Backup Software or Backup Appliance: What's the Best Way to Backup Your Data?

MAY 23RD, 2018

The growing importance of data protection has made backup and recovery a fiercely competitive market. According to Markets and Markets, the industry is projected to reach $11.59 billion by 2022, nearly doubling the $6.58 billion value estimated in 2016. In recent years, this fast-growing industry has undergone a dramatic transformation and changed the way we backup our data.

Backup Traditions

Once upon a time, software was the de facto standard for backing up data in enterprise environments. However, times have changed. Hardware is more intelligent than ever, equipped with snapshot and replication capabilities that essentially allow devices to backup themselves. Even mobile operating systems come bundled with built-in tools that make data protection painless from the palm of our hand. This activity has some wondering if one of IT's oldest guards has worn out its usefulness. Proponents of the cloud often list slow recovery times and tape's high failure potential among the most significant problems of the traditional backup process. Although it can be on the quiet side, there is still a lot to like about backup software. Whereas dedicated backup servers are limited to a specific manufacturer, software is designed to work effectively across different operating systems, hardware, and platforms. That means you can move data between the cloud, disk, and tape alike. In addition to flexibility, backup software provides access to a host of features not commonly found in hardware-based alternatives. These features make life easier for IT admins, from scheduled backups that run without hindering production to automated testing that ensures data can be recovered when disaster strikes. Look beyond the bells and whistles, and you'll see that backup software is not short on useful features.

The Next Generation of Backup and Recovery

Backup appliances are one of the latest trends in disaster recovery technology. By combining hardware and software in a single box, these fully integrated hybrid backup solutions are designed to simplify the often hectic backup process. The backup appliance keeps a local copy of your backups and also can transfer that data to remote locations offsite. When deployed in a cloud environment, this type of system can speed up the backup and recovery process by offloading compute that typically runs on a local server. The most significant selling point to backup appliances is simplicity. In many cases, setup is as simple as plugging up the hardware and connecting it to a network. Devices can also be customized to favor a specific backup purpose—hence coining the market segment as “Purpose-Built Backup Appliance” (PBBA). So for instance, if you're exclusively backing up to the cloud, the system may exclude tape and cloud-based function from your menu of backup destinations. This singular focus illustrates how appliances can be configured and optimized to meet your backup requirements in out-the-box fashion. What you rarely hear about hybrid technology is its tendency to open the best and worst of both worlds. Backup appliances are no exception. In many cases, these solutions are configured to support a specific set of hardware and software. This factor alone could stifle your flexibility when upgrades or changes are required. Limited flexibility also extends to security as end users have little control over how their data is protected. Simply put, backup appliances can increase your exposure to security threats, especially in inherently weak public cloud environments.

The Future of Backup Tech

A recent IDC study showed that revenue for the PBBA market declined 9.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017. The reported $258 million in total revenue suggests that the industry is still in good shape, but the noticeable dip is evidence that businesses are investing heavily in more than one backup technology. As long as their respective markets continue to evolve in a way that maximizes security, reliability, and cost-effectiveness, software, appliances, and even the cloud can comfortably co-exist in today's backup world.

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