All too often, we PC-users lull ourselves into a false sense of security. We risk our systems and data by ignoring the basic concepts of backup and fault tolerance. Typically, we finally come to grips with these issues only after a serious, and many times unrecoverable, system crash. For some of us, a serious crash is just an aggravation. For many others, a crash is a disaster that loses critical business information forever. With this perspective in mind, let's examine software options for system and network backups in the Windows NT environment.
I worked closely with six backup applications: ARCserve 2.01 from Cheyenne Software, Backup Exec 6.1 from Seagate Software (formerly, Arcada Backup Exec), Seagate Storage Manager and Backup Director (formerly, Palindrome Storage Manager and Backup Director), UltraBac 2.3 from Barratt Edwards International, NetWorker from Legato, and SQLStor from SQL Business Systems. After working with these packages for a while, some basic similarities became obvious: All these applications provide backup services, restore services, administration services, and tape preparation and management services (such as retention, erase, and display tape directories), and interface with several SCSI-based tape backup units, as you can see in the sidebar, "Backup Hardware Options," page 54. Cheyenne's ARCserve, Seagate Software's Storage Manager and Backup Director, and Legato's NetWorker share a similar look and feel. Barratt Edwards' UltraBac and Seagate Software's Backup Exec also share several attributes.
SQLStor is a unique backup package designed to automatically back up an SQL database. Manufacturers of the other backup applications are just now developing SQL agents, whereas SQLStor is already a full-blown application. Because SQLStor is not a general-purpose backup package, Windows NT Magazine staff did not consider it during the evaluation process to determine the editor's choices.
The Windows NT implementation of ARCserve is similar to its previous implementations for the DOS and Novell NetWare environments. Installation is straightforward, with the logon name and password configured as a logon service. This approach lets ARCserver perform unattended backups.
Screen 1 is a view of the quick-access box that greets you when you initiate ARCserve. Although my first reaction to this interface was far from favorable, it lets you use all aspects of ARCserve from this menu. For example, opening Device Management produces the mapping of the SCSI devices.
If you open the Backup window, you'll see a simple source/destination box that has a Windows 95 appearance. The drives you check are copied to the specific devices you choose in the destination window. This process usually works well on a local machine, but to back up across a network, I had to enter a name and password that ARCserve stored for subsequent use. As with all the other backup applications, you can run the ARCserve backup immediately or schedule it for another time when the system is otherwise inactive.
The Database window lists your tape resources (tapes that contain backup data). In this window, you can click on a tape entry and expand the display to show sessions on that tape. You can then go to the file option to expand the session into files and directories.
In the Restore mode, you can search for individual files, and ARCserve finds them efficiently and quickly. With the file information, you see the tape where the file is stored and the file's attributes. To finish the restore, you select the destination drive. This ability to quickly find and restore a file is mandatory for any enterprise-scale environment.
Cheyenne has fixed many nasty blue-screen crashes in ARCserve that occurred in release 1. Version 2.01 offers optional database agents such as SQL, Oracle, and Service Advertising Protocol (SAP) agents. With the rapid rate of deployment of large SQL and Oracle servers, an application's ability to handle such databases is obligatory.
ARCserve is less suited for enterprisewide use than either Storage Manager or NetWorker. To better serve the enterprise environment, ARCserve needs more detailed file management, easier control for networkwide viewing, and a simpler interface. Even so, ARCserve has a broad installed base on several platforms and is an ideal application for heterogeneous networks.
Versions of ARCserver are available for Intel, MIPS, and Alpha platforms. For this reason, ARCserve deserves your very serious consideration. If more automated features and drive grooming become available, ARCserve can be in real contention for editor's choice for enterprise-scale networks.
ARCserve 2.01 is an excellent product, and I was impressed with its abilities and general layout. ARCserver is more powerful than Backup Exec, but less full-featured than Storage Manager, Backup Director, and NetWorker. On the other hand, ARCserve has earned BackOffice Certification from Microsoft. All in all, ARCserve is a quality application that deserves serious consideration in any environment.
Storage Manager and Backup Director 4.0
Seagate Software's (formerly, Palindrome's) Storage Manager and Backup Director are separate but similar backup applications. The installation procedure for both packages is a two-stage process: First, you prepare the installation, and then you install the software. The interesting aspect of this approach is that you have the option to use this procedure to restore a crash.
During the installation, Storage Manager and Backup Director compile a device list and a protected resource list. The devices are the backup devices you have available; these products have no drivers to install. The protected resource list shows local or remote drives that you want to protect in case of a system failure. The protected resource list is the key to file and drive management: The products provide histories of the resources that have undergone backup, archiving, and migration. After you configure the device list and the resource list, backups become automatic. The backup regimen in Backup Director defaults to the standard grandfather/father/son routine. Storage Manager, however, defaults to the confusing (at least to me) Tower of Hanoi routine.
Once installed, Storage Manager and Backup Director boot into their control panel, which you see in screen 2. From this point, much of what you want to do is automatic or under the control of cue cards. Both packages are automated to the utmost and designed for ease of use and control. As with ARCserve, the GUI view can be daunting, but most aspects of the process appear as folders and buttons. Additional program features are available through ribbon bars.
Managers control all functions in Storage Manager and Backup Director. For example, in the Configuration Manager, you add users to the system. These are users who can control a server from a remote enterprise location.
In the advanced settings, you set concurrent operations (three is the maximum) and can allow as many as eight backups to different devices. As you might expect, simultaneous backups are very processor-intensive. When I used two autochangers at once, the performance monitor on my test dual-processor system showed both CPUs running close to 100%. Backups involving the Digital Linear Tape (DLT) units were not as CPU-intensive (60% to 70%). (Please see "Backup Hardware Options," on page 54, for more information about autochangers and DLT units.)
Storage and Backup Director excel in file management. The embedded File Manager utility shows all aspects of the files and their histories and includes a file finder that searches the drives and databases. The File Manager is a powerful part of both Storage Manager and Backup Director.
Certain terms in Storage Manager and Backup Director are unusual. For example, in many other backup applications, you "catalog" a tape. However, in Storage Manager and Backup Director, you "journal" a tape using the Media Manager. The Media Manager lets you examine mounted tapes and format them. Restore occurs through either File Manager or Resource Manager. In the former, you can restore individual files and in the latter, whole drives.
Storage Manager and Backup Director let you select days, times, and backup types. From that point, the process is automatic (except, of course, for the manual loading of tapes if no autochanger is present). If a system crashes, you can do a minimal install of NT and then reinstall Storage Manager and Backup Director. You get the choice of installation or recover. If you chose recover, the application will recover damaged resources automatically. This capability may seem superfluous, but this kind of recovery is a godsend on an enterprise scale.
The backup regimen (grandfather/father/son vs. Tower of Hanoi) is one notable difference between Storage Manager and Backup Director. Another difference is that Storage Manager offers hierarchical storage management. This feature lets you use customizable rules to archive files and migrate them to tape in specific time frames. The ability to add customized rules makes Storage Manager the most powerful of all the backup solutions reviewed here.
Both Storage Manager and Backup Director are feature-rich applications. For enterprise-scale environments, you can enhance both applications by adding Seagate's Visual Storage Administrator (VISTA) software. VISTA gives you central control of all Storage Manager and Backup Director operations, on the network.
MEDIUM SCALE NETWORKS
Backup Exec 6.1
In contrast to Seagate Software's Storage Manager and Backup Director and Cheyenne's ARCserve, Seagate Software's (formerly, Arcada's) Backup Exec 6.1 has a very simple interface. Backup Exec is the oldest of the NT backup products--Arcada wrote the NTBackup applet that is now under Microsoft control.
The installation of Backup Exec is straightforward and will suffice for 80% of all backup needs. Backup Exec's interface is simple and clean, as you see in screen 3. You can easily access most tasks through the drop-down menus. You can connect to other servers on the network, schedule jobs, and change access to tape devices. Backup Exec gives most users all the functionality they routinely need in backups.
However, this product falls short in enterprise-management features. Backup Exec is cumbersome when you have multiple tape drives and need to choose the proper one for a given backup. You see a list of drives and a simple toolbar that you can then examine in detail. Backup Exec uses standard installed drivers, and in the drive dialog, you can edit the drive for parameters such as compression (Backup Exec allows software compression).
To back up a drive or file, you click on backup. A detailed drop-down box gives you the option to run the backup now, schedule it, or save it as a job for the scheduler to run. You can set up multiple jobs, and each running job opens a new copy of Backup Exec. The restore process is exactly the opposite routine: You can look at existing catalogs, or you can insert a tape, and Backup Exec will catalog it so you can restore files or directories. The program is simple and easy to use.
Version 6.1 does add some interesting terminology and options. Tapes are no longer called "tapes," but "storage media." This version adds a search engine and expanded features. Most importantly, a SQL 6.0 backup is enabled for open databases. The ExecView applet is still present, and a remote connect option lets you back up remote systems to remote devices. Some optimization of the backup engine has also occurred because the backups are faster under version 6.1 than under previous versions
Backup Exec 6.1 is a solid product that uses Microsoft-approved drivers and performs well. However, the extensive file support features in Seagate Software's Storage Manager and Backup Director are not available in Backup Exec. Backup Exec accepted all the tape drives I tested, but the Exabyte 210 did not show the extensive library support available in Cheyenne's ARCserve, Seagate Software's Storage Manager and Backup Director, or Legato's NetWorker. Backup Exec does not support an autochanger and although it is not essential, these other products support it better.
Backup Exec is not without its unique issues. For example, if you have auditing enabled on a system, Backup Exec cannot back up the event log on a remote system. Furthermore, Backup Exec does not respond to driver changes unless you reboot your system. This requirement might not seem like a huge issue, but rebooting a server can be difficult in an enterprise environment.
MEDIUM SCALE NETWORKS
PERSONAL WORKSTATIONS/SMALL-SCALE NETWORKS
One amazing discovery I made about Barratt Edwards International's UltraBac is that the total program ships on a single 312" disk. Knowing this fact tells the story of the program because, unlike the other backup applications I reviewed, UltraBac seems to be a stark C++ program. At first, this situation may seem to be a disadvantage, but UltraBac is the speed performer in the group I tested. Furthermore, UltraBac lets you easily back up to a fixed or removable drive. Also, UltraBac is available as an enterprisewide solution or as a stand-alone workstation (personal use) application.
Screen 4 shows the UltraBac interface for backing up a local C drive. (UltraBac also lets you specify Universal Naming Convention--UNC--links to remote drives.) The drop-down menus let you access all the features and options in UltraBac. For example, the Mode menu lets you invoke UltraBac's Backup, Restore, and Verify operations. Similarly, the Options menu takes you to a preference box where you can choose the device and the type of compression (hardware, software, or none) you want.
Another significant UltraBac feature is its scheduling capability, which lets you declare jobs and job schedules. One strategy to consider if you use UltraBac is to back up the registry to a hard drive and then back up drives to tape. With the scheduling feature, you can automatically define and then invoke this process. UltraBac also lets you select computers in the network and back up remotely. In support of remote backup, UltraBac includes a utility (UltraVue) that lets you monitor remote events, including remote UltraBac logs. All in all, the software is powerful.
For restore, you simply insert a tape. UltraBac reads the contents, you select the items to restore, and UltraBac handles the rest. For disaster recovery, you can restore the registry and then restore additional files from tape if necessary. You can even define the priorities of backup devices in case of a device failure. UltraBac also includes a tape-copy utility that lets you copy a tape to as many as 31 additional tapes (of course, you need 31 additional devices). As you can see, UltraBac is far from a stripped-down program.
UltraBac is a fine program for moderate to medium-sized networks and in environments that don't require central control or comprehensive file management. With the personal version's ability to deliver all the features of the bigger products, UltraBac is clearly the editor's choice for personal workstations and small-scale networks.
We have a tie between UltraBac and Backup Exec for editor's choice for medium-scale networks. Unlike Backup Exec, UltraBac can accept the immediate driver changers from the tape applet. UltraBac lacks an easy interface that lets you save and schedule jobs at the same time (Backup Exec has this capability). UltraBac needs more support for autochangers, although this support has improved during the last few revisions. Given Barratt Edwards' serious attitude about revising and improving the product, these changes will not be far in the future.
Unlike the other products I tested, Legato's NetWorker uses push technology for backups: Rather than having the server pull the data from the remote systems, the product installs agents on remote systems, and these agents collect and send the data to the backup server. Another unique aspect of NetWorker is the way it handles information on the server. To speed the backup process, the input streams from the remote systems are multiplexed or mixed on the tapes. (This approach has the potential effect of slowing the restore process for an individual workstation.) NetWorker supports up to 16 devices for concurrent backups.
You install NetWorker as a server and as one or more clients. You notify the server of clients on the network, and from then on, you can back up in early morning (the product defaults to 3:33 a.m.) from anywhere or everywhere in the network. You can assign specific tasks on specific days. Given this hands-off orientation, NetWorker is clearly designed for lights-out backups.
NetWorker is easy to set up, and its overall feature set makes it a powerful backup application. On backup, you can configure various windows to give details about the total network backup, as shown in screen 5. A client initiates all backup operations (in this case, the client and server modules are on the same machine), and the data is pushed from the client to the server.
Several aspects of NetWorker need revision. For example, you have to use command-line utilities to install, configure, and reset autochangers. Likewise, the product provides no easy way to eject or erase a tape. You have to place these functions either in the program or in a separate utility applet.
The overall strengths of NetWorker are its distributed architecture, its client's ability to encrypt and password-protect data, and its approach to maintaining separate client databases. With a few changes in the utilities (as noted) and easier control of network stations, Legato will have a killer application. However, you must consider the serious hardware requirement for a NetWorker server: It has should be a serious Symmetrical Multiprocessing (SMP) machine to handle concurrent backup.
SQLStor by SQL Business Systems is a full-featured automatic backup tool for SQL databases. It fully supports autochangers and, in fact, will not work without one. SQLStor is based on a client/server architecture that deploys full 32-bit server software in support of 16-bit client software. SQLStor is powerful and even restores multiple data sets with one operation. Currently, SQLStor supports only Microsoft SQL Server databases; support for other database products is forthcoming.
SQLStor's setup is direct. You install the administrator (the server software) and reboot the computer. Then you install the client and connect to the SQL Server. After making the connection, you configure the hardware, examine your databases, and set up your backup schedules, as shown in screen 6. From this point, SQLStor functions automatically.
Several features of SQLStor are worth mentioning. First, it automatically reschedules failed backups. Second, SQLStor can use multiple tape requests for large backups. Third, if SQLStor fails, you can restore with the SQL Server. SQLStor is the product of choice for large and serious databases, and it's easy to configure and use. The 16-bit client did cause me some consternation, but I never had problems with it. Future versions will include striping, bar code readers, and support for other databases.
Making a Choice
All the backup products in this article can back up and restore. What separates the applications is the ability to control the backup over a network and the ability to work with system crashes and restores.
The most elegant of the crash/restore applications are Backup Director and Storage Manager from Seagate Software. These two products maintain all resource information on tape and automatically restore the system resources. Because of the way these applications maintain file history information, they can even tell you whether files have been deleted and then restore deleted files. When you add support for file migration rules and VISTA, Seagate Software becomes the clear editor's choice for enterprise-scale networks.
In the intermediate range of networks, the backup options are more open. Both Seagate Software's Backup Exec and Barratt Edwards International's UltraBac have features that make them outstanding applications.
All things considered, justifying one over the other is difficult, although UltraBac's ability to back up to hard drives creates new and interesting backup options. You can, for example, set up UltraBac to back up to juke boxes, stand-alone optical drives, or other removable media drives. Both applications use multiple instances of the applications to handle multiple devices. You can argue that such multiple openings are more efficient than concurrent backups, but for an enterprise-scale solution, such an implementation is awkward at best. For these reasons, I choose both applications for the editor's choice for medium-scale networks.
For small networks and personal desktop backup, the choice is between Legato's NetWorker and Barratt Edwards International's UltraBac. The price advantage goes to NetWorker, but the feature advantage goes to UltraBac. For example, using UltraBac with a low-end removable media drive, such as an Iomega Zip drive, to handle incremental backups is not unreasonable. Another feature advantage UltraBac offers is drive-failure recovery. If one tape drive crashes, the product automatically enables and uses a second drive.
On the other hand, if you are concerned about integrating your current and future desktop systems into an enterprise environment, NetWorker is the logical choice. The bottom line is that both are capable backup applications, but the editor's choice for personal workstations/small-scale networks is UltraBac because of its feature content.
Regardless of which backup product you choose, you need to follow through and implement a comprehensive backup strategy for your environment. If you keep that goal in mind, all these products are winners, because they all help in the ongoing struggle to protect your most valuable corporate asset, your business information.
Cheyenne Software: 800-243-9462|
Prices: Enterprise Edition (backs up multiple servers and clients): $1395, Single Server (no NT clients): $795, Autochanger Module: $595, NetWare client: $695, SQL backup module: $995, Oracle backup module: $995, SAP backup module: $995
Prices: Workstation version: $30, Server: $995, Network Server: $1495, Turbo (enables concurrent backup and streaming): $1250, Archive enabler: $750, Autochanger enabler (one per autochanger)(1-6 slot: $500; 1-16 slot: $1300; 1-64 slot: $3200), Connection Enabler (5 connections: $750; 25 connections: $2500 (PC and Macintosh)), Mac Agent (1): $150, Mac Agent (unlimited): $1500, UNIX: $1500, Novell: $500
SQL Business Systems: 800-778-7410|
Prices: Standard version: $1995, Enhanced version: $2995
Seagate Software: 800-288-4912|
Price: Single drive: $795, Multidrive: $1995
|Backup Exec 6.1|
Seagate Software: 800-327-2232|
Prices: Enterprise Backup: $1295, Server: $695, Autochanger Module: $495, UNIX agent: $495, Macintosh agent: $495, SQL agent: $695, NetWare agent: $685
Seagate Software: 800-288-4912|
Price: Five-user module: $1995
Seagate Software: 800-288-4912|
Prices: Multiserver: $1595, One server: $995
Seagate Software: 800-288-4912|
Prices: Single Server: $1995, Multiserver: $3595
Barratt Edwards International: 206-644-6000|
Prices: Personal Version (stand-alone (local machine)): $129 ($149 after 6/1/96), Workstation Version (will not run on server and is restricted to a total of six machines): $295, Server Version (runs on both server and workstation but is restricted to a total of six machines): $495, Network Server (will back up networks, except other servers): $995, Enterprise (backs up entire network): $1295, Autochanger Module: $395, Tape Copier: $395, SQL Module: $695, Exchange Module: $695