Synology Active Backup for Business

The Curious Codex

          6 Votes   Published 2024-05-11, Updated 2024-06-16



Synology Active Backup for Business

The Author
GEN UK Blog

By Richard (Senior Partner)

Richard has been with the firm since 1992 and was one of the founding partners

Can Synology Compete in the Backup Space

Screenshot 2024-05-11 at 19.57.52

We've been Synology Partners since the DS101 in 2011, and a large section of our own infrastructure is hosted on high-end Synology Rackstations. Having said that, it's not all be plain sailing.

Synology hardware is reliable, and has a good ROI, we have some rackstations on maintenance that are 10+ years old and still running just fine, and the firmware is probably one of the best implemented HTML GUI's in the industry. We've been using Synology for decades with RSYNC, a popular linux file synchronisation protocol, to perform automated and adhoc backups across the network, and Synology has had 'Drive' for a good 8 years now that allows user workstations to keep copies of locally hosted files on the NAS. Additionally, Synology DSM supports SMB, AFP (Including Bonjour / Time-machine) as well as NFS, FTP and even iSCSI which makes it very compatible with pretty much everything we encounter.

Enter Active Backup for Business

Launched a couple of years ago now, ABB promised a centralised backup system that many of us are familiar with, like BackupEXEC, Veeam, etc. Despite the promise, the product fell short almost immediately for a catalogue of issues.

  • The Linux Agents broke Linux and caused boot failures
  • The Mac Agents caused conflicts with Time-machine, as well as requiring kernel extensions to be installed
  • The Virtualisation features ONLY supported VMWare and Hyper-V
  • Disaster Reovery was, at the very best a struggle, and in some cases impossible, whereas competitors make it veemless ;)

Control and Command

There is no easy auto-deploy, so its a case of manual install on every endpoint. Great if you have five, not so much when you have fivehundred. We really should have had some form of auto-deploy on windows, mac and linux using a push installer or other method, the same as the competition do.

The backup criteria is pretty much useless, you can backup the entire machine, or the system volume. For many companies a complete image is not required, you can simply re-install a PC from the install partition, the only important information to backup is \Users on Windows, /Users on MacOS, and ~/ on Linux. We don't need everything, just the stuff that we can't quickly re-install. This pushes endpoints away from ABB and into Drive, which better handles this sort of scenario, yet, Drive doesn't scale particularly well, its great with 50 workstations, at 500 and it really starts to struggle.

Virtualisation

One vital part of modern infrastructure is virtualisation, and being able to backup and restore virtual machines at a snap is of course mandatory. ABB Supports only VMWare (ESXi) and Hyper-V, there is no support for KVM, Citrix, QEMU, VirtualBox, XCP-NG, EC2 or ProxMox, many of which are in rapid take-up by ex-VMware users leaving the sinking ship. The ability to backup most of these is not complex, nor beyond their abilities, there simply isn't any plans to implement. That being said, ABB hasn't changed for a long time so there's a fair chance that its dead. If you need to backup from most of these platforms, you can do it with their native tools, and NFS / iSCSI.

Databases

There is no support for any databases, and you know this is a major component of enterprise backup. MariaDB, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, MongoDB, InfluxDB etc all need a reliable system of backup. Again, if you want to get your hands dirty you can make it work using built in tools, and then mount a NFS/SMB volume and copy it over, but you'll have to manually handle retention, etc which isn't ideal for everyone.

Competitors

This article wouldn't be complete without a mention of the big players in the backup space, and their complex and unfathomable pricing.

  • Veeam, which has been around for a good few years handles pretty much most things from servers, to virtualisation, to databases. The pricing is a little, well, unhelpful. It's licensed per vm, per server, per this per that and it can easily become expensive, and if you want 'support' for your expensive backup solution, that'll double or triple the cost.
  • Acronis, who have been around almost as long as computers, have an offering but its even more complex and charges for usage rather than a one off charge, and for many that pushes it out of the market.
  • Veritas Backup Exec, has also been around for a while, but, again wants to charge for use rather than fixed pricing. This can lead to escalating costs, and for many its simply not worth the risk becaues you can't easily switch/change.
  • Nakivo Backup, a fairly new player compared to our list so far, but again has very strange, and some would say deceptive pricing, The perpetual license is fairly keen, but charged per 'socket', I mean, seriously? this flavour of vagueness just pushes this one out of the park for many.
  • Bacula (the paid version not the open source of the same name) is again almost impossible to price, which means its not simple, its awkward and ever escalating.
  • Retrospect, has been around for decades, and has simple and straightforward pricing, it's £4k for as much as you want. Simple right? very, but retrospect has yet to support virtualisation, but I think that's coming.
  • UrBackup, an open source and completely free backup solution (urbackup.org) features clients for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well offering images and snapshots, but does not support virtualisation or databasess. UrBackup is a worthy competitors to some of those above, and indeed to ABB.

Summary

I firmly believe that ABB could be a great product, but without uptake there's no drive to develop it further, and without the feature set there's no uptake, which is a real shame. I think many people would be happy to pay a one-off license fee for ABB if it competed with the other 'made-up-as-we-go' pricing models of the competition. No one needs to be paying a 'subscription' to backup their stuff, that's absurd, so there definitely is a market. Why not reach out to Synology and let them know, they are known to be a responsive company.


          6 Votes   Published 2024-05-11, Updated 2024-06-16

--- This content is not legal or financial advice & Solely the opinions of the author ---


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