Microsoft DPM Review

Good recovery functionality, however lacks an online community and is not a turn-key solution

What is our primary use case?

We're a local government entity and also a very Microsoft-centric shop. We use it for backing up the following workload types (All servers running Windows Server 20xx): 
- Physical Windows Servers
- Hyper-V Servers (at the host level)
- Hyper-V Servers ( at the guest level)
- Sharepoint
- Exchange 
- Network File Shares, implemented as CAFS (Continuously Available File Shares)

How has it helped my organization?

DPM has improved our RPO over the previous solution, which was dated and had been in place for years.

What is most valuable?

The solution really does great recovery. When the typical use case of someone says, "Oh gosh, I've accidentally deleted my file", we have that item-level recovery. It's saved us on many occasions. However, I do believe any backup solution would give a user that kind of performance.

The solution came with System Center so we didn't have to pay for it that way. If you're already a System Center customer, I believe it's a free product, or, at least, it comes with that bundle. That benefit there is you're already in the system set or ecosystem.

In that sense, the price is good since we're on System Center. 

The solution backs up Microsoft workloads just fine, when synchronization doesn't fail.

What needs improvement?

There is a very poor online user community in terms of people blogging about their experiences with DPM. 

I'm on Google all the time, resolving issues. All I ever find is the official Microsoft documentation. While that can be helpful, and that is in many cases, authoritative, it's not the same as having an independent user community who's writing about it. I have to wonder about the product when I don't see a vital external user community in existence.

Every day I have to log in and look at agent alerts and failures that I have to resolve. There are so many different types of agent failures that I have to diagnose pretty much every day due to the fact that the replicas are out of sync with the current state of a file or the VM or something. I'm constantly involved in a lot of hands-on maintenance. They need to change that and potentially make some sort of automated solution to this problem so the workload isn't so heavy for those maintaining the solution.

It's not a set it and forget it kind of solution. Not that anything is. However, it's a lot of labor involved in just keeping the replicas in sync.

One of the things I think would like to be able to use is their cloud storage at the block level so that it's cheaper for a government entity. We want to have replicas in the cloud, however, it's very expensive. They're using the most expensive tier of Azure storage. We would rather just be able to specify that our cloud backups go to Blob based storage for budgetary purposes. I don't believe that's available, but then again, I can't really find that out online due to a lack of a user community.

I would like to maybe have Office 365 backups. I know other vendors offer that however, I don't believe that's available within this solution.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for about three years now.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is average at best. I'm daily resolving anywhere from 20-80 synchronization failure, which occur for a variety of reasons.

The stability of the underlying system is questionable. There are many layers including the VSF service and the Windows server backup. There are agents. Then there's the DPM service as well. There are enough layers that having small problems from time to time means just constantly resolving replication issues. Stability, in terms of how well it keeps replicas in sync, is average.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I have not actually scaled this solution "out".  One server is backing up a population of 80 servers, most of them virtual, as well as Continuously Available File shares.

A secondary server is backing up our primary server, but that's secondary protection, not scaling per se.

I can say that you need to keep your total number of Data Sources to under 300 per server.  I did find this out only through a paid session with Microsoft Support.  This is a scalability metric, which would indicate you need to scale out.

I fixed the problem by reducing my data sources.  I did so by changing SQL Server protection to SQL backup jobs instead of using DPM Sql Server application protection.  SQL Server protection can explode your data source count, if you have a lot of databases to protect.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is lacking. You can't call Microsoft and enter a help ticket and have someone call you back. You also can't find a user community online.

Both of those avenues are things that almost anyone does with a new product of any complexity. Users are going to want vendor support or a user community supporting and I haven't found either to be available.

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

We used an older version of VEEAM.  Our director was behind the adoption of DPM. We did so at his request.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup wasn't straightforward. There definitely was a learning curve. I would say it was complex.

Due to the steep learning curve, deployment probably took a few months. Once you understand things, you need to look into protection groups and items of that nature. 

I'm still learning new answers to the product. It's an ongoing learning process.

What about the implementation team?

I implemented this in-house.

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

Other than the SQL Server license, the cost factor is appealing.  There is a learning curve, like any other solution. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

My director was the one who advocated this choice. There was no competitor analysis, probably because the price of DPM was bundled into SCCM, for which we were already licensed.

What other advice do I have?

We're a government agency, so we don't have a business partnership with Microsoft.

I would suggest that Microsoft try to figure out how to foster an online user community outside of their official channels. This has been a source of frustration for me. New users should know, before implementing the solution, that this community doesn't exist right now, so there's no way to third-party verify Microsoft claims.

I would rate the solution five out of ten.

I would say it's not an industry leader. It might work for some people and it might be the most cost-effective option for some people, however, I don't know if everyone needs cloud backups. If a company needs a turn-key system or something close to turn-key system, it's not that.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?


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

Microsoft Azure

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

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