The End of an Era: The End of Backup Exec

It’s the end of an era: the end of Backup Exec. Symantec has released a notice that it will stop selling the Backup Exec 3600 appliance on January 5, 2015. When this topic caught my eye while I was reading the latest cloud computing news, I must admit the announcement brought on a feeling of nostalgia about the early days in my IT career. Backup Exec was one of the earliest products that I supported and became proficient with, and now, about twenty years later, this announcement brings on what I would call an end of an era in itself. I understand that the Backup Exec 3600 appliance is a completely different product than what I worked with in those early days, but let me ask you this. How many of you reading this post have worked with some version of Backup Exec throughout your career? I am willing to make a small wager that if you have a few years under your belt, and especially if you have been working in IT since sometime around the turn of the century, you have.

This announcement is not really something new in and of itself, because Symantec had already indicated in November of last year that it would close down the Backup service in January of 2014 after an almost two-year run at it. In my opinion, Symantec was not able to present an offering that truly could compete with some of the other Backup as a Service platforms released since. In all practicality, it was not engineered or designed to have all the bells and whistles of its competitors. Symantec’s solution was designed to be a standalone system that focused on off-premises data protection for sites with no IT staff. In my opinion, that was a pretty good use case to focus on, considering that the smaller companies seem to have limited options. However, there was a dramatic and fundamental change in IT that left this type of solution lagging behind Symantec’s competitors’ offerings. That fundamental change was the introduction and acceptance of mobile devices and the demand for the ability to bring your own device.

It did not take long for Symantec to discover that “Customers want features such as synch & share with mobile access. Backup was not designed with these features in mind,” according to Symantec’s FAQ. “As a result, Symantec has decided to discontinue Backup in order to focus on more productive and feature rich cloud-based applications which include this type of functionality.” I believe this was the right business decision for Symantec to make. Otherwise, Symantec would have had to spend a great deal of time and resources to redevelop the solution with those features to have any chance of competing.

For that reason, I understand why the decision was made to shut down Backup But I have to ask—why not find partners that continue to work with your Symantec products to back up to any of the other Backup as a Service cloud providers? With the amount of time the Backup Exec product line has been on the market, it seems that keeping the backup engine in place, with options on where the data would go, could have presented a win-win opportunity for Symantec and others. Maybe I missed something in my research about Symantec’s vision for the future. And quite possibly, the demand for the product could have dwindled so much that it made more sense to cut and run. There may have been other deciding factors as well. I have heard comments that Backup Exec 2012 (BE2012) wasn’t greeted warmly by customers, that the promised upgrades took a long time to start shipping, that a huge amount of turmoil has been reported within Symantec, and that Symantec recently announced a plan to split itself into two companies. It would appear that there is no other option except for a change.

What is one company’s tragedy can be another company’s opportunity, and that is what companies like Unitrends and have seized upon, each presenting a migration plan and incentives for Backup Exec customers that are affected by this announcement. It looks like the current Backup Exec customers will have options available to them as they work to revise their backup and recovery strategy. That just leaves the question of what Symantec is going to evolve into during this period of change. In the meanwhile, for me, the end of Backup Exec marks an end of an era.

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