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(4.0 Stars out of Possible 5)
Originally Reviewed on April 17, 2011
Updated on August 10, 2011
The 3X Systems Remote Backup Appliance (3X RBA) is unlike any other remote backup and disaster recovery solution available on the market today. The 3X RBA is an all-in-one, data backup appliance that combines hardware and software into an easy to use appliance. The appliance automatically locates authenticated client endpoints and performs incremental backups over the Internet. Organizations can back up any mix of servers, desktops and laptops and since the appliance remains offsite, at any location the user desires, the system provides offsite disaster recovery as well. Users will appreciate the fact that they own the appliance and don’t have to worry about monthly, recurring fees or additional endpoint fees. In addition, for companies concerned with the security and privacy of their data, the security features of the software combined with the user having control of the physical location of the appliance at all times, creates a unique private cloud backup option.
The 3X proprietary vault architecture has been created by 3X Systems, Columbus, Ohio, USA. 3X Systems was founded in 2006 by entrepreneur Alan Arman with a clear mission stemming from a lack of practical and affordable data backup products in the SME marketplace. His mission was to create a reliable offsite backup solution that is automated, easy to use, and affordable.
The solution consists of a Windows agent that sends backup data from the client to the appliance and works with all versions of Windows as well as agents for Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange Server. The appliance links to a collection of agents working on clients that can be located anywhere on the globe –even behind firewalls – via a locator service using a unique key that ties each client to a particular 3X appliance.
3X has designed three different appliances models –named 500 Series, Tera Series and Enterprise Series– to deliver enterprise level features to small and medium businesses.
The 500 & Tera Series include two redundant drives on RAID 1 and are offered in cube and 1U rack mount form factors. The Enterprise Series is offered only in a 2U rack mount configurable with three to eight hard drives on RAID 5.
Each series comes with a limited number of bare metal recovery (BMR) licenses, but additional licenses can be purchased on an as-needed basis. The raw storage capacity for the 500, Tera and Enterprise series are 1TB; 4TB and 6-16 TB respectively, yielding 500GB, 2TB and 10TB redundant storage. You could, however, license only the capacity that matches your needs to lower your entry cost starting at 100GB for the 500 Series with the top licensable capacity of 10TB with the Enterprise Series. Although 3X Systems does not license their software on a per-user basis, the recommended number of users ranges from 50 to 300 users for individual users on laptops and desktops, and between 5 to 20 connections for high traffic servers. A 1x Gigabit Ethernet is available across all models. One year maintenance is included for the 500 & Tera Series. Maintenance is an add-on for the Enterprise appliance.
The remote data management system has been designed from the ground up to operate efficiently over the Internet. It has fully featured security and compression capabilities, a centralized management console, intuitive self-initiated or point-in-time backup and restores, enterprise de-duplication. All the models provide software support for physical or virtual machine backup with specific support for all major virtual machine platforms, P2P Adjust OS Versions, P2V Copy/P2V Restore/P2V Adjust OS Version and bare metal restore.
Local and remote backup and restore is made available for MS Exchange, MS SQL, Agentless restore for SQL Server and Bare metal backup image files. The file based backup system allows file versioning, open file backup, file de-duplication across multiple clients, and comprehensive file retention policies. The Linux-based system supports backup from all 32 and 64 bit Windows Versions, MS Exchange and SQL Versions. However, the network option can be used to backup files from Linux or Mac systems by entering the UNC path to an SMB share on the server and selecting the files and folders to backup.
The 3X RBAs create enterprise private clouds for data backup with no recurring monthly fees. The device is affordable, self-contained and enterprises are not chained to third party hosts for their data backup needs. With 3X Systems solutions, perpetual payment commitments are out the door and the patent-pending technology identifies and authenticates client endpoints with a secure key. It practically configures itself, increasing security and removing physical and geographical boundaries to business. Customers seeking to expand their business reach, can quickly license additional storage capacities at a modest incremental cost and march ahead with no interruptions or high costs of the upgrade cycle.
Of particular value to all businesses is the ease with which laptops can be added for backup and protected, and the flexibility of restoring files from backup storage to locations in the field. This means, salespeople and remote offices are not merely protected, but able to get the latest copy of a presentation or other file in a flash when needed from backup.
The first seeding of data or copying of files can be long drawn if there is a large volume of data to be sent to the 3X backup system. The creators of the appliance recommend putting the system on your internal network for the initial seeding operation and then moving it to a secure remote location. At that point the agent software automatically locates where the appliance has been moved to and starts backing up the changes at the byte level to the appliance. Every time the backup runs, a virtual snapshot of the source data is created on the appliance allowing the users to restore their data back to a certain point in time. Interestingly, it is possible to use an external USB drive to ship new masses of data to the appliance and back up the entire appliance in case you want to play it safe.
The agent user interface is intuitive and powerful. User-friendly features enable automation of a number of backup tasks such as creation of backup sets, scheduling of backups, assigning user rights and permissions or creating links with client systems that can access and use the 3X appliance. A security feature of the remote backup system is the ability to restrict access from any particular IP address or client machine and set options for triggering email alerts when errors occur.
The device tracking pages provide a powerful means of tracking and monitoring activities on the 3X backup system. The extensive documentation and help files are impressive. The support team is also very proactive and hand holds the customer through the installation and commissioning process.
Unfortunately, all browser versions do not work very efficiently with the 3X systems management console software. It requires IE7, FireFox 2, and Chrome 8 and above. The process views and email message restores could be better designed. Though the appliance is portable enough to be placed in any place. The appliance that was reviewed was a rackmount form factor which was designed to be placed in a server room. As such, it is noisy and is definitely not a comfortable bedfellow. If you want to use the appliance in an office setting, it may be advisable to purchase the “Cube” form factor which is virtually silent.
Pros and Cons of 3X Systems
Target Verticals Include
Operational Tolerances (All Models)
Recently Introduced Features in 3.0
Physical or Virtual Machine Backup
Local and Remote Backup & Restore
Company: 3X Systems, Inc.
CEO: Chris Winslow [http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chris-winslow/0/46b/a63]
The 3X RBA comes in a carefully packaged box with the Remote Backup Appliance (RBA) unit, a connecting Ethernet cable, an instruction manual, a BMR CD and a USB key. All of these items are shown in the images below.
While attaching the appliance, you need to ensure that you connect the PC and the appliance to the same DHCP enabled network. If you are configuring the appliance without a DHCP network, you just need to attach 3X appliance to a monitor to set it up with a static IP address.
In our case, we powered up the appliance and connected the Ethernet cable to the back end of the unit and to our modem, after which we connected the USB key to our computer. We powered up the appliance by pressing the black button found at the top right.
During the appliance installation process, the user will have to input a number of personal details such as the user name, email id and set a password for accessing the appliance. The 3X software, then, gathers system information automatically (such as IP address), inputs the system tag and product key and finally, creates a folder named 3X on the console containing all the configuration files that are required for accessing and configuring the appliance and installing client machines that are to be associated with the appliance.
As a first step in the configuration process, the user needs to plug in the USB key and the drive will display a folder that says 3X. The user has to double click this folder and access the admin tool. The window that pops up displays a number of interesting parameters that were automatically input by the installation process. The system tag is the first item on the list. It uniquely identifies the 3X remote backup appliance. The next column displays the public and private IP of the network on which the appliance is being installed. The last three columns display details of the different ports involved. The port 5543 (or alternative) must be forwarded through the firewall to allow an external PC to backup. The port 443 (or alternative) must be forwarded through the firewall to enable access the remote management console from an external PC.
To proceed with the configuration, the user must right click on the system tag and select Launch Manager. This provides access the management dashboard.
The launch manager brings up the log in screen. The user will have to enter the password that was selected during the appliance installation process. Users are advised to select a complex password at the time of installing the appliance. It is recommended that the password should be changed at regular intervals for added security.
On successful login, the system status screen appears. This is a user friendly dashboard that displays the system information and current activity levels. Users can navigate to Administrative or Client management screens from the dashboard or access the elaborate help files or contact support.
The Administration Modules
The Administration drop down menu provides access to seven component modules:
Each module contains a number of panels that are accessible from a menu that is available on the left of the module screen. Users can access the Administration menu by using the breadcrumb menu that appears on the top left corner of the screen.
The System settings module allows the administrator configure date and time, define system passwords, tinker with network settings, set encryption and compression parameters, choose to receive email notifications for different activities, maintain logs or monitor settings.
While upgrades are automatic by default, the software configuration module can be accessed by the administrator to perform a manual check for software updates or configure the system for an automatic update of the software.
The Log management module permits the administrator view, download, maintain logs or create notification logs.
The Services module provides a single window view of the status of different services such as backup, maintenance or report generation. It is also possible to view the current status of the appliance from this module.
The License module as the name indicates displays license information and facilitates addition, deletion of licenses or viewing of available licenses. The diagnostics module gives a clear diagnostic of any hardware or software problems with the appliance. It also gives access to support information.
Finally, the External Storage module provides access to the tools that help you vault or seed backups.
The Client Management Modules
The client management module has six sub modules:
Each of these modules helps the user configure the client machines associated with the 3X RBA.
Interestingly, there is no left menu provision in the client management modules as each module contains a number of tabs that can be used to navigate to the different screens of the module. However, the breadcrumb menu does appear on the module screens and can be used to navigate back to the Client Management main menu screen.
The settings of the client machines connecting to the 3x appliance can be customized using the Default client settings module. Backup schedules can be created, edited or removed using the Schedules module. Rules for backup sets can be imported, exported, defined or removed using the Rule Sets module. Company specific or mandate specific retention policies can be created, edited or deleted from the Retention Policies module. Installation of new clients is made possible by downloading the client software from the Client software module. The client keys can also be viewed by accessing the relevant panel. Finally, administrators can view client information and remotely manage clients by accessing the Manage Clients module of the software.
Setting up Clients
A software agent is used to backup data from a client to the 3X appliance. The agent software is available for download from the Client Management module of the 3X- Backup application. Software agents are available for 32 bit and 64 bit Windows. Select the appropriate client installer and click on 32 bit or 64 bit. Patches for clients already installed can also be downloaded from this screen. It is a best practice to install the 3X client to a drive that has at least a 1GB of free space.
A binary .exe file gets downloaded and an installation Wizard guides the user through the installation process.
The penultimate screen of the wizard –the registration screen– asks the user to input the client key that is available with the Administrator and is available in the Client Management module in the Client software panel.
The next screen requires inputs that uniquely identify the client machine owner.
The registration process then proceeds apace, till the finish is reached. The registered clients are made visible on the Manage Clients module under Client Management.
Note that the client remains under Pending Activation. The client gets activated when the user clicks on the name of the client to be activated and clicks on the Activate Client button that appears on the activation screen displaying the client details. Clients can also be deactivated using the deactivate client button available on this screen. Only active clients configured to the specific 3X appliance, can backup data to the appliance.
Defining a Backup Set
The Backup Wizard facilitates the creation of backup sets. Users must begin the process of creating the backup set by giving it a name, defining the backup set type, and selecting the source of backup. The source can be local or on the network. Files on Mac or Linux machines on the network can be backed up to the 3X machine by selecting Network from the drop down combo box for category.
A separate backup set can be created for System State. This can be done by creating an empty backup set with no rules and the system state option selected.
The appliance uses four levels of integrity testing to ensure that data is not corrupted during backup. Additionally, RAID 1 or 5 server grade hard drives with an MTBF (mean time before failures) rating of 1.2 million hours (137 years) is used for the purpose.
Defining Rule Sets for Backup
Before actually beginning a backup from the client machine, the user must carefully consider what they want to backup and which folders or folder types should be included in the backup. The backup set selection rules can be defined in the Rule Sets module using the Backup Wizard’s rule set tab. Users will simply have to select the file or folder they want to include or exclude and select Include/Exclude from the drop down combo on the left and click on Add Filter to complete the process.
The user can also define the file types that need to be excluded by specifying the file extension and clicking on Add Filter. Rule can also be imported or removed from the folder rule list.
However, rule sets are not global and even though you make the rule set available to other backup sets, the rule set will have to be specifically imported to the particular backup set. Editing the rule set will not cause changes to be made in the original rule set. This has been deliberately done so that users do not inadvertently implement changes to rule sets associated with different backup sets at a global level. This also gives the rule set a template like quality. Users can import the basic template and tweak it to suit the specific backup set.
3X provides a Preview feature on the client to display exactly what files and folders will be backed up within a given rule set. This Preview report can be printed out or saved for reference.
Scheduling the backup
Users scheduling a backup must assign a name to the schedule and specify the frequency. The schedule can run daily, weekly, monthly, once, cron or never. The schedule can trigger the backup at a specified time or during a specified hour or once everyday or once in two days, depending on the settings that are selected.
Defining Retention Policies
Different retention policies can be defined for a single backup set to accommodate different legal mandates or backup policies. For instance, the user can run daily backups with retention of two weeks. The same job may be run once a month with a retention policy of one year. Any change made to the retention policy will implement the changes across backup jobs with which the retention policy is associated.
The success or failure of a backup can make all the difference in the event the enterprise needs to recover from disaster. Administrators, therefore, have to keep a constant vigil on backups. 3X offers an automated alternative. Administrators or even client owners can choose to be notified about the status of a backup set via email.
Notifications include the following backup set status notifications:
The notification option screen shown below can also be used by administrators to set up/upload scripts that run before or after a backup process is completed.
Advanced options include verification of files and journal options.
Once the backup set has been named, files and folders are included/excluded, rules defined and schedules set, the backup is ready to happen. If the user wants to start the backup manually, the Start Backup button on the top left corner of the Manage Clients screen initiates the backup, otherwise the backup starts according to the scheduled time. Once the backup is complete, the completed backup information will be displayed for the benefit of the user as under:
As pointed out earlier, 3X backup appliances use several levels of integrity testing to ensure that data backups are not corrupted or incomplete. Versions of Point-in-time restores can also be retained for weeks, months or years and a different retention policy defined for each backup set. Users can restore the whole backup set or individual files from specific backup sets by merely accessing the backup set and selecting the files and folders for restoration.
The restore button is available on the Manage Clients screen.
3X Backup Version 3.0, adds a number of restoration features that are commonly found in large enterprise systems. Users can now perform Bare Metal recovery and granular Exchange recovery in addition to all other types of recovery that were possible with the earlier versions of the software.
Bare metal recovery feature can be used to capture and recover the system image. An image of all settings, applications and data will be captured for restoration instantaneously. This implies that the system image with applications and data can be recovered to hardware that is the same or similar to the one from which it was captured and backed up into the 3X system. This facilitates rapid recovery after a disaster.
Granular level recovery or brick level recovery for Microsoft Exchange 2010 and earlier versions allows administrators to recover granular data or bricks of data, such as, individual mail boxes, email messages, calendars or contact information, without attempting to recover the entire Exchange system.
Support for VMWare, Microsoft and Oracle virtualization platforms promotes sharing of computing resources. Virtualization simplifies IT management and reduces overall infrastructure costs, while endowing the user with all the benefits of private cloud architecture.
The Locator Service
3X backup version 3.0, comes with a locator service that eliminates many client configuration issues. When attached to the Internet, the appliance registers a digital location in the locator service. If the appliance is moved and a client cannot find the appliance, a query is sent to the locator service. The service obtains the new IP address and port of the appliance and communicates the same to the client. It is immaterial whether the end point is on the local network or somewhere else on the Internet. This makes for great mobility and the device can be moved anywhere without a need to reconfigure the client systems or ensure that the appliance has a fixed IP address.
3X Backup Support
The manufacturers of 3X Backup understand their customers and have attempted to extend their support for every conceivable need that may be experienced by them. They have provisioned for elaborate help files that are accessible from all parts of the interface. Detailed FAQs have been included on their website in an attempt to answer questions that are commonly asked by customers. A live chat button on the website provides instantaneous access to experts. The support team can also be contacted via email or telephone.
On first purchase of the equipment, the support team remains ready and willing to hand-hold the customer through the appliance installation process. They monitor the installation and set up process till the customer attains a level of comfort in usage of the appliance. During this phase, alerts are generated to the vendor whenever a user initiates a backup or completes/terminates a backup. Emails are immediately dispatched to the customer indicating the status of the backup.
3X Remote Backup Appliance all over performance have been given a 4 star rating by our team. The appliance is a one time investment with no recurring commitments. It can be upgraded at a nominal cost and requires no purchase of additional hardware or software for the upgrade. It is easy to install and even easier to commission on a single PC or a network. It is portable, secure and private. Once connected to the PC or the network, it almost configures itself and some one with a limited experience in IT could set up and operate the device in a jiffy.
The user-friendly, intuitive interface makes backup and restoration of data from multiple systems very simple. Amazingly, users can define backup rule sets or create backup set specific schedules with a click and select system that requires no explanation.
The company has been getting a lot of traction and has managed to partner with a number of companies, including Foreseeson Technology, Paragon Software Group, and Tushaus Computer Services. 3X Systems RBA has been named “Most Valuable Product” by Redmond Magazine.
3X Systems has been busy working on continual improvements, and has recently delivered a major software enhancements to its line of Remote Backup Appliances in the new 3.0 version. These enhancements include enterprise-class features, such as bare metal recovery, granular Exchange recovery, and support for virtualized environments for backup over the Internet.
3X delivers the best-in-class scalable, reliable and affordable offsite backup and disaster recovery solution for small and medium sized businesses. 3X has perfected its its three major components – the appliance, client, and locator service – in its architecture. This solution delivers the benefits of backup service in an economical, portable, all-in-one device that can be purchased by the end customer through their authorized partner IT service providers. This provides the customer with an added local resource for their IT and data continuity needs. 3X’s Remote Backup Appliance solution protects mission-critical data without removable media such as tapes, CDs or DVDs in a fully automated fashion to offsite facilities without giving up access to or control of data.
Managed Service Providers can leverage the 3X RBA as the backbone of a remote backup service. Adopting 3X could substantially lower entry costs to set up an online backup service. Since the system is highly portable, 3X RBA allows an IT provider to eliminate slow backups and restores by physically transporting the appliance to the on-site location.
3X RBA allows IT professionals to eliminate the tape backup products deployed at remote offices and resources to manage these products. The system seamlessly integrates for portable users, like consultants or sales peoples laptops. 3X backup systems are definitely highly recommended for small and medium enterprises that have growing volumes of data.
© BackupReview.info – April 2011
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