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MSP360 Review 2021

Formerly known as CloudBerry Lab, MSP360 has leveraged, and somewhat improved upon, the company’s managed backup software since we last tested it under the CloudBerry moniker. The current solution is primarily aimed at managed service providers intending to resell its services; however, it’s available directly, too, as long as you’re willing to put in some additional configuration work. Part of that is because the service lacks its own dedicated storage resource. Instead MSP360 will let you select between a wide variety of third-party cloud storage resources, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Backblaze B2, and other vendors as well as any local storage you might have available. Overall, it’s a solid business cloud backup solution that ticks most of the boxes for a small to midsized business (SMB). Only its lack of mobile support as well as a setup process that really requires your own IT staff keep it behind our Editors’ Choice winner in this category, Arcserve.

The configuration issue is made a little worse by most companies’ current state of having so many workers toiling away from home. MSP360 does a solid job addressing the continuity needs of a centralized office. The software supports backups for Apple macOS and Microsoft Windows 10 desktops as well as those running Linux, which you won’t always find in the competition. In the data closet, it handles both Microsoft and Linux server versions and also supports backing up virtual machines, covering hypervisors from both Hyper-V and VMware. Either can be backed up in a single pass on a host level, which makes backups faster and therefore more regular. For businesses that rely on Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange, MSP360 offers dedicated agents for these platforms so you can reset them separately.

Of special interest to small business is that MSP360 is also designed to backup data from popular software as a service (SaaS) applications, notably Microsoft 365 Business and Google G-Suite. And if you’d rather not face the task of choosing a third-party cloud storage target provider, MSP360 offers an integrated storage partnership with Wasabi, which is a convenience for many small businesses who’d rather manage payments for both services on a single tab. 

But while the Wasabi partnership is convenient for those lacking much in the way of an internal IT staff, companies that do have internal IT will likely forego it since having the ability to design a backup and continuity architecture around self-selected cloud storage platforms makes for a highly customizable solution–and that’s important these days with so many workers and their corporate PCs permanently spread out over so much more territory. As mentioned, MSP360 is open to almost any storage target, from third-party storage, like Amazon S3 or Rackspace, to a network attached storage (NAS) device on the local network or even just a second hard disk on the computer that’s being backed up. It’s all fair game for MSP360. This target flexibility and the sheer range of licenses available can make MSP360 an attractive option for companies seeking higher-than-average control over a layered and customizable cloud backup solution.

Pricing and Setup

MSP360 for businesses starts at $10.00 per endpoint regardless of whether the client is running Apple macOS or Microsoft Windows. This is the price before volume discounts and special incentives, which you might be able to negotiate if you’re buying in enough bulk (discuss with MSP360 sales staff for more specific information). The price goes up to $20.00 per server endpoint because servers are more expensive environments to manage. As mentioned earlier, MSP360 can include cloud storage through its partner Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage. If you take this option, know that Wasabi’s cloud storage service charges $5.99 per terabyte, per month. For those wisely looking to evaluate the service, MSP360 is available as a free trial for 14 days.

Once you’ve signed up for an MSP360 account, you can access the service through the administration web console. From here, you download the client for your particular devices. In our case, this was a single Windows 10 laptop. An excellent feature we noticed right away is that you immediately have the option to set up two-factor authentication (2FA). This is something that we definitely recommend to fully protect not only your backed up data but the backup process itself.

After downloading the client, you need to run the installer with administrator privileges for the local device, otherwise the wizard will not run. That is likely a disappointment to many IT people now that so many users are working from home. It means someone will need to install the client as an administrator on any machine you want MSP360 to backup. That’s easy enough to do if you’re setting up a new computer and then shipping it out to staff working at home; but for those who already have their PCs humming away in their home office, it means an end user will need to do the installation. If you’ve got the ability to take remote control of those machines, most IT professionals will likely opt for that since it’ll make the process quite a bit easier. Then again, once we had administrator access, the client installation was both quick and painless, so having end users perform the install might not be such a headache after all as long as you don’t balk at giving them admin credentials.

The Initial Backup

Like many cloud backup clients, MSP360 will give you the option to run a cloud backup as soon as it has been installed on the target drive. This benefits end users since that initial backup can serve as the template for future incremental backups. There are, however, a number of steps and settings to consider before this initial backup can take place, which again can make trusting end users to perform installation problematic without detailed instructions, which you’ll have to write and distribute yourself.

The console will present two options, backup for specified files and folders, or an image-based backup, which usually means simply snapping the state of the entire drive. For this to take place successfully, however, you need to select a target, meaning a storage bucket where the backed up bits will be stored. As mentioned above, this can be anything from a third-party cloud backup provider to just another hard disk on the computer being backed up. Most small businesses or business owners trying out the service will not have a cloud storage provider at such an early stage so you’ll need to make sure there’s a local resource available for your evaluation period.

We ran a test backup on a local folder as well as to a Synology NAS elsewhere on our test network. This is where we found more potential difficulties for inexperienced users since there’s no step-by-step wizard to get you up and running. The client software installs easily, but once it’s installed, getting it setup and running isn’t simply a matter of clicking “next” several times in a wizard’s dialog box. This is likely because there are so many options on how and where to backup that MSP360 knows it won’t control. You can access MSP360 support on a 24/7/365 basis, so there will be experts available to help users untangle many setup issues, but since the back end of your backup process might be complex, there’ll be a point where only your IT department can help.

For IT professionals looking to backup servers, the process is better. The Online Backup Desktop/Server application looks like a classic Win32 application or utility. It offers access to various backup plans, restore plans, backup storage options, as well as backup history. There’s also the option to make a bootable USB as part of the recovery solution. Under Tools, there are a variety of options for tailoring how backups happen. These include being able to show confirmation messages on your system tray, protect the console with a master password, connection options, bandwidth options, proxy settings, retention policies (how many versions of backups to keep and when to delete them), logging, and repository settings.

That’s a lot of customization possibilities, but even small businesses will find that helpful in the long run, especially these days. There are simply too many remote targets to backup, including multiple devices in a single home office. But such a customized architecture is likely going to be complex to the average end user. Multiply remote workers by more than one backup target layer (meaning you’re backing up to more than one storage resource for better data safety) and you’ve got a fairly complex setup that really requires some expertise to configure.

Backup Features

MSP360 Backup Installation

MSP360 provides a range of backup modes in addition to the standard file-based backup. The image-based backup feature mentioned above creates a full operating system (OS) or system state backup that can be applied by using a special bootable USB that you can create inside of MSP360. You can use this to build a single file that not only restores an instance of a critical app, but also the state of the instance at the time of the backup (meaning all settings as they were) as well as the underlying server OS and its settings, and you can do this in Linux or Windows Server.

The ability to restore from a snapshot of the entire drive or device can be critical after a data disaster, like a malware attack or a hard drive failure. MSP360 also offers no limitations on what its customers can back up. Businesses can backup large high-resolution video files or entire virtual machines (VMs). MSP360 also allows a range of options if you want to backup specific folders, directories, or instances of applications. And everything is backed up so that it can be restored easily.

Restoration can happen in several ways, again including everything from individual file folders to entire disk images. MS360 lets you take a snapshot of your entire boot volume, which we did on our test PC, but then restore only specific directories in a backup without having to restore the entire volume. We selected the Windows 10 Documents folder as the main directory for our backup as we had populated it with numerous documents and files.

Next to its core mission of backup data, MSP360 also does a solid job of providing other security measures, which is important since you’re storing all your key data somewhere else on the Internet. The multifactor capability mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg.

For one thing, data is encrypted in transit with SSL/TLS protocols, and then also on-site if you have a local storage resource where data is also stored before being sent to the cloud. Locally, it can be encrypted with the AES algorithm (using a key length of 128-256 bits). Once the data arrives at its cloud destination, it’s considered “at rest.” Depending on the cloud storage provider where it’s resting, MSP360 also supports server-side encryption; so if you’re backing up to an AWS S3 instance, for example, you can take advantage of additional encryption from MSP360 or Amazon. The only feature we found missing as part of MSP360’s security tool kit was that there aren’t any anti-malware or antivirus components to this cloud backup solution. That’s something you can find in some competitors, notably Acronis Backup, which also has a wide range of data protection capabilities, though at a much higher subscription price.

The fact that MSP360 is cloud storage provider agnostic is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives customers a lot of latitude in choosing either their favorite cloud storage provider, or (and this is important for IT professionals in distributed situations) the best possible combination of cloud storage providers for both data redundancy and backup/restore performance to and from the cloud. A number of competing solutions offer some leeway, but are clearly skewed towards one cloud storage provider or another and their products and features reflect that. But on the other hand, this also adds a lot of complexity to your initial backup design as well as to your overall costs, especially if you have to figure out some way of installing the MSP360 reliably in 100, 200, or potentially many more devices running in widely distributed home offices.

Backup Built for the Public Cloud

MSP360 Public Cloud

Still, even though MSP360 may require more fine tuning and finessing than much of its competition, it’s ultimately one of the more open solutions we tested because its core software is flexible and it works with such a long list of cloud storage vendors on the back end. For smaller businesses, this means more IT work, but also a lot more freedom of choice. Sure, that might help cut costs for those few offices that are still operating centrally, but that really isn’t much of a consideration anymore.

These days, the majority of offices are widely distributed, so a solution like MSP360 likely won’t be cheaper. But it can certainly be better molded to provide exactly the services your business needs to keep your data safe no matter where it’s stored or originally generated. And that’s across basic backup, the design of an overall data continuity architecture, as well as data security. For instance, a legal firm that has clients in the federal government may store its own company data on Microsoft Azure, but data from its federal government client might require Amazon’s AWS GovCloud. MSP360 gives that kind of customer the freedom to do that, which you can’t say about all of its competition.

Businesses looking for a simple, straightforward backup solution will probably want to keep looking or look very closely at the MSP360/Wasabi bundle, especially those for whom in-house IT talent is scarce. But if you’ve got IT chops and especially if you’re an actual managed service provider looking to get into the storage and backup business, then this is exactly the kind of open and configurable solution you’re likely seeking.

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