Commvault Review

Very good deduplication saves on storage space for us, making money available for infrastructure


What is our primary use case?

We have full functionality as a complete data warehouse, and I've been tasked to leverage the multiple features and licenses that Commvault has, as they apply to our business. We're using every feature and what we are not using, we plan to be using.

We back up multiple platforms in our environment: Windows, Red Hat, Linux, Oracle. We have hypervisors, a large VMware environment. So it's a pretty enterprise-class environment. 

We use it for custom reporting to better manage our backup environment and there is a lot of discovery in that area too. The better question might be how we're not using it right now. We try to leverage every feature that's out there, as a complete data warehouse.

It's a hybrid. It's an on-prem, but we're in Azure now, too.

How has it helped my organization?

We're saving storage space. The built-in deduplication features are really good. It's second to none in my experience with it. You really have a better handle on your deduplication database and block changes. Saving storage space is the biggest thing. We see up to 75 percent compression rates, and even higher, so we're saving on data.

Also, with archiving, we've been able to identify data that we were backing up multiple times and archive it instead and save money there. So overall, we've had a lot of space savings with data that's being compressed through the deduplication features of Commvault.

It has also helped us save on costs. There is money available to further use for fees in Commvault, which means the business is happy with what's going on. Those cost savings are from the fact that we don't have to keep increasing our storage the way we were before we were using Commvault. For me, as an engineer, that means I have training opportunities and I can also identify a service for server refresh because there's money available for infrastructure.

We expect that Commvault will also help our admins to minimize the time they spend on backup tasks so they can spend time on other projects. We have identified how it can. Now we're trying to figure out how to implement that. It will involve using workflows and automated processes for scheduling, alerting, and reporting, and even using support resolution through automatic tickets that can be generated.

We haven't yet used Commvault to recover from a disaster, attack, or to recover data for another reason. We just had a report that said we haven't had disaster recovery backup in the past year. Commvault sent us an alert and, within one day, they assembled a team to discuss what we could do to mitigate that risk. Once the team was assembled and we all got together on the phone, I noticed that the report had been inaccurate for a year. It was great that we didn't have a disaster, but I like the fact that Commvault was willing to address that need, at my immediate request, based on their alerting system. They were ready to assist me in a disaster at a moment's notice.

What is most valuable?

You have total control of your data. It's scary, but it's good once you understand it. There are a lot of unknowns that happen with your data, things that Commvault is doing, and you really need to be aware of them to maximize its overall performance. I like that you have complete hooks into and total control of your data.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that it doesn't break easily. You can get by with some mistakes. It's pretty intuitive. You're not intimidated that you may do something incorrectly and cause some damage. 

The data is well-protected. It doesn't age off until it's copied. That's a big feature right there. When you reach the end of your retention, it does not expire until the secondary copy is completed. That allows you to hold onto data that otherwise would have aged off by retention. I like that feature. It's hard to just delete or lose data using the Commvault platform.

What needs improvement?

It's tough to understand if you're really maximizing the features of such a large platform without engaging other services that Commvault offers to help you understand and leverage the data warehouse.

It's a little challenging because of the way Commvault communicates and works with third-party solutions. Right now, we're using Commvault to back up Office 365 mailboxes, so we have to work with Microsoft and Azure. There's a lot of handshaking in the background that the customer can be impacted by. For instance, Commvault can say, "Hey, we can back up a thousand mailboxes in two days, providing Microsoft lets us." "Microsoft letting you" means that Microsoft will throttle you at certain times, and there are also certain restrictions Microsoft has with how fast you're doing something, or how many you're doing. We, as a customer, are impacted from that perspective. Although Microsoft welcomes Commvault, there's always the strain of how these two platforms work together. So it's a little challenging when it crosses different platforms into other environments that Commvault doesn't have total control of.

Also, Commvault likes to be ahead of the game when it comes to merging with other platforms, but sometimes it's before they have the solution truly baked in. Office 365 is an example. I feel that my company might be a litmus test for their solution, because we have such a large environment. Some of the promised solutions that we received from Commvault were more like testing solutions. They weren't really validated, meaning they were possibilities. There have been a lot of hot fixes for the solution that we're using right now, more than we expected. It wasn't a simple, turnkey solution when we decided to use them. They could do a little bit more due diligence before they jump into a space to get some of that market share.

One particular issue we found was when we were trying to open up ports for communication. They had listed a couple of ports that we needed and we found out there were a lot more communication ports that they had already assumed we were aware of or already had in place. As we were doing our deployment, we had a lot of network communication issues when we were trying to communicate between resources on-prem and off-prem, due to different ports that were identified as being blocked.

They have to be willing to admit that, "Hey, we don't have this quite worked out yet, but we're working on it." I got to learn Commvault by implementing this Office 365 solution. That's my go-to for examples. There have been a lot of "gotchas" in performance. Commvault says, "Go to this SP, go to that SP," but you're talking about changing your whole service pack level in your environment, and you just can't do that overnight. You can't move as fast as they want you to move, business-wise, to take advantage of new releases and new features. They have to be more realistic that the customer can't keep up with their pace.

In addition, there are two of us who do all the maintenance, but we definitely make use of Commvault resources. They kind of make you dependent on utilizing their resources, which is not such a bad thing. But sometimes you may want to learn to manage your own environment completely, without engaging the vendor as much. Commvault finds a way to keep themselves engaged with what you're doing. You almost have to reach out to them to say, "How does this work? What's the best way to use this? I don't see any information on how to leverage this feature."

The documentation is lacking. You'll find some general stuff, but it's hard to find actual use cases. You also want to know who has tried a solution out, who is it working for, who can you talk to to get some pros and cons? They could do a little bit better with their documentation and not just have basic guidelines that you have to customize to follow.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using Commvault for a year and a half.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't seen any issues with scalability at all. They tend to have a suggestion for us when we come to them with a problem. Right now we're leveraging the IntelliSnap feature. It's been identified as a better way to back up, given some problems we've been having with some particular data that has been hard to capture within a certain time window. 

It's scalable. We haven't had any complaints at all. It rates pretty highly in scalability.

One of the features I'm working on putting in place is access control: How to grant different levels of authorization. We currently have 51 users and six are primary users. Most of those 51 users log in to run reports. Those users have operational roles, administrative roles, and some are in engineering. We also have a couple of database admins who have read-only access to view metrics.

How are customer service and technical support?

Support is pretty extensive. There are five different levels of support. We're at the top level and we have also experienced two levels below that. They have a great support system. 

They could use additional subject matter experts, but when you do get the right subject matter expert you have a person who is pretty knowledgeable. We haven't needed many escalations, but they do have a good escalation system. 

They've never been stumped. There's always somebody that has the knowledge and expertise to resolve the issue. And that's generally within a matter of days at the most — and sometimes it's only hours. I've never had an outstanding problem for longer than a week without having the right resources in place to resolve the issue.

We have the highest enterprise-level support contract, so we have a team that engages us on chronic issues. We have a team that engages us on new initiatives and we have a team that we work with on the overall Commvault experience. We also have a dedicated technical account manager and we can bounce anything off of him at a moment's notice.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We went from Veritas NetBackup to Commvault. We switched due to upfront licensing and costs. We have more visibility into what we're actually purchasing. It seemed like, overall, the cost of Commvault was cheaper.

The licensing is more visible. It's more "per-diem." They're not forcing you into certain purchases. You can buy in bulk, per se. You can try things out. Commvault offers a lot of good, temporary licenses where you try something out before you commit to buying it. Once you express interest in purchasing, they'll supply a lot more information for you to make a better decision. I like that, versus the way Veritas works.

Commvault is a cost-efficient solution. Just beware that there's a lot you're going to have to understand before you can get to the point where you're utilizing that cost-efficiency.

How was the initial setup?

To convert over to Commvault from NetBackup took us three days, and part of that was standing up the environment. With Commvault, it's easy to bring new data and new platforms in. It's simply a matter of clicking on the agent, installing it, and then going from there. The fact that it's agent-based made it a little bit easier to adapt to and back up multiple platforms and storage devices.

Generally, it takes about five hours to two days to drop an architected solution and start the implementation process. You need time for whatever issues may arise, so it could take three to five days to get Commvault up and running. 

But to get started, it's just a matter of a few minutes. The fact that you can push out and do all your installs from Command Center is a good feature from Commvault. It's easy to get rolling and get started. To really get it fully leveraged takes some time.

Our company is in its fourth year with Commvault and we're just now getting to the tip of the iceberg with leveraging a lot of its features and the licensing that Commvault offers as a data warehouse.

Training-wise, there's a lot of information out there, a lot of free training. There are tutorials and a lot of YouTube videos and virtual classrooms. They encourage you to learn and leverage their data suite without paying for a lot of training.

What was our ROI?

Prior to using Commvault's Office 365 feature, we were backing up mailboxes at the database level. Commvault allows us to just point, click, and drag-and-drop for backup and restore. That's a really big ROI. Restores are easier to handle at the message and item level. Things are a lot easier to restore. We can restore in multiple ways, including as a PST file. Commvault has a way of looking at our mailbox data and picking out anything that is PST and backing that up in different ways. There are a lot of built-in APIs to make things a little bit easier.

So we do have a good ROI with our overall mailbox protection and restorability.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

It's been a while since we used NetBackup, but I think Commvault is easier. It's really point-and-click. There isn't a lot of background stuff going on or command-line stuff. It's all Windows-based, easy drag-and-drop. With NetBackup there was a lot of stuff going on in the back-end, command-line wise, that you couldn't get a good visual of as you were doing it. 

Working with Windows is a little more explanatory, versus working with command-line, when it comes to installations. With command-line, you have this sense that if you do something incorrectly you might really do something bad. That's a big difference that I like with Commvault versus Veritas NetBackup.

What other advice do I have?

Take advantage of any free training and look at other business cases and how they use Commvault, because it's so customizable. There's no right and wrong way. You have to look at your unique business needs to really maximize the platform.

If you're just going to back up and protect your data, I would recommend something outside of Commvault. If you really want to understand your data, audit your data, really manipulate your data, and save money through your data, then Commvault is the place to go.

I like the interface. It requires some assistance with navigation. It's very intimidating when you first jump in as a newbie. You don't know where to start or what's important. The best approach is to learn each one, one at a time. The problem is that you usually end up favoring one particular feature because that's where the fires are at. It's user-friendly, but it takes some time to get used to.

I'm still learning the Command Center. I think a lot of people are hesitant to transfer over to it because it is a little different than the Java console. I just had a tutorial and demonstration on it last week. I like it. It's easier. It's just that the layout is a lot different. It's not as busy as the Java console, and because it's not as busy you don't know what you're not using, or what you have quick access to. I think that may be what intimidates people with the Command Center, that the layout is really a lot different. But kind of like a desktop, once you get it the way you want it, it's a lot easier to work with. I think those initial challenges deter some people, which is why it's been a slow rollout, and Commvault hasn't just said, "We're going to turn this one off and this one on."

I'm in favor of the Command Center. I'm starting to use it a little bit more. It's a good tool, a good upgrade, but it's going to take a little bit of learning.

The fact that a Commvault is a single platform will enable our organization to accelerate growth and drive innovation. This is my second year with this company, and we're now leveraging the experts within Commvault to show us how to use Commvault, so I think it will. But getting to that stage where you have to align those resources can take a company some time. There are some challenges there. But once you embrace it and leverage it the way they want you to use it, instead of using it how you want to use it, it will make the transition a little easier.

This process is helping in identifying lost data and identifying backup performance. You can really drill into backup performance, throughput, network connections, firewalls, and ports. You can really see where a problem is. Fixing their problems is one thing, but you tend to have to upgrade to fix it. Commvault is really good at listening to what the customer says, to their challenges, and then taking those challenges and making solutions down the line. The problem is you have to upgrade your environment to take advantage of those new bug fixes.

What we're looking to do with Commvault in the next six months is to leverage its ability to protect and backup our stuff within the cloud, within Azure. We also want to leverage it more for identifying data analytics. Because we're in the compliance field and the medical field, we really want to understand our data. Is it deduping right? Is it being backed up correctly? How can we archive it? We're confident that it's protected. We're confident we can restore it. Now we want to understand it.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Hybrid Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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