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Reviews and expert opinion N-able Backup

Mark Holden Mark Holden Cloud Hosting Expert

N-able Backup (formerly SolarWinds) is a cloud backup solution for managed services providers (MSPs) that offers quick backups and restorations. The user interface can be challenging to navigate for beginners and there are no formal mobile apps, but technical support is responsive and options for customer and device management are incredibly useful.

Overview

Practical Cloud Backup Solutions for Customer Data Management

N-able Backup is part of the SolarWinds MSP rebrand, and it provides data protection resources to managed services providers (MSPs). With a range of scalable plans, MSPs who offer small- and medium-sized businesses management for data, system, and network monitoring can find a suitable plan here.

If you’re looking for quick backups, easy customer management options, and archiving capabilities, N-able Backup just might be the answer. But while N-able offers advanced features for cloud storage like real-time security updates and customized client portals, is it actually useful?

I’ll be honest with you, I was impressed with most of its features, but I did find it to be lacking in certain areas.

While N-able Backup doesn’t have any free plans, you’ll be given an automatic 30-day free trial when you sign up. Not many commercial backup providers let you test drive its features for free, so I think it’s great that you get an entire month to decide whether this cloud host is for you.

Features

4.5

Quality Advanced Features and Quick Backups

Data Server Locations Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Canada, US
Backup and Restore Options Automatic/scheduled backups, backup from external drive, backup status reports, mirror-image backup, continuous restore
Limits and Restrictions Bandwidth throttling, fair use limits, file type limits
Applications and Operating Systems Windows Server 2008 and later; FreeBSD 10 x64, 11 x64; GNU/Linux; macOS X 10.9x and later, iOS and Android mobile apps (conditional)
Encryption Keys AES 256-bit encryption, optional private encryption key
File Access Web-only, multi-device syncing (but no mobile access)
File Sharing

N-able Backup’s features set it apart from its competitors in a major way. It’s missing some of the functionalities of other cloud services, but the features it does have are executed incredibly well.

You can schedule data archiving and use options like automatic file selection to make backing up information even easier. N-able Backup will even help keep track of backups and restores by sending you scheduled email reports with all recent activity.

Powerful Backup Capabilities

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Use the Backup Manager to select your protected source data

If you’re looking for a cloud storage host with few backup limitations, N-able Backup is a great choice. The Backup Manager (also called backup client) is used to back up files and folders or a system state (the configuration of a device’s operating system). From here, you can set up full backups of workstations, servers, and virtual machines.

One thing to note is that the system state backup does not include user data or program files, so you’ll have to select the system partition via Files and folders to ensure a full backup is made. You can also back up from network shares, Oracle, VMware, and external drives (through Files and folders).

There are two types of backups: schedule-based and frequency-based. A daily scheduled backup is the default, but I chose to override this by going into the Preferences > Schedule menu and selecting Add schedule to update my preferences.

Restore Data in Different Ways and From Multiple Points

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Choose to restore data to its original location or a new location under the Restore tab

To restore data, use the search feature to select files and directories and choose whether the restore will go to the original location or a new one. The convenient file retention feature, which lets you restore file versions from the past 28 days, really makes N-able stand out.

You even have the option of using “restore-only mode” for unique instances where you need to restore data from a source computer to a target computer.

N-able Backup also offers virtual disaster recovery and Bare Metal Recovery, which can run a mirrored backup of a computer – including its OS – in a virtual space. Continuous restore and seed restore are also really great recovery options that make data restoration simple. Plus, they are fast and easy to configure, even if you aren’t very technically skilled.

2-Factor Authentication for Added Security

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For added security, you can use two-factor authentication to secure your account and data

SolarWinds had a massive data breach in early 2020 that compromised 18,000 users, including the Department of Homeland Security and Treasury Department. Recovering from such a significant breach is difficult, but since then, its security policy has been revised. Currently, it’s on par with similar security protocols on the market.

N-able Backup locally encrypts data via AES 256-bit encryption before it’s transferred to the backup center. There’s also additional in-transit protection with Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2 over a secure connection, and you have the option of adding a private encryption key.

During setup, you’re prompted to install an authenticator app to enable two-factor authentication. Disabling this feature requires a recovery code or 6-digit security code generated by the authenticator app.

N-able Backup’s security policy guarantees 24/7 data center security. Employees must also use a biometric hand geometry reader to access all server cages and every door in the data center. Cameras digitally monitor the entirety of the building – and each server cage – for further security.

See full list of features

Ease of use

3.5

Intuitive Interface, but Lacking Some Functionalities

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N-able Backup’s dashboard can be confusing at first

When it comes to ease of use, N-able Backup isn’t exactly beginner-friendly – you’ll need some knowledge of how to manage remote backup services. While I didn’t have any challenges navigating the web-based Backup Manager, the online dashboard proved to be a bit less straightforward.

Thankfully, N-able Backup has great customer support that eventually got me on the right track.

Despite the moderate learning curve I had with the online dashboard, N-able Backup has plenty of features that make it convenient to use.

A Comprehensive Backup Manager

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The Overview tab shows one week of backup activity

If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll appreciate the Backup Manager’s calendar view. Days are color-coded so you can quickly check the success rate of backups over a week-long period. . It also displays the type of backup: system state or files and folders.

You can use this tab to quickly verify your remote gateway connections and check on your remote storage synchronization and the details of your most recent backup.

Effortless Customer Management

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Manage customer information through the dashboard

Since N-able Backup is geared towards businesses, it’s not surprising that its customer management abilities are one of its best features.

Once you’ve added a new customer, you can quickly and easily update and manage their information with the Customer Management panel. You can also brand the Backup Manager with your company name, logo, icons, and color scheme with the custom branding feature.

Convenient Backups without Internet Connection

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Speed up your backup with LocalSpeedVault if your connection is slow or lagging

When LocalSpeedVault (LSV) is enabled, your backup is sent to the cloud or private storage location as usual, but a copy is also saved to your computer or local network. This means that automatic backups will still run in the background, even if your internet connection is down.

The LSV is designed to create hands-off backups that don’t need to be monitored for upload speeds or WiFi connection. And since restoring data to a local folder is a less time-consuming process than sending data through a Wi-Fi connection, the LSV can transfer data to the cloud storage as soon as the internet connection is stable.

Setting Up Your Account

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After setting up your account, you’ll be prompted to choose the device type to back up your data

There are four main types of program installation with N-able Backup: regular, documents, Microsoft 365, and automatic deployment. The installation type that you choose depends on the device and type of data.

While setup was pretty easy, I should note that there’s no desktop application for N-able Backup – something that isn’t made clear in the set-up documentation. I contacted customer support and was informed that only online-based applications are currently available.

You’ll need to master (and use) two interfaces to get full functionality. The Backup Manager and online dashboard are both required to fully access N-able Backup’s range of features. For instance, adding customers is done exclusively through the dashboard, while the Backup Manager is the only way to add and schedule backups.

Although you can back up mobile data to N-able, the user will need to sign up for and download N-central, a separate but fully customizable N-able tool.

See if N-able Backup is Right for You

Performance

4.7

Speedy Backups, but No Mobile Access

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Through the Backup Manager, you can see detailed information on backup speed and estimated time

I wanted to see how quickly a 3.55GB folder would upload on different days and at different times. I ran three separate tests – and N-able Backup didn’t disappoint for any of them.

My internet speeds are usually around 170Mbs for both uploads and downloads, but just to be sure, I ran a speed test just before my first backup.

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I had high-speed connections during all three of my tests

I didn’t adjust my bandwidth settings during my tests, but bandwidth limits and schedules can be added via the Backup Manager.

For my first test, I started a backup on Thursday at 3:35 p.m. It was finished by 3:38 pm, just 15 seconds shy of the four-minute mark. I was very impressed by how quickly such a large folder backed up, especially considering that I’m in Trinidad and Tobago – thousands of miles away from N-able Backup’s nearest US data center.

My second backup was on a Friday at 11:52 a.m. Again, the backup was finished in under four minutes – 3 minutes and 57 seconds, to be exact.

I did my final test on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. After the folder was uploaded in 3 minutes and 50 seconds, I could confidently say that on average, my 3.55GB folder took an average of just 3 minutes and 50 seconds to upload, even on a weekend afternoon.

After my first backup, I restored the same 3.55GB folder to see if restoration speeds matched my backup speeds. This time, the speeds were even better – the entire folder was restored in just under one minute.

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With the time coming at under one minute, you could say I had an amazing result with my first data restore

There isn’t a mobile app for N-able Backup – something I’ve mentioned before because convenience and ease of use could be better. Having to download, pay for, and use another desktop app to access mobile devices isn’t exactly convenient.

However, if your company needs to monitor devices remotely for security purposes, the features available via N-central are quite useful. If a device is lost or stolen, N-central can completely erase all of the device’s data to protect sensitive information.

See if N-able Backup is Right for You

Privacy

3.5

Some of Your Privacy Will Be Protected

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N-able Backup is committed to GDPR compliance

N-able Backup is GDPR and EU-US Privacy Shield compliant. It also has an extensive privacy notice, which has been recently updated to be easier to read and understand. Still, there are some gray areas.

As a rule, data such as identifiers, company information, customer records, and geolocation are collected and stored by the company. This information can (and may) be used for advertising, protecting the company’s legal rights, and complying with legal obligations – although the company is not explicitly clear on what legal obligations or rights it refers to.

SolarWinds (N-able Backup’s parent company) is a US-based company, so it is not exempt from the Patriot Act or the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”). Nor is it outside of the scope of Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance.

While N-able Backup makes no mention of this, SolarWinds’ privacy policy allows it to collect something simply called “Other Data,” which is not personal data. Again, it’s not clear what this data is or how it can be used – just that SolarWinds can collect it as it sees fit.

See N-able Backup Privacy Features

Support

4.7

Reliable, In-Depth Support Solutions

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The online User Guide is full of useful articles and resources

Besides performance, N-able Backup also excels at customer service. When I had questions about file type exclusions and limits, and mobile app capabilities (which I thought were unclear in the User Guide), I contacted customer support via chat.

Not only was chat support responsive, but the agent I spoke to was polite and helpful. Even though my questions were probably pretty common, the agent was patient and, best of all, was able to answer my questions right away.

The User Guide is expansive and covers various aspects of setup and features. However, the text itself can be a bit complex, so if you’re not very technically skilled, the online chat support will come in handy.

You can also reach N-able customer support through email and phone.

Pricing

4.0

Costly Pricing Options, Even with Minimal Management Services

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What you pay for N-able Backup depends on the scope of your needs

Like many other software providers, N-able doesn’t list pricing on its website. I know this is standard practice, but jumping through hoops to get pricing information is definitely a hassle. However, N-able Backup’s 30-day free trial is certainly a plus.

I reached out to customer support via phone but wasn’t able to speak directly to a salesperson – which is odd considering how easy it was to reach customer support. Eventually, sales emailed me a pricing list.

Your pricing is based on whether you fall above or below the company’s minimum spending commitment (and I wish I could tell you what it was, but the amount is less than clear).

If you fall below, you’ll end up paying more per workstation and server. There are also data overage charges, but it isn’t clear how or when these charges will be applied.

You can purchase just the software to handle customer requests remotely – which is less costly – but you won’t be able to go over your allocated data allowance with this option. To get tailored pricing and payment information, you’ll have to email the sales department or contact your assigned Partner Success Manager to set up a formal meeting.

N-able Backup accepts Mastercard, American Express, and Visa, but does not accept PayPal or Bitcoin at the moment.

Comparison

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N-able Backup REVIEW: BOTTOM LINE

N-able Backup is a feature-heavy MSP cloud backup service that makes backups for customer devices, computers, and networks a breeze. With this cloud provider, you’ll also get access to useful features like the ability to archive files, view detailed backup reports, easily add users for shared management, and quickly restore data.

While N-able Backup’s interface can be confusing at first (especially the Backup Manager and dashboard), you can get a lot of help from both N-able Backup’s customer support and the comprehensive User Guide, which are helpful in learning how to navigate the Backup Manager and dashboard.

The downsides? You won’t be able to manage mobile devices without a separate tool, and pricing for add-on features like software integration or remote monitoring can be costlier than other cloud service options.

All in all, I think the pros might outweigh the cons. If you need a one-stop-shop MSP tool that’s reliable and efficient, N-able Backup has a lot of positives that you should consider.

FAQ

When should you use cloud storage?Cloud storage is a good idea for everyone, even if you don’t think you have enough data to need it. You’re probably already saving photos, videos, audio, documents, and other data to your phone or personal device regularly. If that device is lost, stolen, or damaged, that data may be lost forever. By using cloud storage, you can save a copy of your data in a safe, virtual location where it cannot easily be lost or corrupted. It’s also useful if you find yourself running out of space on your device. You can securely transfer your data into the cloud, freeing up your device without having to delete your data. If your needs are on a smaller scale, IDrive might be a great alternative.Should you pay for cloud storage?Whether or not you pay for cloud storage depends on how much storage you need and what features you’re interested in. It’s possible to find free storage options, and many cloud storage hosts offer free trials for a limited time, including N-able Backup. But once the trial runs out, you’ll only have a fraction of the features or performance that you’re looking for. If you want to share your files, sync data to multiple devices, or have unlimited backups, then a paid option is likely your best bet. To help you, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 Best Cloud Backup Services in 2022.Are there disadvantages to using cloud storage?Yes, there are disadvantages to using cloud storage. Cloud storage only works with an internet connection, so depending on your connection or how reliable it is, you might have problems or delays for your backup. That’s why N-able Backup offers its LocalSpeedVault (LSV), which can back up files offline. It’s also possible for hackers to get access to your data through breaches, especially if your cloud storage service does not adequately secure your data with multiple layers of encryption.Is N-able Backup good for large businesses?N-able Backup was created for MSP companies and is formatted to handle multiple customer profiles and backup devices. It’s equipped to make customer management easy. Features like extensive backup overviews, recovery testing plans, historical charts, and virtual disaster recovery make N-able Backup ideal for large businesses with heavy security monitoring and management needs.

Mark Holden Mark Holden
Mark is a full stack web developer specializing in HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and PHP. When he’s not busy building websites or geeking out over the latest addition to his ever-growing gadget collection, he enjoys playing drums for his progressive rock band. He can also make a mean Spanish omelet.

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