Remotely administer backups for offsite offices

Do you need an easy-to-implement backup solution that you can remotely administer for remote offices or departmental LANs? The LANvault 200 from ATL Products, a division of Quantum, might fit the bill.

The LANvault 200 is a preconfigured backup solution set that consists of ATL's PowerStor L200 DLTtape library, an SP200 server, Windows NT Workstation, and preinstalled backup software—either VERITAS Software's Backup Exec or Computer Associates' (CA's) ARCserveIT. The PowerStor L200 library is available with either a Quantum DLT 4000 drive (20GB native capacity and 1.5MBps transfer rate) or DLT 7000 drive (35GB native capacity and 5MBps transfer rate). I reviewed a system with the DLT 7000 drive and Backup Exec 7.2. (ATL now ships LANvault with Backup Exec 7.3 and plans to release a Windows 2000 version of LANvault with Backup Exec 8.0 in late summer 2000.) Because the benefits of LANvault lie in its easy setup and remote management features, I don't cover the backup software's capabilities. For more information about Backup Exec, see Brian Gallagher, "Backup Software for Your Network," November 1997, and for a review of ARCserveIT, see Tom Iwanski, "Enterprise Backup Software," June 2000.

LANvault requires only power and network connectivity, is a compact 9" x 11.5" x 23", and is suitable for office environments. The SP200 server has an integrated Intel EtherExpress PRO 100 10/100 NIC. The tape library (which includes a reader for barcoded DLTtape cartridge labels, two fixed tape slots, and six slots in a removable cartridge) sits atop the server.

Installation and configuration of LANvault is simple in comparison to setting up a Win2K server or NT server with a tape library and backup software. The LANvault 200 Unpacking and Installation Instructions manual clearly describes the setup.

After writing down the server and tape library serial numbers for product registration, I connected two power cables, a network cable, and two SCSI cables: one for the library robotics-to-tape-drive connection and one for the library-to-server connection. After labeling the DLTtape cartridges with the product-supplied barcode labels, I loaded a cleaning tape and a DLTtape into the library's fixed slots, then loaded six more DLTtapes into the removable cartridge. After powering up the library, then the server, I was ready to begin configuration.

Like all TCP/IP-based network appliances, LANvault needs a network IP address. Although you can configure an IP address by selecting buttons on the server's LCD control panel, I found that using the Discovery Utility, which comes on the Management Console Installation CD-ROM, is much easier. You need to install the Discovery Utility on a computer on the same IP subnet as the LANvault because the utility uses an IP broadcast to the local network segment to discover nearby LANvaults.

Although I configured LANvault to use a DHCP-supplied address, you might want to assign a fixed address that your DNS server recognizes. Otherwise, you might attempt to remotely administer LANvault, only to learn that it doesn't respond because the DHCP server changed LANvault's address. The DHCP server also supplies LANvault with a subnet mask and default gateway, which you must supply to the Discovery Utility if you configure LANvault with a static IP address. You can supply a new NT workstation computer name, but I accepted the default name, LANVAULT. To set up LANvault for a remote office with an Internet connection, you can perform this initial configuration, ship the unit to the remote office, and complete the setup remotely after someone connects LANvault to the remote office network.

Because remote configuration and management is a key feature of LANvault, I installed LANvault and a workstation to use as the management console on different IP subnets. This configuration lets the network traffic transfer across a router to simulate a WAN connection. I used the Management Console Installation CD-ROM to install the LANvault Management Console program on the NT Workstation system, as the installation manual describes. This process installed a LANvault Management Console program group and a Backup Exec program group. Then, the installation launched the Add New LANvault Wizard. The Wizard adds a shortcut to the LANvault Management Console program group, which you use to connect to LANvault. You can also use this wizard to create shortcuts to other LANvaults in your organization. Although the instructions say to enter LANvault's computer name, I entered its IP address instead and easily connected to it. Finally, the installation instructions advised me to change the default password, register the system, and refer to online documentation.

The LANvault Management Console is a Web-browser application that lets you configure various aspects of LANvault. Standard NT authentication secures the Management Console's connection to LANvault. The Manage Server option on the Management Console's home page takes you to the various SP200 server configuration pages. The Manage Library option launches a separate Java application that lets you configure the PowerStor L200 tape library. The Product Manuals option provides online access to seven manuals and provides the installation instructions as Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

You can select Manage Server to reveal Web pages to configure the server name, network addressing parameters, administrator and operator account information, and the Messaging API (MAPI—e.g., Microsoft Exchange Server, Lotus Notes) mailbox to receive event notification. LANvault notifies you of server and library startups and shutdowns. When you select the Enable Backup Package E-mail Notifications check box on the Events configuration page, as Figure 1 shows, LANvault configures a MAPI profile on the PowerStor L200 server for the mailbox you specify. After supplying LANvault with the server and mailbox information, I started the Manage Library application and selected the Library Available and Library Unavailable check boxes to make these events trigger email notification. Backup Exec and ARCserveIT have different procedures that let you configure email notification for backup events.

LANvault 200 also comes with Symantec's pcAnywhere. The LANvault Management Console has a Remote Control menu option that uses pcAnywhere's Web access for full remote control of the LANvault server. Although the LANvault Management Console's full feature set gives you little reason to take direct control of the server console, pcAnywhere let me verify that the Management Console routines were configuring the server as I expected. To use pcAnywhere, I selected the Remote Control option from the Manage Server menu on the Management Console and quickly connected to LANvault. PcAnywhere's Web interface was easy to use, and the product provided good response time and single-click movement between full screen and typical browser viewing modes.

To begin testing, I easily logged on, initialized tapes, set up media sets (i.e., named groups of tapes that supply storage for a particular job or set of jobs), created backup jobs, and configured email notification. Then, I backed up the LANvault system, a domain controller, and a computer that served as a benchmark control console. The computers communicated using 100Mbps Ethernet half-duplex links. Backup Exec reported backup speeds between 121MB per minute and 260MB per minute over the network, which is short of the DLT 7000's 300MB per minute uncompressed rate. As I expected, the volume with a few large files backed up at the fastest rate, and the volume with more than 4500 small files backed up most slowly. These results match other tests of traditional server-based DLT backup drives that I've performed. I easily launched a redirected restore of a directory from the domain controller to another network server.

Although LANvault's setup and administration is easy, integration of the Web-based PowerStor L200 library configuration pages with the Web-based SP200 server configuration pages would be helpful. Users who have large volumes of data to back up or a small window of time in which to complete the backup would welcome an upgrade for the PowerStor L200 to support the faster Quantum DLT 8000 drive, and in time, Quantum Super DLT. A gigabit Ethernet network attachment option to alleviate bottlenecks would also be welcome.

LANvault provides easy-to-implement remote-site tape backup. Everything comes preinstalled, and the solution requires only minimal configuration. Although you will pay more for LANvault than you will for a server-based NT backup solution, LANvault's remote administration features and easy setup lower total cost of ownership (TCO) from day one. The product's compact size also makes it an attractive choice to back up computers at remote offices. LANvault is worth considering.

LANvault 200
Contact: ATL Products * 949-856-7800 or 800-677-6268
Price: $9999 with the Quantum DLT 4000 drive; $13,999 with the Quantum DLT 7000 drive
Decision Summary:
Pros: Supports remote administration; supports VERITAS Software's Backup Exec and Computer Associates' ARCserveIT for backup; is compact; is easy to install and use
Cons: Carries a higher price than traditional NT-based backup servers; requires you to perform hard disk failure recovery from the local network