Good inexpensive server backup software

I currently use Acronis & Backup Exec  in the $600-$900 range for my servers.  I see several other backup softwares advertised to run on servers for less than $300.  In setting up a new solution is there a benefit to using the more expensive solution.
I like Acronis because it does image backup, so if RAID drives do happen to fail all at once I can put the image back onto any drive(s) and be back up and running in less than an hour.
The downside with it as is with Backup Exec is that if completely new hardware is required you must first install the OS then restore your data files which can mean a half day of down time.
Can anyone post positive results of the inexpensive softwares vs. the ones that I currently use?

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Amanda, which is free, is well respected.  I would look at that.  One thing you did not get into is specifics about your implementation that may disqualify certain packages.   Performing a hot backup of a SQL database or an exchange server would be a problem with many products out there.    Of course if you migrated your system to virtual machines then you could take instant hot snapshots if you do it right.

Also, don't think so much as getting a good backup solution.  Think about good recovery software.   This is more important as backing up.  How many GB of data needs to be restored in how long of a time.  I know you need a bare metal restore ... but do you also need it to be flexible so you can restore to similar hardware, not necessarily that system.

Thomas RushCommented:
What is your backup target: tape or disk?  What capacity and speed is your target?
How fast can you stream data off of your backup source (the data you're actually backing up)?
How big is your biggest backup?
How long do you have to backup that biggest backup job (typically, some number of hours)?
What applications are you backing up (Oracle, Exchange, etc.)?
What is your OS?
Are you using any virtual machines such as VMware or Hyper-V?
What is your recovery time objective (How long can you afford to be down - a second, a minute, an hour, a day)?
What is your recovery point objective (How much data can you afford to lose (la second, a minute, an hour, a day)?
What length of time do you need to keep your data (a week, a month, a year, a decade, or longer)?

The answer to these questions will help determine the solution that is best for you.

jasfoutAuthor Commented:
I will look into Amanda.  
Can you provide a link to more info on this statement?
"Of course if you migrated your system to virtual machines then you could  take instant hot snapshots if you do it right"
Servers are hosting SQL db.  I typically shutdown those services during the backup.
I am looking at backup/restore packages.
Typically would like to restore approx 50GB within an hour.

Backup media is external USB/SATA Hard drives.
<100GB to back up at any location
I have approx. 12hours to perform backups
Servers host SQL db's, would like full system backups daily.No VM's at this time.
Under complete failure, no more than a day if require new hardware. 2-hrs otherwise.
Keep data for 1 week.

Offices are occupied M-F 6am-6pm
Currently using a variety of backup softwares at different sites, including Acronis Echo Server, Backup Exec, ntbackup.
Use 5 USB drives for the 5 days of week
Data/OS partition containing not more than 100GB

This question was timed just right, as last weekend I attempted an 'image restore' with Acronis Server to the same hardware.  After restore, kept getting BSOD when trying to start Windows.  I did not have time to troubleshoot the cause, but it was rather disappointing to see with price tag attached to Acronis.  In the past I have had no troubles with Acronis, and this may have been a simple fix, but again very disappointing.

When i asked this question,  I had my eye paticularly on this product:
It makes great claims, but is inexpensive.

Here is a KB article about snapshots with VMware.  Lots of more articles, but this is a 10000' view.

If you ware not aware of it, ESXi 4.0 is FREE, but they do place limits on # of machines, and they make their money selling add-ons, such as the snapshot software.  Go down the VM path and you pretty much eliminate all the headaches of backup.  Now certain hardware is more appropriate than others for building a system that you can perform an instant snapshot on, so after you skim over the article, it is best to either just call somebody at vmware and let them tell you what you need to do.

Or, a better course of action is to post something in one of the VM forums, that lists what you have (type of disk & RAID controllers are vital), and ask about suggestions and expectations for migrating into the world of virtual machines.  Then once you have some suggestions, talk to VMware and get pricing and/or reseller info for somebody in your area if you feel you would need help.

I would also look at the HCL (hardware compatibility list) Just google "VMWARE HCL"  and it will take you right to it.   If you are buying name-brand server hardware then you will probably be fine on everything, but double-check network cards & look closely at your disk/raid controllers.  

I am big proponent of virtual machines as a means of solving non-trivial backup/disaster recovery problems.  It just makes more sense and virtual technology is inherently profoundly more robust, flexible for backups, restores, disaster recovery.  Also big bonus is that for all practical purposes, you could restore your biggest, baddest virtualized computer on any make/model of hardware in the HCL, and it will work, with no issues concerning HAL, device drivers, disk layout.  Even network cards can be virtualized so if you had 10 ethernet ports in one server, you could run it on a system with a single ethernet card and it would emulate those ports (obviously you will have traffic bottlenecks, but it would work)

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jasfoutAuthor Commented:
I have been using VM's on workstations for a while now.  I have not yet delved into virtual servers.  The more I read the more I like.  Especially when it comes to backup/restore.

I will open a new question in the VM zones.
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