N-able Backup Review

Great for backup and recovery with a single pane of glass that's excellent for monitoring

What is our primary use case?

For almost all my customers, critical data is what we're backing up and that's a total of something like 20 terabytes in total. It's nothing, however, it's a lot more than I would want to have to recreate in terms of data. We had our own in-house solution previous to that, and we abandoned it for something more robust. We have everything from lawyers, and doctors to auto repair shops, and investment or real estate management companies on the solution, and it works well for all of them. 

We only backup data. We don't ever anticipate doing a bare-metal restore. Usually, if a server blows a raid card or motherboard, bare metal is not going to help us on it; it's not going to save us anything. We could more easily generate up an operating system on a new box. We're not a Fortune 500 provider that might have to have spare machines lying around. 

There's no special hardware, although they're all migrated to the cloud now, however, the net-net of it is our idea with getting things back up and rocking again, are by using things that are common.

We keep all the customer data current. We can rebuild a server in a heartbeat. We don't need to be able to come back in 10 minutes. If we did, there would be a virtual situation, and it would be on a virtual server.

How has it helped my organization?

A bunch of my customers had been ransomwared and we used this product to successfully recover items.

The solution is good at verifying proof of backup. For example, a customer might say "I've deleted this file. I need yesterday's version for me, please put it back in the same place" and we can do so.

It used to take a couple of hours to turn up a new client with our previous product and now, I could do it and I could have the instance ready and everything rocking in probably 15 minutes. It's fast.

Most of that's just backroom billing information. That I can reconcile properly. Our system, our previous system, was pretty flexible, however, it was manual mode and restoring was an absolute disaster on our old system. This stuff on this is child's play.

The backup times are also reduced. Although our backup previously compressed like this solution's, and it reviewed, it didn't send over stuff that it didn't need to send over. It operated pretty efficiently. We ran our operation on 150 megabits per second pipe without ever stressing it previously. The only nice thing about the old way was if I got a complete failure and I needed to dump a drive, I could. I could have it restored at LAN speed, gigabits per second. Whereas now, we have to download it, and that could be a couple of hours. However, usually we'll kick off the download while we're rebuilding the server. That way, by the time we're all done, we're ready to rock and roll.

The solution has also reduced the amount of time that we spend on backup administration. While previously, we were looking at about an hour or more a day, now, it's maybe 15 minutes. It's gotten much faster and we are saving a lot of time.

I'm able to benefit from the backup-related costs. I haven't changed what I am charging customers, however, my costs have become external, and in that sense, I have given myself a raise.

Overall, our team is much more satisfied. I don't have to bite my fingernails every morning wondering "What happened here?" Pretty much when things don't back up, it's usually either a machine failure or their network went down or something else is screwed up. For example, maybe somebody decided to reboot something on me and didn't let me know about it. In one case, somebody was actively getting hacked, and we noticed that and we were able to shut everything down before life totally went to pieces, and we had them back up and rocking the next day. It happened at four or five o'clock on one day, and we had them bright and early in the morning back and operational again.

What is most valuable?

The fact that I have a single pane of glass that I can look at in the morning and I can look at 80 plus instances in, probably more than 80 now, in under five minutes, I can verify that everything's current, that's a great advantage. If it isn't current, I can understand in a second why it's not current and dispatch out, either tickets to my guys to fix something or an email to a customer to please give us access to a couple of servers that we don't have access to.

There is a very, very small learning curve. It's kind of like getting a new car. Once you get the muscle memory going, its piece of cake. It was just a couple of things that switching over from our in-house product to their product took a little bit of getting used to, however, it was pretty simple. I asked a bunch of questions like, Hey, what do I do for this? How do I find this out or that out? And then, we were good to go.

It's their cloud, it's their storage. I don't have to buy a space on Amazon or Google's cloud and then use their software to push it. That works well for me. This way, I don't have to worry about another option or the opportunity that there might be a credential leak.

What needs improvement?

I know on the backup side it runs extremely well. The recovery side, the restore side, could be a little more optimized, however, the amount of time that we spend in restore mode is maybe a couple of weeks out of five years. On the other hand, backups happen every night. They happen all the time. We get a new customer, we have to onboard them, and they give us a couple of options for onboarding and all of them are excellent. That said, in most cases, we're not onboarding a terabyte right out of the get-go.

Currently you can't dump the files that were backed up. You have to use the web interface and you can only see 30 files at a crack. If I'm looking for a particular file, it would be easier for me just to dump down the catalogs and suck them into a spreadsheet and do my cut and slice in that way. I'd be able to figure out "Oh, this file changed on this day. Therefore, I want this version." This is critical, as the customer is not only telling me, they're going to tell me Mary Sue left on the 12th and the last day was the day she broke it, or Mary Sue was working on that before she left and I'm not sure when she last made the change. I can't pin it to any particular day which means I either have to sift through it from the web interface or I have to reload. That means I will have to download one or more files manually and then compare them that way. If I could get the catalogs dropped to me in a CSV format, that would be very, very helpful. As it is now, it's not only cumbersome, it's also a slow drawn-out process.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for about five years or so at this point.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There was only one day that I couldn't do backups due to the fact that they had a node failure. I thought that maybe this was a bad omen of things to come, however, now, if I look back, one day out of five years is a pretty good run. I'm happy with the stability on offer. It's reliable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We've grown from, when we started, around seven terabytes or six terabytes. We've grown to almost 20 now. Not a single time did I get a note from them saying, "Hey, you have to do something to have more data." Nothing like that. We've added customers and taken away customers. Occasionally we have customers quit, or retire old servers, or somebody got his own local backup machine. It's scaled with every change.

Every customer that we bring onboard for our other consulting work, I tell them about what are we doing for offsite backups. They'll say something like, "Oh yeah, I just put it up on my OneDrive or my Google cloud". I warn them that they don't back anything up for you. I'll ask "What do you do when such and such happens?" Sure enough, they become a backup customer. We sell it with everything that we do, however, we're an easy-going kind of company. They say, "Oh, no. I don't want to pay for that. I'd rather just go with my OneDrive." We won't pressure them. We'll just say "Knock yourself out. You can always start going with us after your situation, or if your solution doesn't work. I won't say I told you so. Promise." Then they'd look at me and say, "Okay. It's not that much. Go ahead and throw it on." I'm glad when they don't nickel and dime themselves. In any case, as we add, the solution accommodates. We never have to worry about having space for one more client.

How are customer service and technical support?

The tech support group is spot on. I ended up just emailing the head person and saying, "how is this supposed to work?" And he emailed me back with the directions to find exactly what I needed.  

I don't need a whole lot of support, however, when I do, I just send them an email and they respond back to me. I remember one time I was told, "Please open a ticket for this". And my next question was, "How do I do tickets?" And they realized that I don't take a lot of hands. I don't need a lot of handholding.

I'm quite satisfied with their level of service. They're great.

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

We previously used an in-house homemade solution with a couple of other things cobbled together to make it work.

We had to level up to something better. I couldn't grow it for our customer base. It was okay. It worked fine and I could grow a little bit, however, then I would have to get more hardware and I just thought I was managing it is more than I really wanted to. I don't want to run a server farm. Therefore, I pressed the change and I did a little cost analysis and found their software was way more flexible and the restorer was painless compared to ours. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is extremely straightforward. I was up and running in an hour.

I knew what is going to be backed up due to the fact that we had our in-house system. I used the information about what was being backed up on the server. I already had lists of servers and IP addresses, et cetera. I wasn't reinventing the wheel from scratch.

For maintenance, it's just me. There are five of us in the company, however, I take care of it personally, myself. It's maybe a 15-minute job. It's one of the first things I do when I sit down at my desk.

What about the implementation team?

I did not work with any third-party integrator or consultants for the deployment.

My salesperson basically walked me through it. Once I got a couple of our servers going, I then added one of my customer's servers and he showed me how to keep things separated. That way, in reporting, I'd be able to easily manage it. The deployment probably wasn't even an hour. It's way easier than how we used to do it previously.

What was our ROI?

The ROI is pretty good. It allows us to respond quickly. We were able to respond to a customer's requests, for example, whether it is for a ransomware attack that we recovered them from, or if an employee accidentally erases a whole bunch of sub-directories and they need to be recovered. Any time a customer is satisfied with how things turn out,I consider that as a return on investment.

In terms of metrics, if I look at what my profitability is, that has a good return on investment in general, however, I've never sat down and said, "Okay, so my old system costs me X dollars a gigabyte. This cost me X minus 20 cents a gigabyte. Okay. I'm making more money on it." I'm not that much of a bean counter. I look at the end of the month and say, "Hey, there's money in the checkbook. This is a good month." I'm a computer guy. I'm not an accountant.

If I would have to estimate, I'd say that the Return on Investment is almost 100% due to the fact that you only pay for what you use. It's kind of like using virtual machines. There is no upfront cost, at least not with my contract. I don't know what everybody else's contracts look like. Maybe I got a good deal. Maybe I negotiated well. 

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

The terms for their contract, they were pretty loose in that. They allowed us to give it a try for a couple months. If we didn't like it, they'd let us out. If I recall correctly, the first term was one year. That meant my maximum exposure was pretty limited.

They did change their billing method or their computation method at one point. They might not have adequately gotten everybody on board as to how that was changing, and it upped the bills a bit. We didn't understand the billing computation. It had to do with high watermarks as opposed to just purely what it was on the last day of the month. We've since sorted out the confusion.

There is no per node cost, at least not the way I am doing it. I am on bulk. New customers can be set up on a trial, where they can get things all squared away, then they can switch over to being a billed customer.

At the end of the day, there aren't any costs in addition to their standard licensing fees.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We did evaluate some other options, however, we landed on this product mostly due to the pricing. We found it would be more consistent, billing-wise, and that was a huge selling point. 

What other advice do I have?

We are just a customer and an end-user.

We use a variety of different versions, including 21.1, 21.2, 21.3, and all the way back to 20.10.  

We do not use its automated recovery testing. I do it manually. I know there is an automated feature, however, I don't want to use it. I prefer keeping everything inside my own box. I want to maintain all my keys. Therefore, I test the keys myself, to make sure that the files are recoverable.

I would advise those considering the solution to look at the total cost of ownership. That would be my big takeaway from this. It's just not the amount of money that you're spending on your bill today, but what are you getting out of it down the road. There may be intangibles that you haven't factored into it yet. Whether it's archives are included in the costs or the fact that I have tech support people that are available to help me manage my platform so that I pay the least amount of money on it. If there's optimization that needs to happen and they'll help me with it, that's great. It all factors in. You need to measure it in its totality. 

On a scale from one to ten, one being the worst and 10 being the best, I would rate the solution at a ten.

It has all the notifications, all the bells, and whistles. I could sit down and look at the pane of glass or I can have it send me 5,000 emails a day if that's what I prefer. It's flexible, whichever way you want to go. I particularly don't want a whole bunch of emails. I want to be able to sit down and look at things myself and analyze them myself. It makes it easier to find the needle in the haystack - and I'm happy that it gives me the option.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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