Symantec to Rectify Troubled Backup Release

Symantec appears to be in damage-control mode following a debacle with the latest release of Backup Exec 2012. The company is attempting to rectify the situation and quell a firestorm of complaints, but the gaffe has opened the door for stronger competing products to step in and compel partners to shift allegiances.

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Symantec Corp. partners are in wait-and-see mode after the company promised major changes to a troubled Backup Exec 2012 release earlier this year. But while the move will quell a heated firestorm of criticism from partners, the gaffe has potentially opened a window for smaller, lesser-known players to edge into the backup and recovery space dominated by Symantec and other major players.

According to TechTarget, Symantec is trying to subdue heated partner backlash after it grossly altered features in the March release of Backup Exec 2012 that, among other things, replaced the job monitor with a server-oriented interface, while making the tool more complicated and harder to navigate.

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Specifically, the job monitor function provides a comprehensive window into all backup jobs and job histories that allows partners andIT administrators to access a complete overview of their customers' IT environment.

The unexpected change prompted a flood of complaints on the Symantec Connect Community  forum. Users relayed a nightmarish experience in which they were managing dozens of panes separately, dealing with excessively slow backups navigating messy and incomprehensible interfaces, searching for hidden menus and endlessly clicking. They were frustrated by an inability to search job history or schedule multiple servers. Above all else, partners lost too many hours relying on technical support and fumbling through a complex and incomprehensible system simply to do their job – and these lost hours, of course, translated into dollars.

Initially, Symantec defended the latest release, contending the product was better equipped for virtual machines and pointing out the complaints represented a small fraction of the entire Backup Exec customer base.

But Symantec came around as the noise around the release grew to a roar. Executives eventually said addressing problems in Backup Exec was at the top of their priority list after the company underwent an executive shuffle – Stephen Bennet replaced former CEO Enrique Salem in July. Even still, executives projected that fully addressing the myriad problems would likely take the rest of the year and into 2013.

But it wasn't lost on the Symantec, as well as the Backup Exec team, that the product needed work.  Symantec has said it aimed to restore the popular job view monitor in a subsequent SP 2 release slated some time this fall. Meanwhile, a future SP 3 release is set to contain features that support multi-server backup jobs and capabilities that  prioritize server backup order.

But that's down the road. In the meantime, competing storage vendors are sharpening their knives. The months-long Backup Exec kerfuffle has opened the floodgates for other smaller, less popular backup vendors to step in and fill the gaping void left by Symantec.

One partner on the Spiceworks Inc. forum, known as JasonCH2200, referenced AppAssure as a viable alternative:

"I just checked out AppAssure's latest backup product and I am amazed. One of the most important aspects of a good backup system is restoration time and this product blew me away with its simplicity and a ability to drill down any DB (Exchange, Sharepoint and SQL objects) and restore at a granular left in no time at all. What also impressed me was how well it worked with VMware. Baremetal restores were a snap, in addition to its flexibility backing up to colocation DR sites."

Meanwhile, backup and archiving firm Unitrends recently announced an extension to Symantec Backup Exec's competitive replacement program that offered up to 50 percent discount for organizations switching from Symantec Backup Exec to a Unitrends solution. It also equips partners with dedicated demand generation, marketing support and advertising. The program, which would have expired last quarter, is now extended through Sept. 30.

"As Q2 wound to a close, my phone began ringing with partners asking for a program extension," said Bob Gagnon, Unitrends' vice president of channel sales, "and I'm thrilled to announce we're going to do just that. Unitrends is committed to a channel-focused sales program and we look forward to working closely together with our partners to not only deliver innovative solutions, but also disruptive pricing promotions that will allow them to grow their businesses alongside ours."

Backup Exec is by far one of partners' top selling products. Meanwhile, Symantec leads the backup and recovery market, which is dominated by a handful of major players, including EMC Corp., CommVault and IBM. And as such, the vast majority of partners will likely stay with the popular product in an effort to avoid costly replacement and licensing hassles.

The debacle, though, represents a chink in Symantec's storage armor – and one that promises to open the door for stronger competitors and compel partners to hunt for solutions with a few less headaches down the road.

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