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http://www.backupreview.info

http://www.vembu.com

rating

(4 Stars out of possible 5)

Reviewed on October 23, 2012

Note: Click on images found below to view enlarged screen captures.

Update: On Nov. 29, 2012, Vembu released version 4.2.5. Click here for a detailed post.

Update: On Feb. 19, 2013, Vembu released StoreGrid iPhone App Click here for a detailed post.

Update: On Apr. 25, 2013, Vembu released StoreGrid version 4.4 Click here for a detailed post.

Summary

Vembu Technologies founded in 2004 by Sekar Vembu — the current Chief Executive Officer— and his team of management graduates and technology experts, is headquartered in Chennai, India. The Company frequently figures in CRNs Annual Emerging Vendors list and has won the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Award and the “Red Herring 100 Asia” awards. It was a finalist in the VAR Business Tech Innovator award and in the Windows IT Pro Award for Interoperability. The twin offerings of the company —StoreGrid (data protection solution) and SyncBlaze (online file sharing and collaboration solution) — are affordably priced for the customers —Managed Service Providers, Managed Hosting Providers and Value Added Resellers.

Since its inception in 2004, Vembu’s award winning cloud solutions have delivered tangible value to over 3500 partners worldwide who manage, protect and administer over 50 PB of business critical data. Vembu takes great pride in its core values, the most important of which is that of always placing its customers’ & partners’ interests first.

StoreGrid Service Provider Edition (version 4.2) –the data protection software– being reviewed here is robust state-of-the-art, award winning backup software marketed by Vembu Technologies to provide flexible, cost effective and reliable managed cloud services to small and medium enterprises.

StoreGrid Service Provider Edition can be seamlessly and instantly deployed or configured to create a peer to peer storage grid out of existing space on available hardware on the local area network (Intranet P2P Backup Mode, Client Server Backup Mode etc) or on a remote server outside the network. User customizable data encryption, compression, versioning, backup scheduling and block level or file level data restores—are part of the packaged offering. Users can purchase a license to use the software and the services from Managed Service providers or authorized resellers of the company and expect to be fully (and even obsessively) supported through the installation, management and maintenance phases of their relationship with the service provider and the original creator of the software.

All licensed versions of StoreGrid require the installation of a client component and a server component while the evaluation version (30 day trial)—available for download from their website–is a client only or server only installation. The server component installs on the selected local or remote backup server. The client component installs on every machine (PC, Laptop or Server), across a number of operating systems including Windows® XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows 2000/2003/2008 Server, Linux RedHat 8.0 & above, Debian 4.0, Mandrake 10.0 & above, SuSE 9.x & above, Mac OS X 10.x and FreeBSD 6.1 & above. Additionally, the software supports all virtual platform backups including Microsoft Hyper-V, Oracle Virtual Box, VMware VSphere and ESX, ESXi.

Users can choose to download StoreGrid Cloud, StoreGrid Service Provider Edition, StoreGrid Hosting Provider Edition or StoreGrid Professional Edition. All versions of the software guarantee centralized management, block level or granular recovery options, virtualized environment support, flexible backup scheduling, MS Exchange and database backups, Disk image backup and BMR, retention and archiving and complete branding for the business. The Flex based client agent Service Provider edition is a bare bones edition that is designed exclusively for laptops and desktops.

The Trial version of StoreGrid Service Provider Edition 4.2 can be downloaded form the Company website. The .exe file is tiny and the installation process is completed in minutes. The graphical user interface that is invoked on completion of installation is an attractive red and white in colour. Navigation buttons, links and text boxes are visibly and effectively placed to guide the user through the configuration process without a glitch. The interface provides a number of selectable choices and explanations so that the user remains impact-aware and alert to the consequences of the choice.

StoreGrid has an amazing set of customization options for data backup and restore. Backups can be pre-configured with one-tick-selections from an MS-Explorer-like window that provides a tree view of all the files and folders available on the client machine. Backup scheduling options (daily, weekly, monthly, full backup, etc) can be selected from the backup settings window by clicking on the appropriate option and providing input parameters in the relevant text boxes. Separate backup schedules can be drawn up for commonly used files and folders, browser settings, email, systems settings, registry or any other folder. Users can even choose the number of versions of a file (1-99) to be retained in the backup. Backup schedules can be suspended, edited, paused or deleted. Summary or historical reports of backup schedules can be generated.

Interestingly, StoreGrid can backup open files (using the Windows Shadow service) and resume interrupted backups automatically. There is no limit to the size of files that can be backed up and files can be tracked using the Windows Directory Monitoring service from within the software. Synthetic full backups can be performed for specific files that have been changed to a large extent. A built in integrity check ensures that the files are backed up uncorrupted. Customized retention policies can be defined for the backup, a folder or a file or even deleted backup sets.

Once configured the StoreGrid application repeatedly and intelligently checks the files/ folders– identified for the backup schedule–for changes and initiates incremental backup automatically, saving the user thousands of dollars by bandwidth conservation. All backed up files can be selected for complete restore or users can navigate down the tree and select specific files for restoration to the original location or a new location on the same system or an entirely different system. Powerful source-centric compression technologies are pressed into service to save bandwidth in data transmission and disk space in storage.

Disaster recovery and bare metal recovery have been built into the software with intent to unlock new data protection and disaster recovery paradigms for small and medium businesses. Virtual machines can be run directly from the backup file in the production environment or in isolated test environments.

RDBMS driven reporting modules allow the generation of all kinds of standard reports for secure data administration such as backup reports, restore reports, client management reports or updates downloaded reports. The Report Dashboard provides a bird eye view of all the backups / restores completed, files / folders processed, skipped, unprocessed or unprotected and specific reports on backup or restore of a backup set can be generated under the backup report or restore report option or from the dashboard itself.

Compliance and Security are almost automatic. User settings urge the configuration of an encryption key and password. The combination masks and conceals the content, nature and type of the stored data from unauthorized users and the service provider. It follows that the security of the key and password is a business imperative and their loss can result in data inaccessibility for the data owner. A rudimentary two setting user management module is built into the application to facilitate administration of user rights and permissions. StoreGrid Cloud claims compliance to the industry-recognized certifications and audits such as PCI DSS Level 1, ISO 27001, FISMA Moderate, HIPAA, and SAS 70 Type II in safely processing, storing and securing data.

The software developers seem to have focused a lot of energy and time on Alarm and event management. Alarms can be configured for a variety of system and software events. These events are automatically categorized and filtered as General, Major, Minor, Warning, Critical, informative etc. Critical events are highlighted in Red. The alarms can be viewed, acknowledged or deleted after review. Cleared or deleted events continue to be visible in a separate table with a date and time stamp of clearance.

Vembu Technologies believe that delivering quality backup technology alone is not enough. Excellence in service is achieved only when customer support is optimal. Customer support is obsessively pursued by providing, user guides support forums, blogs, FAQs, Live Chat and knowledge base. Their support personnel are accessible via email. For those who would like stepped up responsive support, instant messaging support, session based support, or telephonic support, the company offers a number of premium support plans priced at $50, $100 and $200 per month (or $500, $1000 and $2000 annually) respectively for the bronze, silver and gold plans. Users can also purchase a per incident support at $50 per incident, if they are not registered for any kind of premium support plan.

StoreGrid Subscription license or Perpetual License with annual support fee and all the plugins installed can be easily calculated at the website. The cost per Client Access License (MCAL) on a desktop OS is just $ 2.50 per month which works out to $30 per Desktop. The license for the server is calculated at $2.00 MCALs per month and works out to just $60 per year. Each plugin installed will be calculated as a predefined (listed on the site) number of MCALs per month and total costs will vary according to the plugins that have been selected. The pricing is certainly competitive.

StoreGrid deserves a four star rating out of a possible five stars. The software is definitely recommended.

Company Profile:

Name of Company:  Vembu Technologies Pvt Limited

Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Sekar Vembu [http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sekar-vembu/1/6a1/a8b]

VP, Technology: Jayavasanthan Jay [http://www.linkedin.com/in/jayavasanthan]

VP, Engineering and Operations: Sathish Subramaniam [http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sathish-subramanian/4/7a4/621]

VP, Product Management, Cloud Data Protection: Srivatsan Venkatesan [http://www.linkedin.com/in/srivatsanv]

VP, Product Management, Cloud Content Management: Sai V. Nagarajan [http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sai-nagarajan/36/376/19]

Website: http://www.vembu.com

Blog: http://blog.vembu.com

Forum: http://StoreGrid.vembu.com/forum/

Founded in: July 2004

Type: Privately Held

Company Size: 200 employees (October 2012)

Software Platform: C++ and Adobe Flex

Nature of product: Backup and storage solutions to Service Providers and Remote & Branch Offices (ROBOs).

Headquarters/ India Office: Vembu Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Office-A, II Floor, “Kaashyap Enclave” 13-A/209, Velachery Main Road, Velachery, Chennai – 600 042 [Google Map]

US Office: Vembu Technologies, Inc. 5500 Stewart Avenue, Suite 116, Fremont, CA 94538 [Google Map]

Competitors: Asigra, KineticD, Novastor, Intronis, and many more

Tag at BackupReview.info: http://www.backupreview.info/tag/vembu/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/vembustoregrid

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vembutech

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/vembutech

Vembu Case Study at Amazon: http://aws.amazon.com/solutions/case-studies/vembu/

Market Focus: StoreGrid provides Backup and Cloud Storage Solutions to Managed Service Providers, IT Service Providers and Resellers.

Positioning: Vembu Technologies is one of the fastest growing companies offering affordable Backup and Cloud Storage Solutions.

Support and Contacts

Phone:
India: +91-44-4202 2671
US: +1-432-558-0055
UK: +44-020-3239-4360

Premium Support Pricing (StoreGrid SP):http://storegrid.vembu.com/online-backup/support-plans-sp.php

Sales and Partner Relations Email:
StoreGrid Cloud: StoreGridcloud-partner@vembu.com
StoreGrid SP: StoreGrid-partner@vembu.com
StoreGrid Pro: StoreGrid-pro@vembu.com

Technical Support:
StoreGrid Cloud: StoreGridcloud-support@vembu.com
StoreGrid SP: StoreGrid-support@vembu.com
StoreGrid Pro: StoreGrid-support@vembu.com

Pros and Cons

Pros

    1. Flexible backup solution that works with existing hardware
    2. Provides lean mean client for laptops and desktops that do not require heavy duty backup and restore
    3. Can be deployed in multiple modes—Service Provider Hosted online Backup, Trusted Peer to Peer backup and typical Client-Server deployments
    4. Provides broad platform support and works well with all types of operating systems
    5. Supports all types of Virtual platform backup and restore
    6. Easy to install and use; even novice users can install agent, backup or restore data without help of system administrators
    7. Allows centralized administration of backup and restore from Browser Based Web console on the client
    8. Facilitates backup scheduling and configuration of backup windows
    9. Interrupted backups are automatically resumed on restoration of connectivity or restarting of the computer
    10. Bare metal disaster recovery with multi-mode replication of data both locally and remotely
    11. Blowfish Encryption (192 DES) that allows user defined encryption key
    12. Automatic incremental backup and compression that saves on disk space and bandwidth
    13. Up to 99 versions of a file or folder can be saved in backup
    14. Backup for open files and Synthetic full backup (Single folder backup for large files/folder in a backup set)
    15. Provisions for Bandwidth throttling during backup to remote server
    16. Pay as you go pricing
    17. Multiple layers of free support with options to purchase premium support plans
    18. State-of-the-art Alarm and event management system (Event is an action that is usually initiated outside the scope of a program and that is handled by a piece of code inside the program)
    19. Advanced reporting system
    20. Scalable architecture that seamlessly integrates with third party technologies

Cons

    1. Agent based software requires a client and server component installation. StoreGrid client needs to be installed on every client machine connecting to the backup server
    2. Disk space status alerts are generated only once in 24 hours and not immediately; backup may fail due to lack of disk space.
    3. The feature to resume a restore from where it left off is not supported for restoring backups to a different client other than the client from which backup was done
    4. Bandwidth throttling is not supported for local machines or restore-process
    5. Restore resume is not automatic when data is restored to a new or different client from the source
    6. Imported backup schedules cannot be edited. They can only be used as is or should be deleted
    7. Peer discovery within the subnet is not supported; peers have to be added manually only
    8. User management module is not well developed. It permits only assignment of full or read only permissions
    9. Disk image plugin has limitations
    10. StoreGrid does not support automatic directory and file monitoring in Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Solaris and Linux machines
    11. The tree display in the StoreGrid Web Console will take some time to load if a directory contains thousands of files/directories under it
    12. Cross platform restore is not possible for encrypted Mac OS X backups
    13. Export of backup data is not available for servers installed as an “Amazon Machine Instance (AMI)”

Getting Started

Downloading

A full featured 30-Day trial of StoreGrid SP Edition 4.2.0 Client or server version can be downloaded from the website of Vembu Technologies. For the purpose of this review, we have downloaded the StoreGrid SP Edition 4.2.0 Client version.

It must be noted that there is a server version available for evaluation and the company makes it a point to inform the customer that a client and server component will have to be installed if the customer decides to subscribe, but for the trial, it is sufficient to install the client or the server version of the software.

While navigating the site for the download of the client version, it was noticed that the company has a StoreGrid SP Flex Client Edition 4.2.0 for download in addition to the StoreGrid 4.2.0 SPEdition with a web based console, but it is not clear which edition one needs to download for the trial version. The FlexClient is for laptops and Desktops that do not want to have a heavy duty version of the software; and the Web console version would be the best option to try out for evaluation purposes, as it provided a full-featured trial of the software.

Installation

The web console based client .exe file is a 32 MB file that takes a couple of minutes to download. Once downloaded, the installation process zips through in a minute and a Wizard guides the user through the process. The welcome screen and Vembu software license agreement screens are followed by a screen that requires user input of a Valid StoreGrid ID—which uniquely identifies the user. Thereafter, the installation process continues uninterrupted over three more screens that ask the user to select the location of installation and the type of installation required and then displays the status of the installation process till the finish screen appears.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Installation
Fig. 1 – Installation

Administration and Configuration

By default, the Vembu StoreGrid detects and uses Internet Explorer to display the web-console. The trial version takes “admin” as the user ID and password. When the user subscribes for the software, they can select the user id and password they would like to use.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Admin-Login
Fig. 2 – Admin Login

The screen clearly informs you that to perform a backup you need to install the StoreGrid in at least one other computer in server mode. It also informs you that the browser application works best with IE 7.0+, Mozilla Firefox 1.0+, Chrome 4.0+, Opera 9.0+ and Safari 1.2.4+. The screen resolution must be set to 1024 x 768. The application also requires cookies to be enabled and javascript to be installed.

Administration

StoreGrid SP 4.2.0 has a number of features that facilitate centralized administration of backup over a network. Any number of clients can connect to a server for backup provided the clients have StoreGrid installed on them and have elected to backup or have been registered for backup to a specific backup server. Any number of backup servers can be configured as peers on the network and all peers can connect to a replication server or servers for replicating the information that has been backed up from the clients. Clients can also backup their information to multiple servers for additional security.

Managing Server Licenses and Client Licenses from a Central Server

All client licenses in StoreGrid SP Edition 4.2.0 must be handled from the Backup Server. Licenses can be applied to the backup/replication servers. The Backup Server maintains a pool of licenses, clients connecting to the backup server consume MCALS (Monthly Client Access License) as and when they connect to the backup server on a monthly basis.Administrators can login to the StoreGrid Web Console and navigate to Server Administration and add the required and purchased licenses to the pool. Administrators can access the online calculators provided by Vembu Technologies to calculate the number of licenses required. Once applied to a client, the license is valid for a month and will be automatically renewed thereafter from the available pool.

Clients can be registered to the server by installing the StoreGrid client component on each client and by providing them with a passkey for backing up to the server.

Client Registration

The client registration feature is available if the administrator wants to ensure that the server accepts only registered clients. To register a client with the server, you must click on the “Sign up” link below the login text boxes and register the client with the backup server.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Client-Register
Fig. 3 – Client Registration

On this screen, users will have to input the backup server information (select the server from the combo box or manually add the server by clicking on “Add Backup Server” link. The precondition for an automatic connection between the client and server is that StoreGrid application should be installed and running on the Server system when the client is being registered. Each client will be provided a ‘Customer Pass Key” by the service provider/ Server Administrator. The StoreGrid ID will be automatically picked up from the database if specified or the name used by the client in the installed operating system will be picked up by the StoreGrid application as the StoreGrid ID for the machine by default. It is the unique value you had entered while installing the StoreGrid application on the client machine. Users can set a password to protect the backup from this client in the backup server or login to the client’s web console.

Add/ Delete Peer/ Server

Peers can be added or deleted by navigating to Settings>Add/Delete Peer. Peers can be other clients or other servers. A server machine may be added as a peer to enable configuration of backups to the server using Add Backup Schedule page. For instance, if you want to replicate data in another server, you will have to add the Replication server as a peer and then configure it in the Replication management panel of the application.

Peers can be added using their IP address or their DNS name. If IP address is used, the peer can only be accessed with that address. Therefore, it is recommended that Peers in DHCP network should be added with their DNS name and not IP address.

StoreGrid ID can be manually added or picked up from the Peer on establishing connection.

All Peers added/connected to a client machine are displayed in a tabular format at the bottom of the Add/Delete Peer page. Peers that are active and running will be highlighted as a blue icon and inactive ones will be highlighted in black.

Centralized Client Management

Client backup settings and backup schedules can be reset or changed from the backup server by navigating to Settings>Advanced Options>Client Management Configuration. This is a feature that was added in Service Provider Version 3.5 and upwards. The changes made to the settings can be saved in the backup server. Clients connecting to the server will then check for changes in the backup settings initiated in the server and apply those changes automatically to client schedules. Reports on changes made to backup schedules at the server level are made available to the client machine and can be viewed under Reports>Client Management Report page on the web console. Clients can fetch client setting changes from the backup server by clicking on the link “Fetch Client Settings Changes from Backup Server Now”.

This feature is extremely useful for centrally managing clients connecting to a specific backup server. Administrators can add new backups, define backup window settings, configure automatic software updates for the client, set client side bandwidth throttling, edit backups, run backups, suspend backups, resume backups or delete a backup or its schedule.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Configure-Server-for-Client-Management
Fig. 4 – Configure Server for Client-Management

Remote management of the client can be disabled from the server side using this screen.

Client Authentication

This is an optional security feature that can be used to configure the backup server from the client end of the client-server relationship. This option can be exercised if auto authorization is enabled. If auto authorization is disabled, the server administrator may have set the password for your client machine and you will need to obtain the user id and password set by the administrator to backup to the server.

The client authentication screen can be accessed by navigating to Settings> Authenticate Client on the web console.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Authenticate-Client
Fig. 5 – Authenticate Client

Using this screen, the user can pick the backup server from the drop down combo box and then set a user defined password for authenticating the client with the server if auto authorization is enabled. If auto authorization is enabled and the pre-configured server configuration demands client authentication, the client authentication becomes mandatory; and you will have to input a user id and password of your choice for authentication. A change in the password at the server end or client end will require the client to be re-authenticated with the server.

The screen also provides the user with a bird’s eye view of the space allotted on the server for the client for backup, the amount of space used up and the amount of free space. The password can also be reset using the link available on the screen.

Bandwidth Throttling

This feature enables server administrators limit the amount of bandwidth that is used up by clients on the network. Clients can also configure the amount of bandwidth that will be used by the client backing up to the server. The bandwidth throttling feature can be applied to each backup schedule configured on the client machine. However, the server bandwidth settings will override the client machine bandwidth settings.

To access the bandwidth throttling settings, users will have to navigate to Settings>Bandwidth Throttling Settings on the client web console. The first step is to enable bandwidth throttling. Thereafter, bandwidth throttling can be set to always, throttled for a limited time frame or disabled over the weekend. The rate at which the bandwidth has to be throttled can also be specified.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Client-Side-Bandwidth-Throttling
Fig. 6 – Client Side Bandwidth Throttling

Testing the Connectivity between Client and Server

The client server connectivity can be tested by navigating to Settings>Test Connectivity to Backup Server. The connectivity can also be tested from the Backup Schedule Screen or Plugin Backups screens.

The test checks the health of the connection and also the parameters of the settings — such as DNS lookup, Telnet & Ping, Server type, StoreGrid Edition and Version, Client registration, client authentication, MCAL (Client Access License) and activation status of the account — that enable the client to backup to the server. Of course, the server and client need to be up and running during the test. If any of the tests parameters fail, a message will be displayed stating the inability to connect to the server.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Test-Connectivity-to-Backup-Server
Fig. 7 – Test Connectivity to Backup Server

User Management

This is perhaps the weakest feature of the software as users can be assigned only two kinds of permissions. Administrators can access user management by navigating to Settings>User Management. Users can be created and assigned two kinds of rights and permissions—read only access or full access. However, the explanation offered is that by default only Admin users need to be created for Reseller/Customer/Client. The screen takes inputs for user name, Access Privilege, Password, and a confirmation of the password. The list displays the users by name and all usage parameters associated with them. Individual users can be deleted using the delete option available against each user.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-User-Creation-and-List-of-Users
Fig. 8 – User Creation and List of Users

Client Email Settings

StoreGrid SP clients have the facility to email all client side and server side reports to other clients or servers on the network. This setting can be tweaked by navigating to Settings>Email Settings. The email feature must first be enabled before providing inputs for the other fields on the screen. The user must specify the outgoing (SMTP) Server, the outgoing SMTP Server Port number, authentication particulars such as user name, password, authentication type and SSL requirement, sender email id and so on. The mail server can then be tested or reports can be generated for various jobs such as backup, restore, deletion of a backup or replication job. Separate recipient email ids can be entered based on job status. The application can be configured to send different emails to different sets of clients/servers for different job descriptions. The subject line or email header and footer can be customized for each job or email. File lists can be sent with backup reports to list out protected files, skipped files or deleted files. Email filters can be set up by accessing Settings> Email Filters.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Enable-Email-Settings
Fig. 9 – Enable Email Settings

Default /Custom Encryption Password

StoreGrid uses Blow Fish 64 bit to 448 bit or DES 192 bit encryption algorithm to encrypt data in transit and at rest in storage. The password can be system generated, custom or default encryption. Users have the option to create a default encryption password that is applicable to all backup schedules created on a client machine or to set custom encryption passwords for each backup schedule. The default encryption password can be controlled from the server side using the centralized client management feature provided the client has enabled the default encryption mode on the client machine. However, if the client chooses to disable default encryption and use a client configured backup password, the backed up data cannot be restored at the backup server side without the password. Default encryption passwords can be created per client machine from the Settings>Default Encryption Password Screen or while creating a new Backup Schedule. The default password setting does not work on data that has already been saved. The encryption will be applicable only to data that is saved post the setting.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Default-Encryption-Password
Fig. 10 – Default Encryption Password

Default encryption passwords input from the server side will have to be maintained by the server administrator. Client side default passwords must be maintained by the client administrator. Loss of the password can result in non recovery of the data backed up to the server.

Configure Automatic Software Updates

StoreGrid SP has made software updates automatic starting from its version 2.5. The software update files are automatically downloaded from the backup server/replication server and installed if automatic update is set up. Automatic updates can be enabled by navigating to Settings>Software Update Configuration screen.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Configure-Automatic-Software-Updates
Fig. 11 – Configure Automatic Software Updates

Plugins

The long list of plugins that are supported by StoreGrid is an affirmation of the Company’s commitment to provide a range of solutions for on premise backup constructs. The software can backup databases from different kinds of servers using plugins that come packaged with the software. For instance, StoreGrid SP Edition can be configured to backup MySQL databases if they are available on the client machine. An internal dump utility is used to backup the MySQL database and list the databases in the “Backup>Plugin>MySQL page, provided the MySQL settings have been suitably configured with correct values such as the MySQL Server name, Instance Port, EXE Path, dump exe path, user name, password, and temporary location in which to backup the dumps.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-MySQL-Settings-for-Windows
Fig. 12 – MySQL Settings for Windows

Similarly, SharePoint site collections can be backed up to the backup server on the network using StoreGrid’s SharePoint Plugin. The internal STSADM.Exe utility lists the site collections available and takes inputs on required parameters from the user.

Mapped Drive Settings

Mapped drives are automatically recognized and listed by StoreGrid SP 4.2.0 unless the operating system happens to be Windows XP/2003/ Vista or the software has been installed on a machine on which the user has no administrative privileges. If the mapped drive does not appear on the list, users can manually map a drive using the mapped drive settings option available under the Settings drop down menu. Once listed, the mapped drive will appear in the Add Backup Schedule page for configuring backup schedules for the mapped drive.

Backup Window Settings & Time Zone Settings

Two additional features that will have significance to the client or server user are the Backup Window settings and Time Zone settings. As the names indicate, the former sets a time frame in which the backup process can happen or cannot happen. The time zone settings specify the time zone in which the client is operative. Both these settings will have an impact on the backup schedules that are set for different types of backups.

Backup

StoreGrid 4.2 has an amazing range of backup options. Apart from MySQL, SharePoint and PostgreSQL backup, StoreGrid facilitates Exchange Server backup, Exchange MailBox backup, SQL Server backup, Hyper V backup, VMWare backup, Oracle Server Backup, cPanel Backup and Disk image backup. Active Directory, System State, Outlook, Windows Mail, NTFS Permissions or the Windows registry can be backed up with a single click. Separate backup schedules can be orchestrated to follow one after another or kick start simultaneously. The backups can be full backups, customized backups or full synthetic backups. Open files can be backed up and backup filters can be defined for a backup schedule. Backup schedules can be created, edited, marked for deletion, deleted, exported, imported or suspended. The status of backup schedules, suspended schedules or deleted schedules can be viewed at any time by clicking the appropriate links on the dashboard.

Creating a Backup Schedule

Backup schedules can be created by selecting “Add Backup” from the Backup dropdown menu. The first step is to define a unique name for the backup schedule to facilitate identification of the backup and its schedule during restore operations. Then, you need to select the files and folders from the tree view that will form a part of the backup schedule. Even hidden files are displayed and can be selected for backup. The tree view also provides a list of drives that are available and visible from the client machine. These could be mapped drives or HyperV Servers or VMWare Servers or disk images, Exchange Mailbox or local machine drives.

The Add Backup schedule Screen is illustrated below:

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Add-Backup-Schedule-Screen
Fig. 13 – Add Backup Schedule Screen

Similar Add Backup Schedule screens are available with appropriate configuration requirements for HyperV backup, VMWare Backup, Disk Image Backup, cPanel Backup, Exchange Backup etc. A few screens are shown below by way of illustration:

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Hyper-V-Backup-Scheduling-Screen
Fig. 14 – Hyper-V Backup Scheduling Screen

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-VMWare-Backup-Scheduling-Screen
Fig. 15 – VMWare Backup Scheduling Screen

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Exchange-Mail-Box-Scheduling-Screen
Fig. 16 – Exchange Mail Box Scheduling Screen

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Disk-Image-Scheduling-Screen
Fig. 17 – Disk Image Scheduling Screen

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Add-cPanel-Server-Backup-Scheduling-Screen
Fig. 18 – cPanel Server Backup Scheduling Screen

Configuring the Backup Schedule

The files and folders that need to be backed up from a drive will have to be specifically selected for backup. Any file or folder that remains unselected will be omitted from the backup. If you have configured filters for excluding specific file types from the backup, the files will be excluded from the backup unless, it has been specifically selected by clicking on the check box in the tree view. Sub folders under a folder can also be omitted if “Exclude Sub Folders” option is selected.

For those who would really like to fine tune the backup schedule, advance filter options have a lot to offer. Users can specify text patterns or enter names of files and folders that need to be excluded. For instance, you may like to specify that all folders starting with “A” may be excluded. File names can also be entered with or without specifying an absolute path so that all files conforming to the pattern may be excluded from the backup. Users can specify up to a maximum of 20 different filters.

Specifying Backup Destination—Local or Remote Backup?

Data can be backed up to another drive on the local machine (internal or external) or to a remote server.

The first option is useful if there is a large amount of data to be transferred and it is going to keep the machine resources engaged for a length of time. The data can be backed up to an external removable drive connected to the client machine and then sent to the data center hosting the remote server for “seeding” the backup on a remote server. A copy of the data can also be retained on an internal drive in the local machine for instant restore.

When backing up to a local drive, the user must ensure that StoreGrid has access to this drive and there is sufficient disk space for the backup. Users can backup up to 99 versions of a file or folder in the backup. Version based retention policies can be defined for local backups, but Deleted File retention policy and Time based Version file retention policy are not available. However, when seeding is complete, all types of retention policies can be configured for the seeded backup.

Identifying the Remote Backup Server

The remote server configuration must be selected only if the data needs to be directly transferred to the remote backup server. An additional local copy of the data can be created simultaneously if the “Also Keep a Copy Locally” option is enabled on the configuration screen.

The remote destination server can be selected from the combo box that lists the available backup servers. If the backup server is not visible in the combo box, the server must be added to the list by clicking Add Backup Server and naming the server in the Window that appears.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Add-Backup-Server
Fig. 19 – Add Backup Server

Users can choose to dump their System State backups to temporary locations before they are uploaded to the backup server. These dumps will be automatically deleted once the upload to the server is completed. The temporary location can even be a mapped drive.

Specifying the Encryption to be Adopted for a Backup Schedule

As stated earlier StoreGrid 4.2.0 uses Blowfish encryption or DES encryption. Users can choose to select the encryption algorithm that is to be used and the number of bits to be used for the algorithm construction if Blowfish is selected. DES uses only 192 bits. Users can also select the option for a system to generate the Encryption key, which is generally a 448 bit Blowfish encryption.

For custom encryption keys, users must input a password and confirm the same. This password will have to be secured by the user for future use. Loss of this password will result in loss of the data that is backed up under the backup schedule. The data cannot be restored without this encryption password.

Users also have the option of selecting a default encryption for all backup schedules that may be built. This default password can be specified in the settings or invoked from the backup schedule screen.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Encryption
Fig. 20 – Encryption

This encryption key will apply prospectively to all backup schedules created after the specification.

Scheduling “Time Frames for Backup”

StoreGrid users will find that they can schedule backups every conceivable way! The backup can be scheduled to run continuously, every few hours, daily, weekly, monthly or only once. The backups can be scheduled to run one after another or simultaneously. Additional full backups can be configured to run hourly, daily, weekly or monthly. The user can also specify the maximum number of full backups that must be retained in the storage at any given point in time.

A unique feature of StoreGrid Backup application is the concept of “Synthetic Full Backup”. In the normal course, StoreGrid backs up the files specified in the backup schedule for the first time. Thereafter, incremental backups are made with reference to the file in the backup. As changes are made to the file, and incremental backups are completed the file version in storage grows in size. An urgent need to reduce the size of the file version may manifest and a full backup may become a necessity. But, this may not be a viable option and seeding of backups manually may be cumbersome. Synthetic Full Backups are designed to address this problem by checking the size of the incremental backup vis-à-vis the compressed size of the original file uploaded. If the size of the incremental backup exceeds the size of the original file by a predefined percentage, a full backup of the file is completed and the Meta data is updated with the new information on the file so that subsequent incremental backups reference the synthetically backed up file and not the original file.

By default, Synthetic Full Backup is disabled. To enable Full Synthetic Backup, you must navigate to Advanced Options and click on Add (Edit) Backup Schedule and check the appropriate legend as highlighted on the screen illustrated below.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Enable-Synthetic-Full-Backup
Fig. 21 – Enable Synthetic Full Backup

Other Advanced Options

Users can tweak and fine tune backup settings. They can set CPU utilization levels, define compression settings, initiate a data integrity check, perform a backup every time StoreGrid is started after saving the configuration or attempt to run the backup every five minutes in case of non completion of backup as per schedule, enable automatic directory monitoring, use the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to backup open files, backup NTFS permissions, or set the compression parameters.

Additionally, users can configure the application to run custom five pre and five post backup schedule actions. Each command can be uniquely identified with a user defined name and arguments.

Restore

The ultimate purpose of backup is to facilitate restore and disaster recovery. StoreGrid’s backup systems are robust. The restore systems are not wanting. The application developers have taken into consideration all kinds of user needs while designing the restore options.

A unique feature of StoreGrid’s restore is that more than one backup schedule can be restored at the same time. Users can select the backups to be restored from a list of available backups and provide the restore inputs needed and sit back while the restoration happens automatically and smoothly.

Users attempting to restore a backup must check the backup name and identify the backup server or servers from which the restoration operation must happen. They must also specify the version to be restored by checking the relevant version in the tree view. If specific files and folders along have to be restored, then the nodes will have to be checked. Users can use filters — with wild cards or enter the names of the files by clicking on the link “Let me directly enter the file/folder names instead of selecting them from the tree”– to include or exclude specific files and folders for restore.

If the files and folders have been password protected, the correct passwords will have to be entered. Finally, the machine to which the information has to be restored will have to be input into the screen. A backup can be restored to the same location or to an entirely different location or an entirely new set of hardware.

Restoration operations can be initiated for HyperV servers, VMWare Servers, Exchange Servers or even DiskImages as illustrated by the sample HyperV restore screen below:

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-HyperV-Restore-Screen
Fig. 22 – HyperV Restore Screen

Restoring Deleted File

Deleted files and folders can also be restored. If files deleted from a backup are not to be restored, the “Skip Deleted Files” option will have to be selected. If Deleted Files are to be included, the “Include Deleted Files” option can be selected. If only deleted files are to be restored, the “Deleted Files Only” option may be selected for the backup.

Advanced Restore Options

A number of advanced options are available for fine tuning the restore operations on backups as illustrated in the screenshot below:

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Fine-Tune-Restore-Operations
Fig. 23 – Fine Tune Restore Operations

The names of original files are normally retained in the backup with a .SG extension. During restoration, the files are restored with the original name. But, the file with the .SG extension can be renamed in the store before restoration and the restored file at destination can be made to carry the original name. If the file exists in the original location, the restoration operation can overwrite the existing file.

Once all the options have been set, the restore button has to be clicked to complete the operation and restore the files to the specified location.

StoreGrid acknowledges some limitations to its software. File names are case sensitive and any manually entered names of files and folders in a restore operation must be checked for accuracy and error messages will not be displayed if the file is not found. Single files and folders cannot be restored by entering the complete path to the deleted file. The path to the parent folder in the backup will have to be entered. By default, only the latest version of the file will be restored.

Disaster Recovery

StoreGrid’s exclusive offering is the Disaster Recovery feature of the software. This feature can be used to retrieve the client backup configuration and the data from the backup server using the same StoreGrid ID originally used. Access to this feature is available under the Restore drop down menu.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Restore-Client-Configuration-Disaster-Recovery
Fig. 24 – Restore Client Configuration Disaster Recovery

This feature is built into the software to ensure that data can be recovered even if the backup name does not figure in the StoreGrid List of backups for Restore. This feature assumes more importance when StoreGrid has to be installed to a new set of hardware, and the backup schedules to be restored are visible in the suspended mode.

User inputs into this page include details, such as: Client Name, Backup Type, Backup Location, Server for Restoration, User ID, and Password.

A disaster recovery report is automatically generated and is available at the bottom of the screen. The report displays the server name, the total number of backups available on the server, the number of backups retrieved, and the status of the backup.

On the flip side is the fact that users must know the client configurations and the names of the servers that need to be restored. The information is not discovered automatically. If any backup schedules have been exported with an alias, the schedule cannot be edited or modified in any manner. The schedule will have to be deleted and freshly defined after data has been restored.

Reports

The report dropdown menu provides a set of standard reports for administrative use. The dashboard displays a snapshot of the last ten backups and the current client activity.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Reports-from-a-Drop-Down-Menu-Last-Ten-Backups-and-Current-Client-Activity
Fig. 25 – Reports from a Drop Down Menu: Last Ten Backups and Current Client Activity

The snapshots give particulars such as the backup name, backup server, date/time of last backup, total files listed, number of unprocessed files, number of protected files, number of skipped files/folders, the percentage of files successfully backed up and status comments.

The current activity section provides a summary of the last ten activities, which include the name of the backup schedules, the name of the backup server, and the status of the backup.

Other reports under the report menu are Backup Reports, Restore Reports, Client Management Report, Deleted Backup Report and Updates Downloaded Reports.

Alarms and Events

This is a bonus to backup users. Alarms are defined as alerts that are raised by events, which are triggered off by errors that occur during backup or restore processes. Alarms and events can be accessed from the drop down menu available on the toolbar of the StoreGrid application.

Alarms are categorized on the basis of the severity of the alarm, the name of the client/server or reseller for whom the alarm has been raised, the customer name for whom the alarm is raised, raised by and raised for details, and the event for which the alarm is raised. The report also provides details of the module for which the alarm was triggered, the last updated time, and last updated message. Users can acknowledge the alarm, add a comment, view comments posted by others or clear the alarm.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Details-of-Raised-Alarms
Fig. 26 – Details of Raised Alarms

Events are the root cause for alarms and must be addressed by the administrator. Events can be registered when a backup has not taken off because of a connection problem or when a file is skipped because permissions are not adequate or a backup server is refusing a backup request from the client. Events are categorized in to critical events, major events or information. The severity of the event, the reseller name, customer name, cause of event, the source module for the event, number of occurrences, last updated time and message are tabulated for quick review and action.

Vembu-StoreGrid-Service-Provider-Edition-Events
Fig. 27 – Events

Support

Vembu Technologies is firm in its belief that customer relationships matter in business. They are obsessive about the extent and quality of support they extend to their customers. Customers are provided with elaborate user guides, FAQs, white papers and demos for 24 x 7 x 365 days access anytime, anywhere. For those who like to interact with support personnel online, email contact webinars and discussion forums are available. Telephonic contact and live chats are available for those who want to speak to a live person. While the free support plans are extensive, Vembu Technologies is willing to extend specialized support services to those who are willing to pay for extra support.

The premium support plans are nominally priced as shown in the screen below:


Fig. 28 – Premium Support Plans

Future Roadmap

StoreGrid has many interesting features lined up in its future roadmap. Here are some of them:
1. Backup performance improvement(3X times faster backups)
2. Support for Hyper-V cluster backup
3. Support for Virtuzzo backup
4. Support for Xen Server Backup (BETA available)
5. Support for mailbox restore from an Exchange Server Backup
6. Disk Image Streaming (BETA available)
7. Auto Merge for disk image backup(BETA available)
8. Support for BMR in Linux OS
9. LVM Snapshot based backup for Linux
10. Support for Exchange 2010 DAG Backup

Conclusion

StoreGrid 4.2.0 is software that has been crafted with the customer in mind. There is always a visible effort on the part of the developers to anticipate the needs of their customers and provide for it. However, they are conscious that the software is still “work in progress”. They are conscious of and willing to acknowledge that there are a number of limitations to the software that needs to be addressed and overcome. In fact, they list 47 limitations to the client component of the SP Edition and a similar number for the Server component of the edition. Most companies do not publicly acknowledge limitations; as such we found Vembu to be very open, transparent, and truly admirable company. The “Known issues” section of the user guide gives detailed solutions for problems that have been encountered by their customers. They say loud and clear “there is no shame in having shortcomings. We are willing to acknowledge our shortcomings and work towards rectifying them”.

It is very important to stress that point if you utilize an encryption key and if it is lost or the password is forgotten, the data in the backup set cannot be recovered.

Vembu posts interesting blog articles and their support is excellent.

It must be acknowledged that Vembu (and its flagship product StoreGrid) has carved a niche in the backup market for itself. It is one of the strongest contenders in the backup space and has much to offer its MSPs, resellers, Hosted service providers and the end customers. It deserves a four out of possible five stars and is certainly recommended.

© October 2012 BackupReview.info

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