IDERA SQL Safe Backup Review

You can't see any metrics about how long it took you to backup the entire server. We've had a huge reduction in the nightly backup footprint size.


What is most valuable?

Compression of standard backups is quite good and speed is pretty good too. I want to add additional comments here after the product has been in production use for 6 months - the total footprint of our backups has reduced drastically. It is far better than the native SQL compressed backup utility, and even though we are seeing approximately 1.4 : 1 de-duplication ratio (using compression at Level 3) we've saved so much space that we still have more than 33% free space on our backup appliances.

How has it helped my organization?

We've had a huge reduction in the nightly backup footprint size, even though it doesn't de-duplicate very well on the ExaGrid backup appliances. We've saved quite literally terabytes of space on our appliances. One of the biggest improvements it has made for us is that we can now recover 12 of our largest production servers into our DR site in about 4 hours and 15 minutes - this has dropped significantly from the previous RTO of about 12 hours!

What needs improvement?

Idera treats a backup of a SQL Server as if it is essentially a single backup job of each individual database. You can't see any metrics about how long it took you to backup the entire server. It doesn't handle restoration to different drives very easily, and it won't create folder structures if they don't exist already. It cannot be used to implement replication on another instance without first converting files back into SQL Server .bak files. There appears to be LOTs of shortcomings. [All of these short-comings are still very much present even after 6 months of feedback to Idera. No solution is in sight.] Still has a focus on individual databases and not for entire server recoveries. Have tried adjusting max threads values, but it seems to have little affect and Idera is still researching the issue.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been testing this product out since October 2015.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

When using compression on backups, it does not generate the exact same sized compressed file twice in a row even on a static database and dedicated test server...therefore it inhibits de-duplication of data on backup appliances.

It does not provide any useful method of backing up an entire server instance and porting it to another server elsewhere which may be configured with different drive structure. It doesn't even pull the default data/log file locations from the Server properties when selecting the MOVE FILE option on a restore.

We have frequent needs to move around or replicate entire database servers, and this product isn't tailored to support anything but single database backup and recovery operations.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Other than licensing issues being required for different domains, it has been relatively stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Not so far, but we've only started using it on 4 of around 110 servers so far. We have our hands full trying to shake out many issues in order to keep it running in production mode so far. Revised: Now operational on 121 instances of SQL Server and no problems have been observed with scalability.

How is customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

Poor. Still waiting (for 2 weeks now) to learn who our 3rd sales/customer representative will be. We've needed additional licenses to implement the product on our DMZ and still haven't gotten them. Not sure what the high turn-over rate bodes for us.

Technical Support:

Pretty good as far as "how to" questions/issues, but absolutely terrible beyond that. No explanation in last 2 months about why it produces a different size backup file when using a fixed compression level. Numerous bugs have been reported. Support says that we will be placed on "interested party" list for fixes released in the future. For a supposedly mature product, it lacks basic functionality that the built-in Microsoft SQL Server backup/restore programs provide and being told we'll be added to interested party list isn't very satisfying.

Which solutions did we use previously?

Only the SQL Server built-in utility.

How was the initial setup?

Somewhat complex, but okay I suppose.

What about the implementation team?

In-house teams only.

What was our ROI?

A lot less than anticipated because we had hoped that we'd see much better de-duplication rates from our ExaGrid appliance. We don't see them because SQL Safe produces different sized backup files with every run.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I'd look around at other alternatives if you have a choice.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Remember to test out full backup and restore of a entire server to see if you like the way it works. Also - make sure that don't use this product if you have to run transactional replication - SQL Server doesn't work with .SAFE file types and running the Idera conversion utility took 5 times longer to create SQL backup file from a SAFE backup file than it does to just take the backup in SQL Server mode to begin with.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
5 Comments
Sr. Product Manager at a tech vendor with 51-200 employeesVendor

Larry, this review is not factually correct. Exagrid and Idera have determined that the issue with de-duplication has to do with the how the data comes out of SQL Server into the VDI then to SQL Safe. On large databases you will not get consistent order between backups to the VDI into Safe. We have found that you get the same results with native backups.

09 March 16
Database Administrator at a consultancy with 1,001-5,000 employeesReal UserTOP 20

Stan - the review IS factually correct with the exception that SQL Safe isn't the cause of the blocks of backup files being produced in different order with each execution. I fully stand by the rest of my statements about this product not being useful for either replication setups, or Disaster Recovery scenarios. And I should downgrade my original estimate that product support is "okay" when in reality, 6 months after implementation in production, not one of any of the problems described has been addressed/fixed or enhanced.

11 July 16
Sr. Product Manager at a tech vendor with 51-200 employeesVendor

So there are several inaccuracies in this review. For one thing the low de-duplication rates from Exagrid are due to the algorithm that Exagrid uses. Another is that you are not going to get much de-duplication if any from compressed backup files. Think, zipping up an already zipped file.

12 December 16
Sr. Product Manager at a tech vendor with 51-200 employeesVendor

Regarding backing up an entire server, there are ways to accomplish this by using polices within the product for backing up multiple databases.

12 December 16
User at IderaVendor

Hello, I was made aware of this blog today and felt like I needed to respond.

Kindly you are able to have your own opinion. But I know others may stumble upon this article. I read the details and I felt like it is was an article which positioned itself as an official product review. However, the comments within the article seem opinionated, subjective, inaccurate, and lacking substantive detail. I work with the product daily and had some concerns about these comments.

For example….I am trying to understand this comment:

Initial Setup:
Somewhat complex, but okay I suppose.

How do I interpret that? It’s a mixed response. And there is no clarifying details regarding why it is considered complex, but on the other hand how it is also “Okay”. But it does imply a negative experience somehow.

And then there was this comment:

Cost and Licensing Advice:

I'd look around at other alternatives if you have a choice.

My response:
Again I am just asking for a kind consideration to my question below.

My question to you here is, “why are you indicating that the audience should look around? Was there something that you witnessed with the cost or licensing that specifically directed you to make that comment to “look around at other alternatives”? If one is to consider this a product review, then I would think you would speak in specifics about your experience with this product. If the audience should “look around” then tell them why they are looking around or what to look around for. It is not disingenuous when someone writes an op-ed to tell the world that something is bad, but provides no examples to explain what they experienced or why the reader is supposed to do something.

This comment:

ROI:
A lot less than anticipated because we had hoped that we'd see much better de-duplication rates from our ExaGrid appliance. We don't see them because SQL Safe produces different sized backup files with every run.

My response:

De-dupe on compressed backups has always been a challenge with any backup archives. But I have actually witnessed de-dupe of SQL safe archives. Perhaps you witnessed it as well. But you have provided no examples of your experience or test results. The ROI was a lot less than anticipated? Can you provide examples of what you were anticipating? What was the de-duplication result before SQlsafe was invloved? What was the result after de-duplication? What were you anticipating to be a success? SQLsafe does work with third party deduplication and has realized compression improvements in some cases, even though technically that goes against the de-duplication science (where typically other backups wouldn’t see improvements). It just depends on the changed blocks. But there is no doubt that backup compression in SQL safe even without de-duplication is phenomenal. I presume SQL Safe showed better compression in the end, but apparently “less than anticipated”. But I’m not sure about what the measurements were and what actual results were noticed with what was anticipated. Because those statistics were not included in the product review.

To this comment:

Stability Issues:

Other than licensing issues being required for different domains, it has been relatively stable.

My response:
Either I am misunderstanding this comment, or the comment is incorrect about licensing per domain. SQL safe is licensed per # of instances to be backed up. Idera doesn’t charge for restore only instances. SQLsafe works with backup of instances even going across un-trusted domains. on a side note....does licensing really have anything to do with stability. From my experience, SQLsafe stability is solid and reliable. SQL Safe is very well tested, across SQL versions, collations, and data types. You can look at other backup tools which may hide “known issues” related to compatibility and other issues. Yet SQL safe is a very reliable backup and restore solution and has been around for more than a decade.

To this comment:

Other Solutions Considered:

Remember to test out full backup and restore of an entire server to see if you like the way it works. Also - make sure that don't use this product if you have to run transactional replication - SQL Server doesn't work with .SAFE file types and running the Idera conversion utility took 5 times longer to create SQL backup file from a SAFE backup file than it does to just take the backup in SQL Server mode to begin with.

My response:

The backup policies in SQL safe are intelligent and even pick up new databases which get added, so that you don’t have to babysit the policy. But the policy can be created to manage backups for many instances, multiple databases, across the enterprise. The policies are easy to create and manage through the easy to use policy creation wizard.

About the comment to “watch out for replication...” when using SQLsafe.

SQLsafe Backup policies can be configured independent of replication. Copy only backups even protect the LSN values from being truncated. There is NO REQUIREMENT to convert .safe to .bak files. The conversion utility is there as a polite convenient add on, in case you need to convert a backup file to native. It is not something you typically would need to use daily. SQLsafe accesses the database through the Microsoft provided VDI. A backup operation will not affect the replication, especially when using copy only backups which will not remove the inactive LSN values.


Not trying to knock the product review, as I am interested in good productive feedback. But I want to be sure that the product is looked at fairly and completely and that I can help you and others understand it better.

In the review, so much functionality was left out. The comments didn’t address other important key features that other audiences reading the product review might consider useful information such as (just to name a few):

• Instant restore capability
• SQL virtual database capability
• Ease of use and centralized management
• Object level recovery
• Amazon S3 cloud support
• EMC Data domain support
• TSM integration
• Availability group support
• Backup mirroring to multiple locations
• Network resiliency options
• Backup operation striping
• Backup reporting
• Web interface or console
• point in time select and restore

Because of that, it is possible for me to consider this product review to be leaning toward opinionated in certain areas as it is not completely reviewing the product inits entirety. Perhaps you had a unique bad experience which did not present the results you expected. I would hope that is not typical. I always encourage anyone considering a good reliable SQL Server backup solution to build their own conclusions. Just try Idera SQLsafe and make an opinion for themselves. The Idera website makes it is easy to download a trial. The trial comes with a license key embedded. It’s easy to start using the product right away with its simple three tier architecture installation. Idera engineers can also be available to help install the product if required. After the install of SQL safe, take a backup of a large database using I-size compression. Configure the backup to write the archive to a UNC path or local drive...or both. Pay attention to the resulting compression. Look at the speed of the backup. Compare the results to your current backup performance. Consider the other features. Try the instant restore capability. Hit the timer after you start an instant restore, and see how long it takes before the database is displayed as restored and "online". I just think that you will find the product features, functionality, usability, and performance to be exceptional.

13 December 16
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