Summary
Asigra Televaulting 6.2


Pros: This offsite backup solution can solve all of an enterprise's needs out of one box: secure and compressed storage with easy restores
Cons: Confusing architecture, documentation missing vital information, doesn't make use of Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service, doesn't handle opened files well
Rating: 4 diamonds
Price: First five 200GB increments of compressed data at $11,250 each. Additional storage at $7,500 per terabyte
Recommendation: Large distributed enterprises will find this a cost-effective and easily implemented backup solution.
Contact: Asigra, 416-736-8111 ext. 101, http://www.asigra.com

I have a theory that the new-millennium version of Moore's Law will apply to storage, not processors. These days, IT challenges aren't processor speed but disk size and transfer rate. Two variables come into play when implementing a robust remote backup solution: lots of data and an itty-bitty pipe. Asigra's Televaulting 6.2 is a remote backup solution for the enterprise that makes great strides toward solving the problem these variables create.

Televaulting is an offsite backup solution for distributed organizations. The Televaulting DS-Client resides on a single computer at the remote site and collects files and data for the entire organization. Through an agentless architecture, the DS-Client encrypts and compresses SQL Server, Exchange Server, and file data before transmitting it to the offsite DS-Server. A site administrator can perform a full recovery or retrieve individual files from the client console without the involvement of an administrator at the DS-Server.

I deployed Televaulting to a small business running Windows 2000 Server and Microsoft SQL Server 7.0. The installation and setup was relatively straightforward. For the DS-Client and DS-Server to communicate, I had to modify the firewall. Unfortunately, the documentation failed to explain exactly which ports and protocols to open or even that this was a necessary step in deployment. I was able to deduce which ports to open from the installation wizards, but the documentation should have included an explicit router-configuration step.

The DS-Client uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for storage and transmission of data. Televaulting also features differential backup capability. After the initial backup, the application transmits only changed files and records, so additional backups are significantly smaller. The DS-Client identifies the changed data, then compresses and encrypts the data, providing for a highly efficient transfer because the fewest possible bytes are sent to the server.

Asigra's marketing materials claim that Televaulting's compression algorithms can achieve as much as a 4 to 1 compression ratio. With a blend of SQL Server database and file data totaling 6GB, I achieved about a 3 to 1 compression ratio, as you can see in Figure 1. Asigra's Single Instance Storage (SIS), which identifies files by using a hash function, could potentially result in larger compression ratios over larger backups. This sort of compression starts to make offsite backup more viable.

The client/server architecture of Televaulting mirrors a service-provider architecture. In fact, Asigra also sells Televaulting to service providers who can then offer this solution to smaller clients. The service-provider architecture also means that the client can initiate backups and perform restores, as Figure 2 shows. In an enterprise, doing so could offload operations from data center personnel onto branch office administrators or advanced users.

In my testing, I discovered that Televaulting running on a Windows server has no mechanism to make use of Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS). Furthermore, some files were locked when I performed the initial backup and weren't packaged by the client. Although not backing up locked files is a common problem with older backup applications, I'm surprised that such a high-end application doesn't have a resolution or even apparently a workaround for this common problem.

You can expand Televaulting with a variety of modules, including the Message Level Restore module, which restores individual messages from Microsoft Exchange Server, IBM Lotus Notes, and Novell GroupWise messaging databases. Since Televaulting is licensed by the amount of data backed up, rather than by number of sites, you can install the client in as many sites as desired. Televaulting clients can protect data on desktops and laptops as well as on servers.

As an enterprise-class application, Televaulting will likely be deployed in a data center. Televaulting DS-Server employs a SQL Server database, the long-term storage module uses the open-source PostgreSQL database, and the Web module is built on Apache Tomcat and a MySQL database. If all these components are working, running them isn't much of a concern. However, you need to consider whether the added complexity of supporting all these databases for such a mission-critical system is worth the effort in your environment.

Although the first few hundred gigabytes of storage seem quite expensive, large organizations with remote or branch offices and terabytes of data to protect will find Televaulting a cost-effective and malleable solution for their backup challenges when compared to the hardware and labor costs of a traditional tape-based backup strategy.