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Checklist for Evaluating Enterprise Backup Products

I recently evaluated a number of enterprise backup products and services. Once I started the process, it quickly became obvious I needed a systematic checklist of items in order compare the different offerings. Given that World Backup Dayis March 31, the topic is timely. The requirements for the project may not match your own, but I hope that it will be a good starting point. Please let me know if you have questions of your own that you would add.


  • Cross platform (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
  • Supports both server and workstation clients
  • Supports backup of individual directories (as opposed to just whole disk)
  • Supports backup of open files (aside from Exchange, SQL Server, and Quick Books)
  • Supports encryption of data in transit
  • Supports encryption of data stored on remote server
  • Supports Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010
  • Supports brick or granular restore for Exchange

Business questions:

  • What are the licensing costs for client or server software?
  • What is the cost for maintenance on licenses?
  • What is the cost per machine and/or per gigabyte per month for hosted server storage?
  • What Service Level Agreement (SLA) is offered?
  • Where are the data centers located?
  • How many times are the backups replicated in how many different physical locations?
  • What are the certifications are the service and data center in compliance with?

Reseller questions:

  • Do they offer reseller accounts? What are the requirements?
  • Is it possible to private label / white label, or co-brand the service?
  • Who is responsible for support for the clients of resellers?
  • Who is responsible for billing for the clients of resellers?

Supported platforms, file systems, and network protocols:

  • What platforms and file systems are natively supported for both workstation and server clients?
  • What native agents are available on each platform?
  • What platforms are supported non-natively via file system or network drive copies?
  • Do users on workstation clients need to be logged in for the backup to run?

Backup management:

  • Does each machine require a separate account or can multiple machines be backed up under the same account?
  • Is there support for directory services integration (i.e. LDAP or Active Directory)?
  • What functionality for reporting, monitoring, and alerting is available?

Backup details:

  • Is there support for continuous backups in addition to timed intervals or scheduled backups?
  • Is there support for backing up individual files or directories instead of a whole disk?
  • Is there support for backing up to network drives?
  • Is there support for backup up to locally attached drives?
  • Is there support for backing up open files (aside from Exchange, SQL Server, and Quick Books)?
  • Is Volume Snapshot Service (VSS) / Shadow Copy used to backup open files?
  • Is data encrypted in transit?
  • Is data encrypted on the remote server?
  • Is there support for private encryption keys?
  • Is there support for bandwidth limiting or traffic shaping?
  • Is there a way to seed the initial backup by shipping in a hard disk?

Application specific backup details:

  • Is there support for backing up Microsoft Exchange? How is this accomplished?
  • Is there support for granular / brick level / message level recovery for Microsoft Exchange?
  • Is there support for archiving Microsoft Exchange?
  • Is there support for backing up Microsoft SQL server?
  • Is there support for backing up Microsoft SharePoint server?
  • Is there support for backing up Intuit Quick Books?
  • Is there support for backing up VMWare virtual machines?

Restoring data:

  • Is there support for accessing backups via a web interface?
  • Is there support for end users to restore their own data?
  • Is there support for performing bare metal restores?
  • Is there support for shipping a hard disk of restored data for disaster recovery?
  • What other restoration options are available?

Archiving data:

  • What are the options for granular policies for archiving and retention?
  • Is there support for storing versions of a file?
  • How long can an archived version of a file that has been deleted be recovered?
Tags: archiving, backup
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