Agent-based Or Agentless Backup, Which Is Best?

Wed, 02/09/2015 - 15:38
Online Backup , Cloud Storage

Why Agent-based Backup is best for Cloud Backup

Many backup technologies offer excellent on-premise protection for a massive range of applications and hardware deployments. Historically, a backup environment would have a backup server pulling data from a live environment moving it onto disk, tape or a combination of the two at the same site or across the WAN to another site. This design works for the most part but has its limitations.

Should an organisation have a distributed environment, an on-premise solution may be required for each site. In this case, centralised management may be difficult, increasing management overhead and necessitating travel between sites. If an organisation has a single site, a method of off-siting backup data is required. If this process is a manual one, the potential for human error enters the equation. Alternatively, if a second application/service is used to offsite backup data, the management overhead and cost is increased, potentially even doubled. Lastly, if an organisation, like many today, faces consistent data growth, an existing solution may require regular upgrading / replacing to allow more backup data to be stored. For these reasons, many organisations now naturally look to the cloud for their backup and disaster recovery.


Why wouldn’t I use a ‘traditional’ backup technology

We've seen many of the classic LAN/WAN-designed backup products add "cloud connect' functionality to their technology in recent times but there remain fundamental design differences between cloud-based backup technologies and their "designed for on-premise first" counterparts. On-premise solutions were designed with the assumption that the data being protected resides in the same location as the primary target for backups and as such are significantly less optimised for use over public networks. Whilst work has been done to retrofit them for cloud usage, fundamental differences remain between products designed for the cloud and those designed for the data centre. These differences are typical most obvious in the areas of security/encryption and bandwidth usage.


What is Agentless Backup

An agentless backup solution, as the name would suggest, is able to complete the process of backing up data from a network without installing software (a.k.a. an agent) on to each device or data source. Agentless backup techniques are often found within cloud-based backup technologies with speed and ease of management usually outlined as benefits. Cloud backup solutions are designed to be flexible and with so many variations on how they can be implemented and configured different providers will argue the benefits of using an agentless backup solution over an agent-based backup solution.

Agentless data solutions require data to be identified and accessed for backup via an active network, as there is no need to install agents on each machine or device it could be argued that setting up an agentless solution can save valuable time and allow an organisation to protect their data more quickly.


An agent-based approach

An agent-based backup solution takes the approach of installing software (a.k.a. an agent) onto each machine, device or server that holds data that is being protected. This allows for backups to be taken independently from one another and many solutions will utilise a centralised management console to ensure all backups can be managed simply regardless of the number of backup agents.

The advantage of an agent-based approach is that, in the unlikely event of a client failing, it fails in isolation to the rest of the environment. The agent-based approach also allows you to benefit from distributed processing, resulting in faster, more efficient backups. Multiple, lightweight clients can be configured in a matter of minutes and will operate with limited effect on CPU.

The advantages of an agent-based approach include:

  • Robustness - In the unlikely event of a client failing, it fails in isolation to the rest of the environment.
  • Flexibility - Agent-based technology enables customers to backup any device from anywhere and restore to anywhere, whether that device is physical/virtual/a server/laptop/SAN or NAS, next to the data centre or on the other side of the planet without the requirement to implement a backup server on that location's LAN.
  • Efficiency - Protecting large volumes of data over limited bandwidth is the biggest challenge with cloud backup, an incremental forever agent-based backup negates the requirement to move unnecessary changed data from the virtual host offsite e.g. page file, this can reduce the data volume sent by up to 70%.
  • Performance - The agent-based approach also allows you to benefit from distributed processing, resulting in faster, more efficient backups. Multiple, lightweight clients can be configured in a matter of minutes.
  • Cost - Most cloud backup services are priced on data stored after de-duplication and compression. The more efficient agent-based approach enables customers to benefit from more capacity for their money.


In summary, different deployments and solutions will give different benefits and with no two environments the same it is vital to review solutions properly before a large-scale implementation. Cloud technologies are becoming more commonplace and ‘legacy’ or ‘traditional’ hardware-based backup solutions are being replaced. The security of data is a top priority for many organisations due to its growing value and the need to comply with industry guidelines, regulations and data protection laws. Adding any additional risk is an unlikely move for IT teams and agent-based backup solutions mitigate the chance of a single point of failure presented by agentless data backup solutions.

Redstor Pro takes an agent-based approach to backing up and protecting data, giving organisations the full benefits of the cloud, cutting risk and increasing protection.

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