A few months ago, I tested several Microsoft Exchange Server recovery scenarios, including online and offline restores of the public and private databases, and individual mailbox recovery. As part of the test, I wanted to compare the speed and reliability of NTBackup against two of the most popular third-party backup tools: Cheyenne's ArcServe and Seagate's Backup Exec. After digging through Cheyenne's Web site and making a few phone calls, I discovered that I couldn't download an enterprise version of ArcServe for test and evaluation purposes. But to my delight, I could download a full enterprise version of Backup Exec at Seagate's Web site.

Installation was a breeze, and Backup Exec automatically discovered all the Windows NT and Exchange servers on my network. The software installs seven services that stop and start quickly and without errors. During 40 hours of testing, I never encountered an error dialog box.

In addition to testing full and incremental disk backups of NT servers, I created 8 to 10 jobs to perform online and offline backups and restores of the Information Store (IS), Directory Store (DS), and mailboxes in various combinations. All defined jobs appear on the Job Definition Tabs, and you can easily modify each with a double-click. You can copy and remove jobs as needed, and you can schedule jobs to run once or on any timetable. For example, you can perform incremental disk back ups daily, incremental Exchange backups daily, a full online IS/DS backup, and individual mailbox backup weekly as appropriate for your site.

The software also supports full, differential, copy, and incremental Exchange backups—so you can copy full databases or just the transaction logs, depending on your recovery scenarios. When you perform a full Exchange backup, the backup includes all relevant Registry settings on the remote Exchange system. If you must manually restore an Exchange Server (e.g., when a hard disk fails), these Registry paths are essential to a successful recovery procedure.

The GUI is very intuitive, and I like having the backup and restore selections on separate tabs. The Job Monitor provides instant feedback on the status of active jobs (elapsed time and transfer rate) and the status of completed jobs. I looked at the Help screens only twice during my entire testing procedure. Overall, this package is great.

For comparison purposes, when NTBackup couldn't restore the private database, Backup Exec had no problem. The online and offline Exchange backups and restores were also much faster than NTBackup. And, although performing a separate mailbox backup (a brick backup) for each user is time-consuming (because Exchange doesn't store mailboxes and messages sequentially in the database), recovering an individual mailbox is quite fast, even with an old 4mm DAT drive. Last, and just as important, Backup Exec removes itself cleanly and doesn't even require you to reboot.

If you've been limping along with NTBackup, take a look at Backup Exec—the difference is like night and day, and once you test it, you'll wonder why you waited so long. You can download a 60-day evaluation copy from Seagate's Web site.

Backup Exec
Contact: Seagate * 407-531-7501
or 800-327-2232
Web: http://www.seagate.com