Part 2: BackupAssist Classic vs BackupAssist ER – Differences under the hood

BackupAssist Classic and BackupAssist ER are two different Windows Server backup products that satisfy different needs. What differences in product technologies could affect your choice of one over the other?

Part 1 of the comparison of BackupAssist Classic vs BackupAssist ER highlighted the Where, When and Why of our latest product BackupAssist ER, specifically the differences in recommended scenarios vs our core software, BackupAssist Classic.

Here in part 2, we take an in depth look at the product technology differences that give the two products their unique benefits.

Technology BackupAssist ER BackupAssist Classic
1 Operating systems and backup technologies Modern OS support and a brand new imaging engine Wide OS support and built-in imaging improvements
2 Backup strategies Best practice D2D2C strategy Build your own strategy
3 Configuration choices Simple configuration Flexible configuration
4 Recovery capabilities DRaaS-like recovery options Targeted recovery options
5 Physical vs VM deployment Consistent capability for all machines Designed for physical machines and Hyper-V servers

Technology 1: Operating systems and backup technologies

BackupAssist ER
Windows Server 2012 and later, 64-bit only

Windows 10 and later, 64-bit only

Brand new reverse incremental imaging
BackupAssist Classic
Windows Server 2008 and later, 64-bit only

Windows 7 and Windows 10, 32-bit and 64-bit

Takes full advantage of built-in Windows features
BackupAssist ER: Modern OS support and a brand new imaging engine.Click to expand
BackupAssist ER takes advantage of the VHDX capabilities of the modern Windows OS with its brand new NextGen imaging engine.

NextGen imaging continues to uphold BackupAssist’s effective strategy of using non-proprietary technologies wherever possible, while providing many important improvements over BackupAssist Classic’s imaging support, including:

  1. NextGen stores the history using a “reverse incremental” system
  2. Each link in the chain is a backup stored as a virtual differencing disk (VHDX) pointing to the next oldest differencing disk, ending with a full VHDX
  3. The backups can be optionally saved with encryption
  4. The latest backup is a full backup. This optimises access to the latest backup, which is the most common backup that users recover from.
  5. This provides automatic recovery if a previous backup was interrupted.
  6. Using open formats means all backups are visible, browsable and recoverable using built-in Windows tools.
  7. There is no reliance on obscure VSS technologies to maintain the backup history.
  8. The entire set of backups can be simply copied to another location in order to migrate to new devices or to provide additional archive copies.
BackupAssist Classic: Wide OS support and built-in imaging improvements.Click to expand
In contrast, while BackupAssist Classic does support modern Windows OS, it also continues to support older operating systems such as Windows Server 2008 (r1) and Server 2008 R2, as well as Windows 7 workstations. In addition, Classic will work with your legacy 32-bit desktops.

The many protection methods supported by BackupAssist Classic across all these operating systems are made possible by utilising the extensive built-in technologies available in all Windows operating systems. For example:

  1. Classic uses and expands on the Windows Server Backup feature to perform fast incremental imaging backups to a wide range of destinations using a Data Container.
  2. Easy to use file backups are improved with our Single Instance Store that takes advantage of Windows’ file features (such as hard links) to reduce the amount of storage space required when storing many historical restore points.

Technology 2: Backup strategies

BackupAssist ER
Quickly and easily implement a robust backup and system recovery strategy locally and in the cloud
BackupAssist Classic
Choose from a suite of backup protection types to match nearly any requirement.
BackupAssist ER: Best practice D2D2C strategy.Click to expand
BackupAssist ER is a product designed to give you many of the benefits and recovery options provided by DRaaS solutions at a fraction of the cost. It does this by giving users the ability to easily configure a simple but very powerful backup and recovery scenario that we call Disk-to-disk-to-cloud (D2D2C), and the ability to supplement this with additional Disk-to-disk backups (D2D).

With D2D2C, BackupAssist ER combines its NextGen imaging with our unique Cloud Backup technology, to give users a fully automated solution saving backups locally and in the cloud with just one backup job. And you can limit the bandwidth usage to reduce the impact on your clients. Every backup after the first is incremental and only transmits chunks (parts of files) that don’t already exist in the cloud backup. Each chunk is then encrypted and compressed before being sent, which further decreases bandwidth requirements and the amount of storage required in the cloud.

With Cloud Backup in ER, the data that is saved into the NextGen image backup is replicated into the cloud, in lightweight data chunks. And you can limit the bandwidth usage to reduce the impact on your clients

D2D2C backups means you can recover individual files and application components from the local and the cloud backup: both local and cloud backups also support full system recovery.
BackupAssist Classic: Build your own strategy.Click to expand
In Classic the system is quite different, but similarly very powerful, allowing users to apply or build their own strategy, by mixing and matching from the various Protection Types available.

Users can choose to configure one, two, or even many different backup jobs to use at different times and/or for protecting different datasets from the installation.

  1. System Protection imaging backups support file, application, and local system recoveries.
  2. Cloud Backup uses similar technology as ER (deduplication, encryption, compression, bandwidth control) to support backups of files and application data to Microsoft Azure Blob Storage and Amazon S3 – but does not support full system backups.
  3. File Protection file backups allow maintenance of a simple mirror, as well as efficient storage of many days of backup history, all saved as simple file copies.
  4. File Archiving allows file backups to easy-to-use zip files on a wide range of destinations.

Technology 3: Configuration choices

BackupAssist ER
Select bare metal and specific volumes

Back up to local media or NAS

Copy to Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure

S3-compatible provider support coming soon

Simple backup report notifications
BackupAssist Classic
Select individual files, folders, volumes, bare metal

Back up to DAS, NAS, iSCSI, rotating hdd/rdx/tape

Also back up to rsync, Amazon S3, and Microsoft Azure

Flexible scheduling options

Advanced media management and notifications
BackupAssist ER: Simple configuration.Click to expand
The “sweet spot” of BackupAssist ER is giving users enduring resilience against cyber events that could otherwise cripple your business, and this means system backups and multiple system recovery options.

With ER there’s no fiddling around with individual file or application selections – the idea is to install the software, configure it to back up the entire system – all system and data volumes – and just let it run.

To encourage this, many optimisations have been made to simplify the user interface and encourage best practices in backup:

  1. Backup selections default to backing up system volumes (Bare Metal)
  2. Whole volumes and contained VSS application components like databases can be protected, however individual file/folder/VSS selections are not supported
  3. Destination support is reduced to fixed local hardware like internal drives or single DAS drives or a local NAS, plus a choice of Cloud storage on either Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure Blob Storage – S3-compatible storage support is coming soon!
  4. With no rotating media to worry about, there’s no need to choose a retention scheme. Instead just choose how many backups to keep locally, and how many backups to keep in the cloud
BackupAssist Classic: Flexible configuration.Click to expand
As outlined above, BackupAssist Classic supports a range of protection types that can be arranged to suit many different situations. Complementing these tools are a myriad of flexible options within each job type that allow users to set up the most effective backup strategy for them. Options include:

  1. Flexible backup selections including individual files and folders from the local machine, files and folders from network drives, individual VSS applications or components (like Exchange and SQL databases and SharePoint), or full volumes (and even Bare Metal for System Protection jobs).
  2. Many different destinations including DAS and NAS as mentioned for ER, but also rotating hard disks and rdx cartridges, iSCSI targets – and with addons, tape drives and rsync and cloud backups are also supported.
  3. Multiple scheduling options including advanced schemes like Grandfather-father-son and fully flexible custom schemes, as well as simple schemes like “Use all available space”.
  4. Advanced rotating media management features like reminder notifications and media preparation.

Technology 4: Recovery capabilities

BackupAssist ER
Recovery locally or in the cloud from any backup using VM Instant Boot and Lifeline Recovery, and perform file, application, and Exchange item recoveries
BackupAssist Classic
System recoveries for System backups, Hyper-V granular file and full-guest recoveries from Hyper-V backups, and local file, application, and Exchange item recoveries
BackupAssist ER: DRaaS-like recovery options.Click to expand
BackupAssist ER performs file- and application-consistent backups, so it supports backup and recovery of files and folders as well as Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SQL Server databases and other VSS-aware applications and components.

However BackupAssist ER’s most powerful feature is its system recovery capabilities, supporting the ability to recovery your system locally or in the cloud, from any bare metal backup, from any installation. The Locate backup feature allows a recovery process of a backup from another machine. There are three key recovery components in BackupAssist ER’s repertoire:

Lifeline Recovery:
  1. A single Lifeline Recovery Media generated by BackupAssist ER supports full system recovery of a NextGen imaging backup on any ISO or USB boot media supported platform.
  2. The recovery environment supports recovery to dissimilar hardware, recovery to smaller disks, recovery to a specific target disk per volume, and the addition of storage and network drivers at runtime
  3. Can be used on any type of OS recovery
VM Instant Boot
  1. Instantly recover your system as a Hyper-V guest, using virtual disks linked to the backup.
  2. Gets you up and running quickly when there’s no time to waste.
  3. Every change made while running is stored in differencing disks so no data is lost, and the backup is not touched.
Download from Cloud:
  1. If the system and local backups are both lost, use Download from Cloud to retrieve a backup from the cloud.
  2. Then run a Lifeline Recovery or VM Instant Boot to perform the recovery
BackupAssist Classic: Targeted recovery options.Click to expand
BackupAssist Classic also generates file and application-consistent backups supporting file and application recoveries for Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SQL Servers and other VSS applications. And Classic supports local system recoveries from System Protection backups, using the powerful RecoverAssist recovery media.

In addition Classic includes a comprehensive suite of recovery options for backups of Hyper-V guests when it is installed on a Hyper-V Server. With a single backup job protecting one or more guests, you can use:

  1. Hyper-V Granular Restore to restore files and folders from any protected Hyper-V guest.
  2. Exchange Granular Restore to recover mail, contacts and calendar items from Exchange servers running on Hyper-V guests.
  3. Entire Hyper-V guests can be recovered in full, or using Rapid VM recovery, which is like ER’s VM Instant Boot, but only for guests).

Technology 5: Physical vs VM deployment

BackupAssist ER
Product model and recovery options are the same across physical, virtual, and cloud machines
BackupAssist Classic
Designed for physical machines and Hyper-V servers
BackupAssist ER: Consistent capability for all machines.Click to expand
With ER your backup and recovery options are the same whether your windows installation is deployed on physical hardware, on Hyper-V, VMWare or other virtualization platforms, or if it is installed on cloud infrastructure.

In all these cases BackupAssist ER is installed on the machine being protected, and supports recoveries of the files, applications, or the full system for that machine.

This focus on consistency has allowed many simplifications in the product that otherwise would not be possible. For example, one major feature difference is that ER does not support VSS application backup of Hyper-V guests, nor does it support granular recovery of files from guests or other Hyper-V recovery types.

Without Hyper-V support (and with many other intelligent design decisions incorporated) ER becomes a much simpler product – and this means an easier product for you to configure, maintain and use, and gives a streamlined experience for you and your clients.
BackupAssist Classic: Designed for physical machines and Hyper-V servers.Click to expand
Designed for use on physical machines, especially machines running Microsoft Exchange and Hyper-V Server, the Classic product provides key features to support these use cases. The Hyper-V backup and recovery features have been described above, and for Exchange there’s the ability to recover entire mailbox and public-folder databases, and Exchange Granular Restore to recovery individual items into a PST or directly into a live Exchange Server.

Have you got other scenarios you would like to share or ask about using any BackupAssist’s solutions? Let us know if you would like more in depth articles like this.

Meanwhile, you may like to take a look at Part 1 of the BackupAssist Classic vs BackupAssist ER or, go get a free trial to check out the two products for yourself

BackupAssist ER
Express Recovery & Expert Response

Protect Windows Servers, physical & virtual, with disk-to-disk-to-cloud (D2D2C) backups.
Recover anywhere – locally or in the cloud.
VM Instant Boot cuts downtime to near zero.
CryptoSafeGuard shields against ransomware

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BackupAssist Classic
Classic Backups for Windows Servers

Protect Windows Servers, physical & virtual, with traditional backup & recovery
Achieve onsite, offsite, offline backups
Add-ons for Hyper-V, Exchange, SQL & tape
CryptoSafeGuard shields against ransomware

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