Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Symantec sell two, fairly similar, backup products - we're a NetBackup house but should I be looking at Backup Exec?

Who would win in a fight and why? :)

share|improve this question
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I haven't used either for a couple of versions, but here is what was true at least of a few years ago (in my subjective opinion, of course).


  • Extensive list of agents covering just about everything
  • Very long history on non-Windows servers, which means it covers them very well
  • Long history supporting the datacenter, have moved into the 'workgroup'.
  • Supports a much wider array of very expensive backup devices. If you really do need eight 1000 slot tape libraries, NetBackup will support it. On Solaris or on Windows.
  • More expensive per-device than BackupExec


  • Long history supporting the workgroup, trying to move into the datacenter.
  • Long history supporting Windows, not as robust on non-Windows but support is there.
  • Plenty of device support for up to mid-size libraries.
  • Cheaper than NetBackup for environments that are mostly Windows, and have only a few backup devices.

But that's just my opinion.

share|improve this answer
Great answer, my experience also - nice to know we agree. – Chopper3 Jun 8 '09 at 17:50

I got a chance to work with both being used in the same datacenter during a contract last year. I got a chance to do some bare-metal restores with NetBackup (which I've done several times with Backup Exec), and to do some optimization of two different NetBackup environments. Some of the observations I can offer, based on that experience, are as follows:

NetBackup is clearly shows its Unix-based heritage. I am a long-time Backup Exec user (clear back to when it was "Arcadia Backup Exec"), and I was initially shocked at how steep the learning-curve was in NetBackup as compared to Backup Exec. Once I got a handle on the NetBackup "metaphor", and realized that I was looking at an old-school Unix application, deep down, I started to really enjoy using it. You're pretty much expected to be capable of writing scripts, dealing with text-based configuration files, and being able to diagnose issues yourself with NetBackup. It's very powerful, but not necessarily a "point and click" operation.

Backup Exec has a Windows heritage, and you don't often find yourself out of the GUI. It does a good job backing-up Windows hosts and applications. I've used it to backup Netware (ick, ugh) machines with no problems. I've never had occasion to use its Linux support, but I'd expect that it's decent.

Both products are a pain to deal with when they don't work properly. Backup Exec has debugging modes that make diagnosis easier. NetBackup is more verbose in its output as a matter of course.

If you intend to upgrade versions of hosts or applications or to get new tape drives you should pretty much count on keeping a support contract on both products.

If you want things like data de-duplication, better SAN support, a wide variety of host operating systems, streaming to multiple tape drives simultaneous (recently added to Backup Exec 12d, I believe, but not as time-tested as NetBackup), and massive scaling, NetBackup is your choice.

If you're a strictly Windows shop (or, perhaps, with just a few non-Windows server computers) and the concerns that I've outlined above aren't a big deal, go with Backup Exec.

Oh-- and NetBackup is much more expensive than Backup Exec.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for your answer - we're a mixed RHEL/W2K8/ESX house with a fair budget so have always gone for NetBackup but it's always worth looking around once in a while. – Chopper3 Jun 8 '09 at 17:52

Netbackup is still the higher-end product with better support for platforms other than Windows and for more expensive tape libraries. BackupExec can handle a pretty big data center, but it is more Windows-centric and you're on your own for some of the cross-platform agents. That said, we had no problem using the generic unix agent on a couple of Linux systems.

The only reason I could see for switching from NetBackup "down" to BackupExec would be to save some money.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.