data in 69 files. The selected files and amount of data was based upon actual and typical usage for one of Furey’s staffers. The time to complete the backup was hard to judge, as that portal offers no real-time monitoring of file transfer, job progress or projected estimate of a job runtime estimate! Here a performance gauge would be a welcome, if not expected, feature! The only way to check on the progress of a job is to manually refresh the screen using a "Refresh Screen" link, but until a fair amount of data is transferred to the portal, the refresh only offered useless statistics and estimates.

The product does offer several reports that can inform administrators of the details of backup jobs once completed. A "Most Recent Backed Up Files" report worked fine and showed a list of completed files. But the report can confuse users if executed while a backup is in progress, with the most recent file vaguely referenced at the top of the report table. For the most part, the reports offered are attractive and will be an asset to management and those responsible for the tedious task of backing up data.

While running the backup service, we did encounter several "time outs" and lost administrative connectivity to the portal. The service timed out "due to inactivity," which seemed odd due to the fact that data was still being transmitted to the remote storage service. Getting logged out of the application creates the unwelcome nuisance of having the user log back in with their username and password and find their way back to the status page. Perhaps Symantec could improve on many of those short comings by using some AJAX technology to offer more Web 2.0 type features.

On the plus side, the product did back up all of our test files and was able to restore those files without any issues. The data is effectively protected via encryption and is located at a secure data center, which should meet the needs of most any user, even those driven by compliance requirements.

Even though it is far from perfect, Symantec’s use of a Web portal is a welcome enhancement to hosted backup services. The ability to manage and execute backup jobs from most anywhere using a Web browser will serve administrators and solution providers quite well by decoupling backup management from the desktop. Add to that the integration capabilities offered with Backup Exec, SPN becomes a worthwhile consideration for those looking to add offsite backup capabilities to a traditional backup application.

If Symantec can overcome some of the operational problems, such as a slow portal and lethargic navigation, SPN could become real competition for some of the well-established SAAS storage vendors on the market.

EDITORS NOTE: This story was edited to include updated pricing from the vendor. 

Christopher A. Furey, managing director of Imaginamics, contributed to this story:
Imaginamics specializes in helping MSPs and IT service providers minimize their operational risk and increase their recurring revenue by focusing on areas like DR and Operational Assurance which are areas where most service providers fear to tread.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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