Windows 2000's Ntbackup has a new GUI and enhanced functional-ity that is appropriate for home-based and small-business users. One notable improvement is that Ntbackup now lets you back up data to a disk file as well as to tape, so you can keep online backups in addition to archival copies. With the exception of hardware compression, Ntbackup treats both media identically. Disk-based backup lets you take advantage of hard disk speed to complete backups more quickly and lets you duplicate or move completed backups to tape or CD-Rewritable (CD-RW) independently of the actual backup operation.

When you start Ntbackup, it presents a window containing four tabs: Welcome, Backup, Restore, and Schedule Jobs. The Welcome tab contains Backup Wizard and Restore Wizard buttons. The wizards walk you through a series of screens that help you select the files or drives that you want to back up or restore.

After you start either wizard, if you accidentally select the wrong option or forget to select a directory, drive, or network system, you can click Back at the bottom of the window to return to a previous screen, make the correction, then continue. You'll find these wizards a great way to get started, especially compared with the time-consuming task of correctly entering 18 command-line switches and their associated parameters in the proper order and syntax.

The Backup Wizard
When you start the Backup Wizard, the first window displays three options: Back up everything on my computer, Back up selected files, drives, or network data, and Back up the System State data. If you choose to back up either everything or the system state, the Backup Wizard automatically selects the correct drives or files and prompts you for a filename and the media on which to create the backup. If you choose to back up selected files or drives, the wizard displays a browse window of local and mapped drives on your network. Simply select the boxes for the drives, folders, and network systems that you want to back up. Next, the wizard asks whether you want to store the backup in a disk file or on tape. If you select tape and you have multiple drives, you need to identify the tape drive and the specific tape for the backup to use.

The wizard then displays a Completing the Backup Wizard summary window and lets you review your choices. Figure A shows that I've requested to back up the system state to a disk file in a temporary directory. When you're satisfied with your selections, click Advanced to complete the backup specifications. Four of the Backup Wizard's eight screens are available only through the Advanced button.

In the Advanced window, the wizard walks you through choices for what type of backup (i.e., Normal, Copy, Incremental, Differential, or Daily) to perform, how to back up (i.e., Verify data after backup and Use hardware compression, if available), and when to back up (i.e., Now or Later). The wizard also walks you through the media options (e.g., should Ntbackup replace or append the data to the disk file or tape) and the backup and media labels to write for the backup catalog.

If your tape drive supports hardware compression, as most newer tape drives do, you'll probably want to enable the compression feature in the How to Back Up window. Hardware compression lets you store twice as much data on your tapes as you can without compression. If you're security conscious, you'll want to enable Allow only the owner and the Administrator access to the backup data and to any backups appended to this media in the Media Options window. This option ensures that your backup data is secure from malicious and accidental viewing by anyone other than the data's original owner or the Administrator account.

After you complete the Advanced screens, the wizard again displays the Completing the Backup Wizard window, but the Advanced button is no longer available. When you click Finish, the backup will either start immediately or be scheduled for the time you specified.

The Restore Wizard
The Restore Wizard asks you what you want to restore and displays a catalog of your disk file backups and configured tape drives. If you have a tape in the tape drive, you can expand the browse list to view the tape's catalog of backups. Figure B shows three sources of restore data—a file, a miniQIC tape drive, and a Travan tape drive—with an enumerated list of the contents of the backup data on the loaded Travan tape. If you store your backup catalogs online, you can display a catalog's contents by clicking Import File. When the pop-up window appears, you can either enter the catalog file by name or browse for a catalog. Then, select the files to restore by selecting the drive or one or more directories that contain the data you want to recover.

At this point, the Restore Wizard presents a Completing the Restore Wizard summary screen that lets you review your selections. Click Advanced to specify where to restore the data (i.e., Original location, Alternate location, or Single folder) and how to restore the data (i.e., Do not replace the file on my disk, Replace the file on disk only if it is older than the backup copy, or Always replace the file on disk). You can also select the Advanced Restore options (i.e., Restore security, which is selected by default; Restore Removable Storage database; or Restore junction points, not the folders and file data they reference).

The Restore Wizard again presents the Completing the Restore Wizard summary screen, but without the Advanced button. When you click Finish, the restore operation begins immediately.

Command-Line Options
Win2K's Ntbackup has 18 command-line options that you can mix and match to create sophisticated batch backup jobs. You can examine the command-line options two ways: in the backup utility's online Help (see Command line parameters under Using Backup on the Contents tab) or by entering the command Ntbackup /? at a command prompt.

One big improvement over Ntbackup in Windows NT is that you can enter the name of a backup selection file (e.g., daily.bks, exchange.bks) that you previously created in the GUI utility. After you make your backup selections with the Backup Wizard or directly on the Backup tab, click the Job menu to save your selections in a backup selection file. Ntbackup prompts you for a filename, then saves the selection file as a text file. This file contains a list of drives and directories to back up, as well as a list of files to exclude. You can examine any selection file with an ordinary text editor, such as Notepad.

You can reference a selection file you've saved at any time, as long as you can remember where you stored it—the default storage location is buried levels deep in the logged-on user's documents directory. The selection file is a time-saver because it eliminates the need for you to hand-code long complex command lines that contain drives and directories to include or exclude in your backup. You use the remaining 17 command-line options to instruct Ntbackup how to back up the files that you listed in the selection file.

The Win2K Ntbackup version includes several new options that help you manage tape drives, multiple tapes, and media pools: /T specifies a tape name, /N names a new tape, /D labels a backup set, /UM selects the first available blank tape, and /P selects the media pool name. Also worth mentioning are the following three command-line options: /F backs up data to a disk file instead of to tape, /RS backs up the removable storage database, and Systemstate backs up the system state on the local machine that runs the backup operation. When you combine selection files with command-line options, you can create a batch job to perform nearly any type of backup.

Pros and Cons
Home and small-business users will find the Backup Wizard and Restore Wizard a great help for backing up or restoring files on an individual workstation or a few network systems. However, Win2K's Ntbackup doesn't include the features you need for an enterprise-class backup solution. Specifically, Ntbackup can't back up one file when you run the utility from a command prompt or a batch job, and Ntbackup can't back up or restore the system state on a remote system.

During testing, I discovered another problem with the new improved version. Win2K's Ntbackup couldn't identify the Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 system running Exchange Service Pack 3 (SP3) on my network. The browse list didn't include the Exchange Server icon for this system, and I was unable to back up my legacy mail server. I hope that by press time, Microsoft will have a solution to this legacy backup problem. (Ntbackup also has several problems with Exchange Server 5.5; for details, see the sidebar "Ntbackup Exchange Server 5.5 Bug Fix," page 88.)

I also find the wizards' browse windows too small to easily navigate if you have more than a few drive mappings or your network consists of more than a couple of systems. If you rely on Ntbackup for data security, remember that you need an alternative plan for backing up the Registry and the system state on remote systems so that you can recover a system if you lose a crucial OS file or, worse, experience a system disk crash.