Open File Manager (OFM) is a server-side software driver that solves a notorious problem with backup­backing up open files. With OFM installed, your backup software (or other file-oriented utilities) can access open files as if they were closed.

The software comes on a single disk and is easy to install, but you must reboot your server to activate OFM. You also need a separate license for each server.

OFM is clearly a useful add-on. The overhead of the driver, at least on my dual Pentium Pro 200 is negligible. You do not know that the driver is present unless you open the OFM interface, which displays an embossed image of a Saint Bernard and scrolls through credits as it loads.

Both St. Bernard Software and Computer Associates (CA) sell OFM. As sold by CA, OFM supports only CA's ARCserve backup product. As sold by St. Bernard Software, OFM supports numerous backup products, as shown in Screen A. Other supported backup products not shown in Screen A are Syncsort Backup Express V1.2.3, UltraBac for Windows NT, Unisys S3 for NT V2.1, and Workstation-based Backup (in this case, OFM asks for a password to allow remote backup of a server from a workstation). As you can see, OFM works with most backup applications.

Once you've installed it, setting up OFM is easy. The only strategic aspect of setup is the formation of groups of files that you want to back up at the same time (e.g., aspects of databases). OFM will cache the information in each group during the backup process to prevent partial updates. Other than defining groups, setup does not require much intervention.

Testing of OFM was straightforward. I opened documents in Word 97, spreadsheets in Excel, and images and layouts in PageMaker 6.5. First, I invoked Windows NT Backup and instructed it to back up my system with OFM disabled. As expected, NT Backup skipped over all my open files. I then enabled OFM and repeated the operation­this time all my open files were successfully backed up. More impressively, OFM successfully backed up the major files for Systems Management Server (SMS) and SQL. As you know, SQL database files are difficult to back up without specific vendor-supplied agents, but OFM handled these files easily.

OFM works and works well. It is available for both Intel and Alpha systems, although remote use by a workstation is available only on the Intel platform. My only complaint about OFM is that it does not conform to NT's uninstall specification. To remove OFM, you must disable the driver and manually delete its Registry entries. This inconvenience is relatively minor when you consider what OFM has to offer. If you work in an environment where users leave files open or where databases run around the clock, you need OFM.