For end to end comprehensive Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery solutions on the mind for so many companies ravaged by outages and weather, we compare the two most popular solutions for small and mid-sized companies
by Mark Chinsky
Note: Updated 11/11/13
Ever since the back to back hits of Hurricane Irene & Sandy in the Northeast, many companies have realized that traditional backup isn’t enough. The two leaders in the “Hybrid Cloud” based backup solutions are Datto and Axcient. Hybrid cloud means you have hardware on your premises keeping your data and ability to failover during the most common types of failures very fast and painless, yet if you suffer a true disaster on premise, you can fail over to servers hosted in the Cloud which involve a bit more when you need to fail back.
There are many Disaster Recovery solutions consisting of just Cloud services, just local hardware, or just local software, but very few that cover the entire spectrum of coverage in one cohesive easy to use solution designed for non technical folks to utilize. During a disaster you don’t want to have to be dependent on your one 20 year IT veteran as that person could be unavailable, on vacation with no internet access, or simply can’t find gas to fuel his car and get to your office as was the case during Sandy.
Datto and Axcient cover everything with very integrated and simplified solutions where you just have one point of contact and one solution to ensure everything is covered and typically at a lower cost than the multiple pieces of the puzzle of using other options together.
To be clear, Clients First Technology Solutions is a Datto Partner and markets our own customized line of their solutions at http://www.disaster-recovery-solution.com/. However, we spent months researching the various options on the market before we made our decision to build our business around Datto. We looked at technology, company track record, likelyhood of long term survivability as an entity, track record of any OEM components used, technical support structure and responsiveness, reliability of the solution and overall fit to our needs and those of our customers.
Datto vs Axcient:
- Datto is a firm founded by an operating systems & development ‘genius’, Austin McChord. He heads up the company he founded and at age 28 is one of the fastest rising tech industry CEO’s. I like to think of him as the Steve Jobs of Disaster Recovery. Austin is still involved in designing and testing new development of the solutions. When he’s talking about Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery to the many industry groups he speaks with, you know he actually knows what he’s talking about and not just reading from talking points. He wants to build great solutions and knows that when you build something great, they tend to sell themselves, just like Apple. Datto has NO Debt and has a 5300% CAGR growth rate since its founding.
- In September of 2013, Datto took on an investment partner and 2 board members, including the former co-founder and CTO of VMWare. This funding was not in anyway for day to day operations, but to allow for rapid expansion overseas to take advantage of the growing market and to get the great technical insite of these new board members.
- Axcient is a creation of Venture Capital and is constantly being propped up annually by more outside funding. When you look at companies who were built organically (Apple, Google etc), versus ‘.com’ type companies that were created to eventually be sold for a big profit, the organic companies have a much stronger and longer track record. If you pay for a 3 year upfront subscription you want to know your vendor is going to be around for the long run to be in this industry and not a just an investment vehicle for bankers
- Axcient can failover for both Windows and Linxus
- Datto can Failover Windows and can backup Linux and Mac and is Time Machine compliant as a Time Capsule. If you need near real-time failover for Linux, than Axcient is probably your better choice
- Agent vs. Agentless
- Axcient is an Agentless solution. Datto’s CEO does a nice job explaining the difference here. In summary, the advantage of an Agentless solution is there is nothing to install on the destination server and it does not require a reboot after installation. Axcient uses VSS to backup in use files like Exchange or SQL
- Datto uses an Agent which is part of their ShadowSnap engine. The advantage of an agent is it can monitor block level changes as they occur on your hard disks. This means when its time to backup, it can instantly just jump to the sectors changed and back them up. Agentless solutions need to traverse the whole file system looking for changed data making backups take longer and putting a much greater load on the source server during backup. Because of this Datto can backup your servers as often as 12x/hour vs. Axcient at 4x/hour. Datto also uses both VSS & STC to backup ‘in use’ files like Exchange or SQL. If VSS fails Datto automatically fails over to STC providing a higher percentage of good backups .
- Storage Method
- Axcient stores its backup data in a proprietary format. It needs to go through a lengthy conversion process if you need to pull out a VMDK (VMware) or VHD (Hyper-V).
- Datto backups are already stored in industry standard VMware VMDK format and are ready to be spun up instantly or mounted/exported to another Virtual Host without a lengthy conversion.
- Incremental Method
- Axcient uses “Reverse Incremental” technology. This means your last backup always is an accumulation of those before is so if you deleted a prior incremental or if a prior one was damaged, it has no effect on the ability to use the latest backup. This is a BIG benefit over traditional incremental designs. Plus it means you don’t have to await for it to re-assemble your latest image from all of the past incrementals before you start using your data.
- Datto uses “Inverse Chain” technology which is combined with Sun’s unique ZFS File system. Apple’s Time Machine is based on this same concept. This means like Axcient, your latest restore point is always ready to run and be used. However, unlike Axcient, ANY past restore point is also in a state where its ready to run and requires no lengthy rebuild process like Axcient. If you are making say two backups per hour but discovered a virus hit you 2 hours ago, with Axcient you’ll need to wait for it to re-assemble the 3 hour ago backup image before you can fail over. Datto is ready to fail over in under 30 seconds in most cases.
- Local Virtualization
- Axcient requires a conversion from its proprietary storage file to VMDK before it can spin up your server in the appliance. For a small 500GB server, this can take 5 minutes or longer. If you need to go back through multiple images looking for the point in time before your virus hit your system, this 5 minute lag can become very substantial. For larger servers, this conversion process will take longer .
- Datto has already stored every restore point in a VMDK. Thanks to the miracle of ZFS, each one is tiny (usually megabytes) but represents a full size image of your server whether its 500GB or 5TB
- Backup while Virtualized
- If you are failed over to the Axcient Device it is no longer taking backups of itself. Perhaps you are awaiting 2 weeks for new hardware to arrive. As unlikely as it might sound, what if you suffered a disaster during that time, or even a serious virus? Your latest backup could be two weeks old.
- Datto continues to backup your virtualized machine even while you are running on the appliance. That backup is still being sent to two cloud datacenters all the while you are failed over to the appliance. If you got hit with a ‘double whammy’ you would still lose little to no data
- Bare Metal Restore
- Axcient can inject drivers as you restore to new hardware to hopefully alleviate driver incompatibilities
- Datto can also inject drivers, but also looks for additional or newer drivers from both their and StorageCraft’s web database which is more comprehensive than what fits inside the local device
- Datto can also restore to replacement servers who’s volumes are smaller than your original server. Axcient cannot
- Off-Site Storage
- Axcient and Datto use similar extremely secure technologies and procedures for off site backup and both are SSAE 16 certified data centers. However, Axcient has only one data center in the US. Axcient is based in California and we’ve been unable to locate where its data center is. If it’s in California, that tends to be a region prone to many types of natural disasters
- Datto has two bi-coastal data centers in Pennsylvania and Utah. Both are in historically very low natural disaster impact zones. Essentially Datto pays for twice as much storage as Axcient as your data is duplicated in two centers but they feel a customer who’s life depends on the ability to know their data is secure and ready to run, needs to know there is redundancy in every part of the solution.
- Off-Site Seeding
- Axcient requires customers to send their initial backups by shipping hard drives at their own expense. These drives aren’t encrypted and the time to complete varies
- Datto allows customers to do initial backups via the cloud with accurate ETA readouts, or the client can choose to do a round trip drive, at no expense, including Datto paid for shipping. The drive has the option to be encrypted during transit and turnaround time is guaranteed to be < 1 week.
- Off-Site Virtualization
- Axcient takes hours to mount and bring your servers on-line in the cloud. There is an additional fee being charged from the moment you virtualize in the cloud
- With Datto you can spin up your servers in the cloud in the same <30 second time you can on-site. They allow you 30 days per server of virtualization time in the cloud per year. Typically you will get a free seeded replacement appliance sent to you in a disaster situation long before your 30 days would be used up. This also makes it easy to do your own off-site testing.
- Customer Support
- Axcient provides support 9am to 8pm EST M-F. Response time varies with severity, with the highest severity being 4 hour response
- Datto provides full time US Based telephone support 24x7x365. Response times vary by priority with Urgent & Emergency being <1 hour. Sometimes a disaster doesn’t wait for a convenient time to happen
Find out more about EverSafe!, powered by Datto
Why choose Clients First Technology Solutions for your Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity needs? It’s all about Focus. Our entire division is focused on Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery through our tight partnership with Datto. Look around on the web, you won’t find a single other BDR partner with the focus, knowledge and on-line resources as Clients First and our EverSafe!, Powered by Datto solution. For most others, Business Continuity solutions are just an after thought to their main lines of business doing IT support. It’s like going to general practitioner for heart surgery. Our solutions require specific experience and expertise as well as the ability to help customers evaluate the entire Disaster Recovery Plans, beyond just IT solutions. As a matter of fact, if you have an existing IT services company, we aren’t here to replace them, we want to work cooperatively with them as specialists in this arena.
Check out www.disaster-recovery-services.net and see what a dedicated Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity specialty firm really looks like.