bright ideas

CommVault - Not Just A Backup Product


I'll just have the usual thanks!

Why is it that most companies simply order the same item from the CommVault menu? Is it because that's what they have always done and it's not broken, so why fix it? Is it because CommVault is viewed as being expensive? Perhaps the other features within the product are simply not known? Whatever the reason, in my experience the majority of customers stick with what they are used to, namely CommVault Backup, and do not appear to venture too far from the core functionality.

For the brave souls that do actually venture wider, those customers typically do so to meet an audit/compliance requirement, not through an internal initiative to add more value back to the business (i.e. save time, provide richer information).

This blog is intended to challenge the way most customers use CommVault now, and give you some insight into why it might be a good idea to dig into the value of some of the additional features.

Why care? So what if you just keep to the same product? Having been involved with a number of CommVault solutions over the years, I thought it might be useful to expose what I think is a common position, dig into what I perceive the reasons are, and to then comment on what could overcome them.

If we start with what I believe are the common reasons for not branching out, they are:

  • CommVault has a complex pricing model and the cost of implementing new features is not understood.
  • Value and benefits from additional features are simply not known.
  • Fear that implementation of certain functions may lock the customer in with that product.

Still on simpana version 9?  Get the ultimate guide on how to plan your CommVault upgrade


Complex pricing. Really?

When speaking with customers, one of the most common statements that I hear is that "CommVault is expensive". But what does that really mean? Value after all is relative. I will be the first to acknowledge that when looking at the book prices, the figures can be quite daunting, but what you are actually getting for your money, and how this stacks up against other enterprise products, especially when lined up with their 'true cost', is fairly comparable.

In the early days, CommVault was based on an "Agents and Options" pricing model whereby each server you wanted to backup had to be licensed separately, along with each storage device and in extension, each additional feature. It is possible that this is where the resistance to make use of additional functionality stems from, as it is perceived that doing so will cost something. However, a number of years ago CommVault introduced a new licensing model based purely on the amount of data that was being protected. Although there are differing levels of protection within this model, in general there is just one price per TB and all features are available. This has had the advantage of making CommVault easier to purchase, as you only need to provide the size of data that you want to protect. However, as all features are included in this pricing, the perception now is that the product is expensive, especially if not all features are utilised. A no-win situation!

In order to combat this, CommVault has recently introduced new pricing based around "Solution Sets". These move away from the one-size-fits-all approach and instead target specific common environments. If a customer has a purely virtualised environment, then a solution is put together based on the number of VMs to protect. If they only want laptop protection or email archiving, then pricing is calculated per user. These models are typically much simpler to understand, and future scaling can be easily linked with the application being protected.

Drinking the Kool-aid of other features

CommVault has always stated that its goal is to become a modern data management company, and it just so happened that the first step in becoming that came through backup. But now that the product is protecting all that data, what else can it do with it? In my opinion the real value comes from taking all that data and allowing the user to access or analyse it in a useful fashion.

It is this advanced use that I very rarely see. CommVault has often been installed simply to meet a compliance or auditing requirement around getting backups, without any real consideration given to what other value it can offer. However, in environments where advanced features have been deployed, the benefits are real.

One of the greatest return on investments that can be made is by implementing self-service restore and search. Enabling users the ability to search their own backed up files and restore them themselves, can cut down service desk calls significantly. In cases where calls are logged but information from the user is vague at best ("I need a file back but I can't remember the exact location/date/filename"), being able to search on more tangible details that the user can recall saves administrators from manually trawling through endless backup jobs in attempts to locate things. As environments grow from millions to billions of files, such tools can be invaluable.

Are you being locked in?

No hiding from this one - yes. But this is true with comparable products as well. With any data protection product, the data that has been protected will outlive the life of the product itself, and remain valid based on the retention required for that data.

One of the first additional features that customers consider implementing is CommVault archiving. Whereas traditional backup just takes a copy of production data for longer term retention, archiving is the process of moving infrequently accessed or old data out of the production environment and putting it in a secondary, often cheaper location. Doing so allows valuable production resources to be allocated to more immediate requirements. Whilst this offers significant benefits on the production storage resources, the common fear is that once data is moved in this way, the associated lock in is inherently worse as the only method of retrieval is back though the CommVault system. Unfortunately in some respects this is true, however that being said, it doesn't mean that implementing such a system should be ruled out, as often the benefits of doing so outweigh the risk of lock in.

First (and often foremost), in the capacity licensing model the cost per TB for archive data is often significantly cheaper than that for backup, Therefore moving data into archive can save both on CommVault licensing, and on production storage requirements. Once data is moved off production storage other benefits are then realised - e.g. backup sizes are reduced and so jobs complete quicker. Application performance can increase as the volumes of data they have to manage are reduced, and whilst you can effectively keep increasing the data storage for end users, you no longer have to continue buying more disks for your high speed, expensive storage devices.

Break the habit

Hopefully I have been able to provide some insight into some of the benefits available outside of the standard backup functionality of the CommVault product, as well as dispel some of the myths associated with doing so. I recommend you challenge your data management strategy and review whether you can get more value out of it.


Let us know your experiences of utilising advanced backup features, and which ones you get the most value from.

Author: Paul Hallett

Paul is a data protection specialist with the principal responsibility of developing and delivering our Commvault managed services.

12 November 2014 / 0 Comments