Quorum OnQ Review

Automatically spins up every one of the hosts after every backup and confirms the backup


What is our primary use case?

The main purpose is as a faster disaster recovery solution. The secondary use case is for quick, daily backups.

How has it helped my organization?

About two years ago, I had a Windows 2008 Server for the fire department on which two hard drives dies almost simultaneously. HPE was nice enough to send me a couple of new drives overnight, but it didn't help the situation because the server was dead. So I spun up that entire fire department server, which had SQL running on it and a couple of databases that are necessary for dispatching fire calls and getting the information out of our dispatch system for tracking, timing, etc. I was able to bring the server up in about five minutes. I left it up and running for about two weeks.

I didn't do the bare metal restore because it was a Windows 2008 Server that was scheduled to be replaced that year anyway. I just let it run for a while and when I got new hardware I built it up as a Windows 2012 Server, at the time. I was able to do it on my timeline, rather than being in a panic situation and having to get the server back up. The entire time, while it was running in this virtual host, it was also backing up at the same time. If necessary, I could have gone to any of my backups, which sounds weird — it's a backup of a machine that's running on a machine — but I could have gone to any of those backups. That was the only instance that I've had to rely on any of its features, above and beyond just restoring files when people mess up and delete something.

The case of somebody overwriting or deleting something by accident, where I have had to recover a file or data, happens more often than I would like to admit. I find myself having to restore a one-off file about once a month. It happens more around budget time. People take the stuff from last year that they think they made copies of and make them into blank documents for this year. Inadvertently, they're working on the wrong ones and I get to restore those. That seems to happen at least once or twice every budget year. 

Another scenario is that somebody comes to me and says, "This file was supposed to be in this directory. I either accidentally overwrote it or I accidentally deleted it a few weeks ago and I need it back." If they're really good about it, they'll tell me the name of a file or a directory, which gives me something to work with. Hopefully, they'll give me a rough time that they know it existed. I'll just start working through snapshots. I'll open up AD servers that have all of my file shares on them and I'll pick a date. I'll start with January first. If the file is not there I'll move to January second. I'll continue going through all of my snapshots so that I get them the absolute latest and greatest one that there is and which is still functional.

Another instance where I'm having to restore on a somewhat regular basis is when people leave, depending on the situation and why they left. They may not be doing it maliciously or they may be trying to either cover their own tracks or trying to make it difficult for the next person. They'll delete everything that they've got. I'll go into their Outlook and they've got three emails, but they've been here for four years. So I'll have to restore all of their mailbox from a few weeks prior to their putting in their request to leave, and start restoring files as well. That happens about twice a year where I have to go to that extreme.

There isn't a cut and dry process in that situation. When I get notification that somebody is leaving, I back up their email, for records retention. If I realize all their mail is gone, or it seems like there's stuff missing, I'll start restoring old stuff from the past and see what they got rid of. It makes the life of the person who will be following them in that job position about a million times easier if they've got some idea of the communications the previous person had or any notes or documents they had for that job.

I also benefit from the solution's deduplication, especially with their new software release, and how they're arranging the storage for the disaster of virtual machines. It is handled differently. It doubled the amount of space that's available for my backups. The deduplication helps, obviously, because I'm not having to back up the same caches over and over again.

What is most valuable?

By far, one of the biggest features is that, even on the absolutely run-of-the-mill box, if I lose any one of my servers I can automatically bring it up virtually on the physical onQ Quorum device.

Another feature I really like about it is the fact that, after every backup, it automatically spins up every one of the hosts and confirms that it is actually a good backup and running. I know that if I ever have to rely on them, they are available for me. That is another of the biggest features. I've got 30 or so servers here and the vast majority are pretty critical for police, fire, water distribution, etc. I can't just pick and choose and say "Okay, I know I lost everything but let me just concentrate on this one," because, in reality, a lot of them are awfully important and really cannot be down for any length of time. That's why I really like the checking aspect of every backup, and I know that Windows will start up every time for me.

When it comes to recovering what you need from a backup, they've got a handful of different approaches for gaining access to the files. I can spin up the entire VM and go find the files, or I can go off a specific application at any one of my snapshot points in time. Or I can open them up as a Windows share, and drill out from there for everything, using Windows Explorer. Or, I could just say, "I just want you to list entire directories." There are many options, depending on what your needs are for recovering the files. It's on a needs basis. If somebody comes to me and says "Hey, I just need this one file," I'll go grab just the one file. If I'm restoring a handful of directories, it's natural for me to check the user and hit "restore," refer them back to the original location, and I'm good to go. There are multiple options available, which is nice.

I use the solution's automated testing functionality. It happens every time the backup runs. In my instance, I run backups twice a day, at noon and midnight. It tests automatically after every backup. I get an email notification every morning and I scroll through it and I look for how many good backups I had and, at the very bottom, how many successful tests it was able to do with the automated features. It's an incredibly important aspect of the solution. There are a lot of people out there who will run backups all day, blindly trusting that everything is working and that, if they have to restore they can do so or can spin it up in the cloud. If they never had it perform the task, or they do it so incredibly rarely that they only then realize "Oh crap, Windows won't even start," or "some applications within it don't start," they're now scrambling. Luckily, since I know that it's spinning them up automatically for me, I know at the very least that Windows is going to be coming up and give me a good starting spot. I find it to be an incredibly important feature. It definitely sets my mind at ease knowing that it's doing that after every backup.

What needs improvement?

I would really like it if they followed comparable products from other vendors and had an option where you could offload to tape. I know it sounds incredibly antiquated, but the benefit I see is that there would be a better air gap than you have with backing up to an online source.

For instance, if somebody were to get onto your network, whether it's this device or any other device, they could destroy your primary backup. And they could tell it to delete all those hosts off of the cloud, and it does so because, in the normal lifecycle of servers, you take servers on and offline all the time, so that functionality has to exist. That could leave you with a network with nothing, and no backups.

But if you were taking your Quorum, or your other disaster recovery device, and dropping it to tape every week or every month for long-term retention, while the malicious actor could still do the exact same process, it would be pretty tough for them to destroy the tapes that are in a safe that have been in there every week for the entire year. That is one feature that I think would add a layer of security. It's a feature that other vendors have, and one which would help set an IT person's mind at ease knowing that, while it is an old technology, the benefit is there and the availability is there.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Quorum for about five years. The physical appliance is a 260 and the version of the software is their 5.0 platform.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Quorum's physical appliance is pretty rock-solid. I've had no problems with it. 

I'm not sure if I could say how stable the company is because I don't know how large a company it is and what its market saturation is and how long it will be in the market. It's obviously not the market leader for this segment. I'm okay with that because I've already bought two of their appliances. But, as far as their appliance is concerned, even if they were to disappear today, I would have no problem continuing to run this solution for another few years, because of my comfort with it and how solid the physical product is.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I'm not sure what the scalability is like. If I decided I need more drive space I don't know if there are any options for actually physically expanding that out.

For some reason, my city council thinks that I should be able to predict five years into the future. They asked me to try to predict what I'm going to need in five years. It's impossible to predict that far in advance. But I'm going to say at this point that I've got five more years of usage out of this solution. I built it up so that I could handle about a 30 percent increase over what I've got now.

I messed up the first time I did this. I chose that number but I didn't look at my own roadmap. I then realized that in three years I would be putting in a full-fledged document imaging solution. I ended up over-utilizing my space really quickly because of that one, unexpected, server. That resulted in my purchasing an updated appliance one year before I was planning on to, because I didn't plan appropriately.

How are customer service and technical support?

When I called in at the beginning, right when I was getting acclimated to the system, I'd always get the same guy, over and over again. The guy was brilliant. Then, about four years ago, it seems they decided to send it offsite. Nobody would pick up my call, and I had to go through my account manager to get anybody. The last couple of years, however, have been great. I'll call and, within a couple of hours, they're calling me back, as long as it's not an emergency situation. So, support has been good so far.

There was even one instance where we had a problem with something called Qfilter. They were calling me a couple of times a day to see how my backups were running, to see if we had improvements. I was working with the engineers to try to figure out why this thing wasn't working. They had no problem ramping me up the support chain pretty quickly, all the way up to the people who were basically in the back end and doing writing.

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

Where I work right now, before this solution there was an old Symantec Backup Exec tape system. I came from the consulting industry prior to this, about five or six years ago, and I had set up numerous Barracuda backups, along with about three Unitrends appliances as well.

How was the initial setup?

I found the initial setup to be incredibly easy, compared to other backup solutions. It's as simple as giving it an IP address. It gives you the option to download the agent and you put the agent onto that server. You double click, you hit about three buttons, and instantly, the next thing it's saying is, "What's your retention time, and how often do you want to back up?" That was about it.

It's incredibly intuitive and straightforward. You're not running through hundreds of screens to get what you're after. There aren't hundreds of options out there that the typical user would ever even need to touch. That is by far one of the big reasons I've stuck with this solution, because it's so incredibly easy to use.

To get all 30 servers done it took me about two hours. It took me longer to get it out of the box and into the rack. I had already given them the IP information beforehand, so they had it pre-programmed. They said, "Plug these network cables into this specific VLAN, power it up, go to this website, and we'll call you at 2 o'clock on this day."

The training, from knowing absolutely nothing to being up and running, took about an hour-and-a-half. Then it took me, maybe, half an hour to an hour to get all the servers on.

Integrating the solution within our network was really easy. I gave them an idea of what the VLANs were for my servers, even before they shipped the appliance to me. They did the vast majority of the work before me. It came with a sheet of paper that said, "The first three interfaces need to be on VLAN one, the last interface needs to be on VLANs one and nine." I went into my network switch gear and I set tag ports for both of those specific devices, and I plugged it in. After that, I just made sure that I could see traffic on my network interfaces. It was a breeze.

What was our ROI?

Backups are kind of like insurance. It's tough for me to say whether I've seen any kind of return. Every time I've had to restore something, whether it's missing files or an Exchange mailbox, it has performed exactly how I hoped it would. When I lost the entire fire server, it performed exactly as I expected it to. In that sense, as far as the appliance is concerned, its sole purpose is to be your backup appliance and hold onto a retention. It has done exactly as I expected it to.

Like insurance, it's one of those things that you're bent out of shape that you're paying for it. Then all of sudden when you need it, it's the greatest thing on the planet.

I wouldn't say the solution lowered my capital expenditure by requiring less hardware. My solution prior to this was a tape drive. A tape drive typically attaches to a server. At the time it was attached to another server that I was already utilizing for Active Directory. So my expenditure for the tape solution was an auto changer and a whole pile of tapes. It wasn't a too terribly costly backup solution.

What I gained and by going to another appliance that was more full-featured, whether it be, say, a Quorum or a Unitrends or any other full boxes with the additional functionality, was peace of mind. I know I can bring these servers up quickly, and that they're being tested, and I'm getting backups multiple times a day. That offsets the change in cost because this is a full-featured box. You're buying a whole other server that has the software built into it. Overall, it is more expensive than a single tape drive, but it's no more expensive than any other appliance, like a Unitrends.

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

It's been a while since I've purchased it and I only do maintenance now. Licensing is based on of the number of nodes you have, the number of end devices you're backing up. It's based on the cloud service, if you're going to have that. And, if you're going to have multiple devices that are backups of each other, they will have their own. But most of these are pretty straightforward. The only one that I don't have experience with is the bare metal restore. I don't know how that's licensed.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

A reason I chose them over Unitrends on my most recent purchase, is that the one thing I was seriously lacking was memory and CPU cores. When I got on with both Unitrends and Quorum I said, "Hey, I need this much memory and this many cores." Unitrends' solution was to move me up in physical boxes. So they moved me up a few tiers, which also resulted in significantly more drive space, which was the one thing I did not need. Quorum, on the other hand, took one of their lower-end boxes, one which had sufficient drive space for me but which was just lacking in memory and CPUs, and they threw a bunch more CPU cores into it and a bunch more memory, which fulfilled all of my requirements.

Among Quorum, Barracuda, and Unitrends, the Quorum is by far the easiest one to use in terms of sizing. Multiple times, I would put Barracuda solutions in and I don't know if it was their deduplication that kept messing me up, but I'd size it, and determine, "Okay, we should be able to get 90 days of backups out of this thing." But right-out-of-the box I was getting about 30 days. Clients weren't too terribly happy with me as a result. The bare metal restore was pretty rough on the Barracuda as well. I would probably not even suggest Barracuda to people now, unless they are interested in a cheap solution. One thing Barracuda does offer is a solution that is considerably cheaper than either of the other two.

The Unitrends appliance wasn't bad. It was easy to set up. I found that restoring and bringing up virtual machines was more difficult and it did not scale quite as well. I could not have nearly as many virtual machines running on the Unitrends appliance as I could have on the Quorum appliance, even though it was sized by the vendor. The maintenance was also more expensive on the Unitrends appliance than on the Quorum.

What other advice do I have?

Figure out what your business needs are and determine if you need one appliance or two appliances for a disaster recovery physical site. Or are you're going to need to bring up these virtual machines in a cloud instance and, if so, how are you going to get access to those servers through a public cloud like the internet, through either VPNs or other software-defined networks?

If somebody were to ask me what they need to do to implement this, I would definitely say know what your requirements and expectations are, and make sure you get those included beforehand. Get the thing properly spec'ed out so that it will survive the length of time you're after. Or, be prepared to take a long-term retention kick if you add resources faster than you anticipated.

I sleep better knowing that Quorum is there. My full tape backup was using seven tapes, and tapes can be a little finicky. Sometimes, they just don't want to work. I don't have that problem anymore. I know that I've got a good backup. It backs up, I get a notification, and it brings up all of those servers automatically for me.

It's one of those things where, regardless of the appliance you go with, you still need to bring up all those virtual machines and make sure all the applications work in them, in a virtual environment. I did run into a solution where that didn't work. I had one sever that runs an old IBM Db2 application, and it did not like coming up in a virtual environment because the virtual environment was bringing up both IPv4 and IPv6 and Db2 was trying to attach to the wrong one. So the server came up great but the database did not come up at all. I ended up having to call Quorum and say, "Okay, how do I get this thing not to use IPv6, only IPv4?" It took them 15 minutes. I ran a test again and it worked like a champ.

Also, there are some applications that do licensing via hardware tokens, where they do licensing via the MAC address of the network card. For instance, my phone system is that way. While I can spin it up on the Quorum box, I can only do it for a very limited time, because it only gives me a temporary license for, say, 30 days, before I will lose my phone system. So, there are other things to take into consideration, but you're going to run into that regardless of where you spin up a virtual machine, whether it's the cloud or on a physical appliance.

In terms of storage efficiency, I'm not entirely sure it's considered a storage appliance. I would think of something like a NAS as being a storage appliance, where people are actively working on files on and off of it. Quorum is really not a storage appliance, it's a backup. It definitely has storage because it's disk-based, but it beats the crap out of tape, if I have to compare it to a storage device. I would much rather use it over having a bunch of drives and some other solution. I would rather use the simplicity of the Quorum appliance over other backup solutions, even if they are disk-based.

I'm an IT department of one, so nobody else has their hands in it except for me. We do have a couple of hundred employees, but none of them even know about it. That's really how it should be. They should just know that everything is backed up and, if they need something restored, they just need to give me a call and I've got them covered.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises

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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