Enterprise-level backup programs can provide peace of mind that the data on your servers is safe and secure. If your backup software doesn't give that protected feeling, you might want to invest in a solid insurance policy for your data. I found seven products that offer the comprehensive client support and advanced features necessary to enable centralized backup in an enterprise.
The products that I considered for this comparative review needed to offer backup and restoration capabilities on Windows 2000, Windows NT, Novell NetWare 5.1, and Sun Microsystems' Solaris 8 platforms. The products also needed to be able to perform online backups and restores of SQL Server 7.0's databases and Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5's Directory Store, Information Store (IS), and individual mailboxes. As I tested these base capabilities, I also considered performance, media-control features, manageability, and advanced subsets of the required features.
The nature of enterprise backup solutions demands that they offer features such as command-line control, pre-job and post-job scripting, and an array of add-ons. I chose not to dwell on those ubiquitous features. Except where noted, I obtained the performance numbers that Graph 1 and Graph 2 show without modifying the products' basic installation. As the traditional backup window meets its demise in the 24 * 7 e-world, backup concerns are beginning to shift away from hardware speeds and feeds. Because so much of your data is available online, the ability to perform highly reliable online backups is more vital than ever. Reliability and data integrity reign supreme over screaming backup speeds.
To test these backup products' important features and functions, I configured a scaled-down model of an enterprise environment. At the heart of my backup test system was an ADIC Scalar 100 tape library that contained four IBM 3580 Ultrium Linear Tape-Open (LTO) drives. The backup server—a Dell PowerEdge 4400 with dual 800MHz Intel Xeon processors and 2GB of RAM—connected to the library through two Adaptec Ultra160 SCSI adapters. One adapter connected two LTO drives and the robot (i.e., the mechanical device that moves tapes within the library), and the second adapter connected the remaining two LTO drives.
Running either Win2K Server or NT Server, I used a mixture of hardware that provided small, medium, and large data files and SQL Server databases to back up and restore. To test each product's parallel-streaming abilities, I conducted Windows file-system backups concurrently, then performed the database backup tests individually. I used an Extreme Networks Summit48 switch to ensure adequate network throughput during backups and restores. For full-duplex 1000Mbps operation, I used optical fiber—by way of a Gigabit-SX port—to connect the backup server to the switch. All other systems attached to 100Base-T ports on the switch and operated in full-duplex mode at 100Mbps.
How They Fared
Each product's features, characteristics, and price structure determine whether the product is a good fit for your environment. CommVault Systems' CommVault Galaxy 3.1, VERITAS Software's VERITAS NetBackup DataCenter 3.4.1, Legato Systems' Legato NetWorker 6.0, and Hewlett-Packard's HP OpenView OmniBack II 3.5 all boast features that enable them to scale for performance and administration in large environments. Surprisingly, three of the lower-priced products—OmniBack II, Syncsort's Backup Express 2.1.4, and UltraBac 6.3 Enterprise Edition—demonstrated impressive nontuned performance numbers, but Computer Associates' (CA's) ARCserve 2000 Advanced Edition 7.0 fared best for overall throughput. NetBackup DataCenter and NetWorker showed middle-of-the-road performance, but both products offer an array of tunable parameters with which you can optimize performance. (For a cost comparison that considers several different hardware configurations, see Table 1.)
All the products contain idiosyncrasies in setup, configuration, and operation. However, for overall ease of use and operation, I give my highest recommendation to ARCserve 2000. NetBackup DataCenter and OmniBack II follow close behind. UltraBac is also easy to use, mostly because of a less complex option set.
All the products support online backups and restores of SQL Server 2000, 7.0, and 6.5—except Galaxy, which doesn't support SQL Server 6.5. NetWorker supports SQL Server 6.5 through NetWorker's previous-version SQL Server agent (i.e., Legato NetWorker Module 2.0.1 for Microsoft SQL Server). None of the products automatically recognize and coordinate backups of distributed partitioned views; you must manually coordinate backups across member servers. All the products except UltraBac perform Win2K System State backups on both local and remote computers. UltraBac performs System State backups only on computers with locally attached tape drives.
ARCserve 2000 Advanced Edition 7.0
ARCserve 2000's installation CD-ROM arrived in a box that also contained a Getting Started manual. The autorun-enabled CD-ROM launched the ARCserve 2000 Product Explorer, which let me browse and select the ARCserve 2000 components that I needed for my environment. I selected and installed ARCserve 2000, the Tape Library Option, the Client Agent for Windows NT/2000, and the Backup Agent for Microsoft SQL Server. During the ARCserve 2000 installation, the software prompted me to use either the ARCserve Standard Database or a SQL Server database. I chose the ARCserve Standard Database, which I could later transfer to a SQL Server database if necessary. Immediately after I installed these components, I installed the recommended Service Pack 2 (SP2) for ARCserve upgrade, as well as a device-support service pack.
During the Tape Library Option installation, the software led me through a three-step process of assigning drives, specifying a cleaning slot, and setting media-initialization options. In the first step, I let the software automatically detect and assign devices; in the second step, I specified that I had a barcode reader and assigned a cleaning-tape slot; and in the third step, I selected the Library Quick Initialization check box. I clicked Finish and started the Tape Engine from the Server Admin tool, then watched the Device Manager interface as the software enumerated the library's contents.
You can install ARCserve 2000 Client Agents locally or remotely through the ARCserve 2000 Product Explorer. I chose the remote method for my Windows computers. Within the Product Explorer, I drilled down to the appropriate selection and clicked Remote Setup. I entered the names of the destination computers, and the software prompted me to supply credentials for each machine. I completed the installations quickly, and ARCserve 2000 informed me of their successful completion. You must install the Backup Agent for Microsoft SQL Server locally on the target server. I ran the installation of the Backup Agent for Microsoft SQL Server from the CD-ROM drive on each SQL Server machine that I wanted to back up. The installation prompted me to specify the type of authentication I wanted to use for connecting to the SQL Server database, as well as the protocol I wanted to use (e.g., Named Pipes or TCP/IP).
ARCserve Manager is the UI that you use for all backup, restore, and management operations. From ARCserve Manager's home page, you choose the Manager component (i.e., Backup Manager, Restore Manager, Report Manager) that you need for a given job. The UI, which in Figure 1 shows the Job Status screen active, is easy to navigate. Built-in wizards let you quickly accomplish foundational tasks.
Tape Library and Media Control
ARCserve 2000 uses groups to organize slots in a tape library. You assign one or more slots to a group, then specify one or more groups as the target for a backup job. ARCserve 2000 accomplishes parallel streaming and automated media spanning by targeting multiple groups. The software uses media pools, in conjunction with retention periods, to protect the data on your tapes against overwriting. You can use mirrored (i.e., RAID 1) tape backup or the product's command-line Tape Copy utility to obtain tape copies.
To configure backups, you can use the Backup Manager interface or the Wizard menu's Backup Wizard. I used Backup Manager to configure my backups. The interface, which contains three tabs—Source, Destination, and Schedule—is simple and easy to use. You tag objects that you want to back up, specify what group to back up to, and set an appropriate schedule for the job. After you set the parameters, you click Run/Schedule to launch or schedule the job and save the job parameters. I had no problems running any of my backup jobs.
The Restore Manager interface is similar to the Backup Manager interface, so diving right in to a restore is easy. The Options screen lets you tailor restore jobs to exactly suit your needs. ARCserve 2000 supports individual table restores for SQL Server 6.5, filegroup-level restores for SQL Server 2000 and 7.0, and point-in-time restores. My test restores required little effort, and I was able to complete each operation quickly.
Graph 1 and Graph 2 show that backup and restore throughput was impressive for both local and network-based jobs. Other than a brief mention of tape RAID, the product offered little documentation about performance tuning. A CA representative pointed me to the installation CD-ROM for a few utilities that I could use to test and tune performance; however, for my tests, I used the default configuration.
A Solid Product
ARCserve 2000's ease of use and performance impressed me. The interface let me quickly define and run tasks. Additionally, the Report Manager let me easily track backup and restore jobs. Besides a small documented problem involving shared directory permissions during the installation process, I didn't encounter any significant difficulties with the product. CA's support Web site is well organized, and the company's support personnel are knowledgeable. The product's high price per client might exclude ARCserve 2000 from environments that contain large numbers of clients.
|ARCserve 2000 Advanced Edition 7.0|
| Contact: Computer Associates * 631-342-6000 or 800-225-5224 |
Price: $10,060 as tested
Pros: Good performance without tweaking; solid technical support
Cons: High cost per backed-up server
Backup Express 2.1.4
Backup Express arrived in a box that contained one CD-ROM, a small Backup Express Jukebox Setup manual, and a Getting Started manual. Additional manuals are available in PDF format on the CD-ROM. To begin the product's installation, I chose the Win2000 Master Server and GUI option.
Backup Express uses the term jukebox to describe devices such as the ADIC tape library. To install the jukebox, I used the command-line utilities that the Backup Express Jukebox Setup manual describes. The installation process consists of listing SCSI devices; writing down the adapter ID, bus ID, target ID, and LUN of the drives and robot; and supplying this information to the installation utility. Although the installation procedure wasn't terribly difficult, the products that offer graphical auto-configuration were much simpler and faster to install. After I installed the jukebox, I needed to configure it within the Backup Express GUI. This process involved assigning the tape drives, creating media pools, and labeling the media.
You must install the Backup Express Client software on each computer that you want to back up; you can perform the installation manually, or you can use the Remote Client Deployment utility. For my Windows computers, I used the deployment utility, which copies installation files to a temporary directory on the target computer and builds scripts to schedule and run the installation. The base client software provides SQL Server backup and restore functionality, so no additional client-side software is necessary.
The Backup Express GUI
Although I could install the Backup Express GUI on any machine, I used it primarily on the master server. By default, the GUI opens in User Menu mode, which lets you restore only to the local computer. To access the full-featured GUI, you must click Administrator Login, then provide credentials. The interface, which Figure 2 shows, looks simple and intuitive, but getting accustomed to it takes a while. One of the interface's detriments is that it doesn't let you simultaneously open multiple screens related to different operations. For example, I couldn't keep a job-monitor screen open while creating or modifying backup jobs. According to a Syncsort representative, you can work around this behavior by opening multiple instances of the GUI.
Tape Library and Media Control
To create media pools and assign media to those pools, you click Configure, Media. Backup Express uses a job-centric approach to media management, so you specify many settings typically associated with a media pool at the job level. When you create a backup job, you can specify backup-destination options to govern how the software handles media during and after the backup; for example, you can specify copy media (e.g., twin tapes) and offsite media designations.
To perform such operations as importing, exporting, loading, and moving media, you choose the Device Control option and click Jukebox operations. These functions weren't terribly intuitive, but after a few operations, they were easy to use and operated as expected.
Each system that you want to back up is a node. The software categorizes nodes into group nodes, and the group nodes belong to an enterprise. To select objects for backup, you drill down the hierarchy to the node level. When you expand a node, Backup Express enumerates all pertinent backup objects, including SQL Server databases. After you make your backup selections and specify source and destination options, you save the backup definition for subsequent launching or scheduling. The user-friendly options for launching backup jobs provide much flexibility. In my testing, file-system and SQL Server backups performed well.
The data-restoration process is similar to the backup process. You use the same object-selection interface, which you can populate with cataloged backup data or tape contents.
Source and destination options let you customize the restore task. Backup Express supports individual table restores for SQL Server 6.5 and filegroup-level restores for SQL Server 2000 and 7.0. A Syncsort representative suggested that I could modify Backup Express's scripts to accomplish point-in-time restoration, but the feature isn't available from the GUI. Restore operations in my environment performed well.
I was able to back up and restore all the objects necessary in my testing, but Backup Express's performance was initially poor. I contacted Syncsort about the performance problems, and support technicians discovered a bug in the product's data-mover component, which writes data to the tape driver. Just before press time, I obtained a new build of the software and had enough time to run the tests again—with much better results. As Graph 1 and Graph 2 show, Backup Express's late-breaking build performed well.
Room for Improvement
Although I eventually became familiar with the GUI, having to jump back and forth between tasks posed productivity hurdles. Also, attempts to review tasks in the logs were difficult, particularly when a job comprised multiple tasks.
On the plus side, the single agent for covering multiple backup types simplifies the product's installation and configuration, and using Device Control for library and media management was effortless.
|Backup Express 2.1.4|
| Contact: Syncsort * 201-930-9700 |
Price: $15,250 as tested, plus annual maintenance fee of 18 to 24 percent depending on maintenance plan
Pros: Single client agent covers multiple backup types; easy graphical library and media management
Cons: GUI doesn't let you display multiple operations simultaneously; confusing log names complicate job tracking
CommVault Galaxy 3.1
Galaxy arrived in two boxes that contained four CD-ROMs and individualized manuals for the software components that I needed in my environment. Galaxy is a complex product that takes time and planning to install and configure.
CommVault refers to three components—CommServe StorageManager, MediaAgent, and iDataAgents—as its Galaxy product suite. A configured installation of these elements comprises a CommCell. The CommServe StorageManager component is the central director for all CommCell activities, MediaAgents transfer data between the client and the backup media, and iDataAgents enable backup and restoration of data types on the client. To accommodate Galaxy, I needed to make one adjustment to my environment: Because the CommServe StorageManager shouldn't reside on an existing SQL Server computer, I added a dedicated computer to the test bed to host this component.
After I installed the MediaAgent, the software automatically launched the Galaxy Library and Drive Configuration program. I clicked Detect Devices, and Galaxy found and configured devices for Galaxy's use and accurately assigned the LTO drives' drive type.
Galaxy's extensive list of iDataAgents lets you support a wide range of hardware and software environments. I installed iDataAgents for SQL Server, Windows NT File System, and Windows 2000 File System on the appropriate machines in my environment. To install the iDataAgents on Windows computers, you run the setup program from the local CD-ROM drive and answer a few questions about each system's environment.
The CommCell Console
The CommCell Console is the interface you use to control and manage a Galaxy CommCell. You can launch the console as a standalone Java application, a Web-based Java applet, or a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in. I worked in the Web-based Java applet, which Figure 3 shows. Most of the product's action takes place in the CommCell Browser window. This browser's treeview of client computers, storage resources, and storage policies is intuitive and easy to navigate.
Tape Library and Media Control
Galaxy detected and managed the attached tape library and media without requiring any intervention. To manually move several tapes out of the scratch media pool and move the cleaning tape to the cleaning media pool, I could simply drag icons. Galaxy uses storage policies to map backup data to physical media. In my environment, I created several storage policies and organized them logically according to platform type. Backup tasks specify a storage policy that controls how the software writes a backup to media. To facilitate redundant or archival media copies, you can copy and configure storage policies with alternative parameters. Galaxy's granular approach to library and media management provides great flexibility without making the process overly complex.
Galaxy's unique backup approach is to let subclients control backups of different data sets*either separately or in parallel. For example, one subclient might be responsible for backing up OS files and another subclient might focus on data. These subclients can target separate storage policies or the same storage policy. When you create a backup set, you specify the subclients and resulting storage policies that the software will use to accomplish the backup task. When you install the iDataAgent, the software enables a default subclient for backing up all fixed disks on the client. In my testing, I used the default subclient for creating backup jobs but created a multiple subclient job for testing.
After you create backup sets, you can launch them manually or use CommVault's Scheduler tool to schedule them. The manual methods for creating and scheduling jobs are fairly straightforward, but new administrators might want to use the product's built-in wizards.
A wizard lets you easily configure and launch restore processes. The wizard prompts you to select the client, the iDataAgent that backed up the data, the backup set that contains the data to restore, and the objects you want to restore. The wizard then lets you specify alternative path, file-permission, and overwrite options. Galaxy supports full point-in-time restores of SQL Server 2000 and 7.0 databases. Although the product doesn't support individual-table restores, the iDataAgents provide much flexibility and precision when you're restoring file systems and SQL Server databases.
In addition to the parallelism that running multiple jobs simultaneously affords, Galaxy's subclients let you throttle a job so that it fits into a smaller time window. Although I didn't use this throttling feature in my tests, the throughput that I achieved using the default client configuration shows that Galaxy offers reasonable performance out of the box.
Ready for Large Enterprise
My overall impression of Galaxy was positive. CommVault's technical support group, which I worked with to resolve a few minor difficulties, is knowledgeable and helpful. Galaxy offers much power and flexibility and, at the same time, maintains ease of use and minimizes complexity. Galaxy's component-based architecture ensures that the product will scale gracefully, and the Java-based interface to the CommServe StorageManager bolsters enterprise-level usability. However, the high price per backed-up server might prove too costly for some large organizations.
|CommVault Galaxy 3.1|
| Contact: CommVault Systems * 732-870-4000 |
Pros: Powerful and flexible environment; built for scalability
Cons: Storage Manager can't reside on an existing SQL Server system; high cost per backed-up server
VERITAS NetBackup DataCenter 3.4.1
NetBackup DataCenter comes in a box that contains four CD-ROMs and eight printed manuals. I consulted the Installation Guide and the System Administrator's Guide while installing and configuring NetBackup Server for Microsoft Windows NT on my backup server. The installation was simple—except that I needed to enter long license keys for each option I wanted to enable. As VERITAS's support personnel recommended, I installed the most current patch to update the software to version 3.4.1. The patch installation was simple, but I had to repeat it on each NetBackup DataCenter client and the backup server.
After the installation, the Getting Started Wizard helped me configure my storage device, volumes, and catalog backup, as well as create a backup policy. These steps provided the groundwork for implementing a successful backup and recovery scheme. The program automatically discovered the robot and drives but couldn't determine the type of installed drives. I needed to manually specify the drive type; however, the software doesn't list LTO tape drives as an option. A VERITAS representative told me I could use DLT as a substitute in my tests.
You can install Windows clients remotely from the CD-ROM: I was able to easily push-install the client software to networked Windows machines. I installed the SQL Server Agent from my SQL Server machines' local CD-ROM drives. The SQL Server Agent installation was fast, but configuring the agent took more effort than the other products did. The agent relies on an ODBC data source for backup and restore operations. To accommodate automated SQL Server backups, you need to generate a script, which NetBackup DataCenter's scheduling component will later execute.
The NetBackup Administration tool, which Figure 4 shows, is a graphical menu from which you can open separate administration windows for the product's various components. You can display the tool as a window, a toolbar, or a system tray icon.
I had already visited the Storage Unit Management and Media and Device Management interfaces as I walked through the Getting Started Wizard. In the Storage Unit Management interface, you add and remove storage devices and configure operational parameters. In the Media and Device Management interface, you configure backup devices and the media they use. Overall, NetBackup DataCenter offers excellent, highly automated media-management and device-management facilities that support an extensive list of hardware vendors.
To configure and manage backup jobs, you access the Backup Policy Management interface. Policies, which the software refers to as classes, define the rules for backing up one or more member clients. Each class has four components: General Attributes, Client List, File List, and Schedules. The General Attributes section lets you specify the type of clients that you want to back up, the class's priority, and the storage unit you want to use for the backup. The Schedules section lets you launch manual backups and schedule automatic jobs. You can configure a scheduled job to target a specific storage device, thereby overriding the device that you specified in General Attributes. After I set appropriate classes for the various systems in my test environment, I scheduled a few backup jobs, then ran the remainder manually by right-clicking the class icon and choosing Manual Backup from the resulting menu.
You can initiate data restoration from the client side or the server side. To perform a Windows file-system restore from the backup server, I opened the Backup, Archive, and Restore interface on the backup server and specified the remote clients that I wanted to use as the targets for the restore. The software supports individual table restores for SQL Server 6.5 and filegroup-level restores for SQL Server 7.0, as well as partial-database restores for SQL Server 2000. NetBackup DataCenter also provides full point-in-time restoration capabilities. The processes for performing file-system and SQL Server restores are intuitive and highly functional.
NetBackup DataCenter offers extensive provisions for load balancing between servers, clients, classes, and devices. Bandwidth limiting, class preference, and multiplexing for backup devices are a few of the many configurable options that you can use to maximize performance and minimize resource utilization. The System Administrator's Guide illustrates how to use these settings. For my tests, I didn't alter the default parameters, and I experienced good backup throughput but noticed subpar restore performance.
Thorough Enterprise Functionality
Although the separate windows for each operation can quickly clutter the desktop, NetBackup DataCenter's interface is easy to use. To ensure backup integrity, you'll find all the information you need in the Activity Monitor, the detailed logging, and the Reports utility (although the Activity Monitor's progress bar is often inaccurate). NetBackup DataCenter seamlessly worked with the tape library and never required that I manually move a tape. The SQL Server client was somewhat difficult to configure, but some of this difficulty is attributable to the product's learning curve: I accomplished subsequent installations more quickly. The necessity to individually target all clients and servers for the patch installation was manageable, but intelligent management of patch distribution to clients would save administrators time and effort. Overall, NetBackup DataCenter offers a powerful and thorough set of features and options that will help you keep your data safe.
|VERITAS NetBackup DataCenter 3.4.1|
| Contact: VERITAS Software * 650-527-8000 or 800-327-2232 |
Price: $23,595 as tested
Pros: Thorough job tracking and reporting capabilities; seamless library and media management
Cons: Time-consuming SQL Server client configuration; difficult client-update procedure
Legato NetWorker 6.0
NetWorker comes packaged with a media kit and hard-copy versions of an Administrator's Guide, a Disaster Recovery Guide, and a Performance Tuning Guide. I used the PDF Installation Guide (which I found on the Documentation Suite CD-ROM) while installing and configuring the software.
NetWorker detects and supports a wide range of standalone drives, tape libraries, and silo devices that you can use as backup targets. To configure the ADIC tape library, which Legato refers to as an autochanger, I used Legato's text-based Jbconfig utility. Jbconfig detected the autochanger, then walked me through the process of configuring the tape devices within the library. Overall, the process was fairly straightforward but required some manual configuration at the drive level.
I installed the appropriate backup clients for my environment from the local CD-ROM drives on those systems. In all cases, installation was easy and straightforward. However, because of an error in the documentation about the NetWare installation script's pathname, I spent more time in the NetWare System Console than I wanted to.
I installed the NetWorker BusinesSuite Module for Microsoft SQL Server from the local CD-ROM drive on each server that required the module. The program easily installed the module, which didn't require configuration.
The NetWorker Administrator program is the primary tool for performing backups and restores. Figure 5 shows the graphical NetWorker Administrator interface. The interface comprises the Network window in the left pane, the Server window in the right pane, and the Message window on the bottom. The Network window displays NetWorker clients and servers. Before you can perform any operations on clients, you must manually add them to the Network window. The Server window contains information about the backup server you connect to.
You can enable auto-media management for standalone tape drives and tape libraries. Auto-media management simplifies the task of managing media by automatically labeling, mounting, and recycling media when appropriate. In my testing, auto-media management performed flawlessly. The software uses media pools and associated criteria to ensure that data targets appropriate volumes. NetWorker also provides automatic or manual cloning of backup volumes and save sets for redundancy or offsite storage. NetWorker has strong media-management and device-management facilities with a good balance of easy operations and powerful capabilities.
For each client computer that you want to back up, you must create a client in NetWorker Administrator. For any one computer, you can create multiple client entries, each with a different backup specification. For each of my SQL Server systems, I created one client entry to back up the typical Windows file system and another entry to back up the SQL Server databases. Also in NetWorker Administrator, I created groups and added appropriate clients to each group. I created a group named Windows Machines (to hold the clients that I configured to back up the typical Windows files) and a group named SQL Servers (to hold the clients that I configured to back up the SQL Server databases). Because NetWorker initiates scheduled and ad hoc backups at the group level, I granularly defined clients and placed them into groups. NetWorker performed my test backups without difficulty.
To accommodate different environments—for example, one environment might require users to call a dedicated backup administrator to initiate a restore, and another environment might require end users or administrators to initiate restores—NetWorker provides several data-recovery methods. You can restore files through the NetWorker UI from a client system or through a Directed Recovery (i.e., a server-initiated recovery that never touches the client). To restore SQL Server data, I referred to the instructions about the product's BusinesSuite Module for Microsoft SQL Server in the online Administrator's Guide. NetWorker required that I perform the restore from the SQL Server machine rather than from the backup server. To initiate the recovery, I could use the Recover command with appropriate arguments, or I could use the NetWorker User for SQL Server GUI. From the GUI, I clicked the Recover button on the toolbar, selected the database I wanted to recover, and clicked Start to initiate the process.
To accomplish individual table restores for SQL Server 6.5, you can use the NetWorker Module 2.0.1 for Microsoft SQL Server. I tested only NetWorker Module 3.0 for Microsoft SQL Server, which supports filegroup-level restores for SQL Server 7.0 and partial-database restores for SQL Server 2000. NetWorker offers point-in-time recovery capabilities.
The Performance Tuning Guide provides suggestions for testing and tuning backup performance. NetWorker has three key settings for fine-tuning the application for different environments: Server Parallelism, Client Parallelism, and Multiplexing. Compared with this review's other products, NetWorker's overall nontuned backup and restore performance is average, as Graph 1 and Graph 2 show.
Although NetWorker wasn't difficult to configure, it felt different from a typical Windows product. During some operations (e.g., displaying details, editing a group while a backup ran), the NetWorker Administrator interface seemed unresponsive, as if the system were under a heavy load. However, Performance Monitor showed low system utilization during these times. Another minor drawback is that the program offers limited logging and monitoring of restore jobs. On the plus side, NetWorker performed well and has strong media-management and library-management facilities.
|Legato NetWorker 6.0|
| Contact: Legato Systems * 650-210-7000 |
Price: $13,280 as tested
Pros: Strong media and library management; wealth of performance-tuning capabilities
Cons: Limited logging and monitoring for restore jobs; occasionally unresponsive UI
HP OpenView OmniBack II 3.5
OmniBack II comes in a trifold cardboard case that contains three CD-ROMs and a six-page Quick and Easy Installation Guide. The three CD-ROMs hold installation files for Win2K, NT, and HP-UX servers and many supported clients. OmniBack II uses the term cell to describe a network environment that contains a Cell Manager (i.e., the backup server), clients, and backup devices. I accepted the default installation of components to my Cell Manager, then selected additional check boxes to install documentation and the SQL Server and NetWare components that my test environment required.
The installation took about 1 minute, after which the Next Step Wizard automatically opened and walked me through the steps of adding clients and users and configuring a backup device. I clicked the wizard's Add New Clients button to open the Add Client Systems window in the OmniBack II User Interface for Windows. This easy-to-use interface lets you select client software to install on individual Windows-based computers.
An HP support technician instructed me to download and install the latest OmniBack II patch from the company's Web site. The 35MB patch, OMNIBACK_00017, applies general fixes and enables single-mailbox restore functionality for Exchange Server. After the patch's installation, I right-clicked specific client icons and chose Add Components from the resulting menu to install the SQL Server component on the appropriate clients. To verify that I'd installed the correct component on each client, I checked each client's Properties dialog box.
I clicked the wizard's Configuring Device button to open the New Device window. I followed the Quick and Easy Installation Guide's recommendations for autoconfiguring the backup device. The autoconfiguration ran for about 1 minute, installing and configuring my tape library. After I ran a few tests, however, I discovered that OmniBack II hadn't properly configured the hardware. I worked on the problem with the help of HP engineers, but the software and the IBM LTO tape drives in the library wouldn't cooperate long enough to permit testing. At press time, the IBM drive isn't yet on HP's supported-drive list for OmniBack II. I was able to use the ADIC tape library to test OmniBack II's functional capabilities, but I had to use a standalone DLT 8000 tape drive for my backup and restore tests.
OmniBack II User Interface for Windows
The OmniBack II User Interface for Windows, which Figure 6 shows, is the centralized management interface. The Context List, in the top left corner, is a drop-down list of management-task categories: Clients, Users, Devices & Media, Backup, Restore, Reporting, OmniBack Database, and Monitor. Below the Context List is the Scoping pane, which contains a treeview of items that you can select to open a corresponding view. The software displays the view's contents in the large Results area. The interface was intuitive, and the contextual approach simplified navigation to appropriate portions of the interface.
Tape Library and Media Control
OmniBack II offers robust and easy-to-use media-management capabilities. Extensive control over media pools, data expiration, media availability, and media cataloging help you implement an effective media-allocation and protection scheme. Media copying and vaulting operations are also available to help you protect archive media. Multiple OmniBack II cells can share media-specific information. OmniBack II also offers features (e.g., mailslot, barcode, cleaning tape, and library-sharing support) that optimize usage with large tape libraries.
The process of creating a backup job is simple and effective. To back up an OmniBack II client, you switch to the Backup context, then choose from the list of Backup Specifications the type of backup you want to perform. (Available specifications in my environment were Filesystem and MSSQL.) Next, the software prompts you to choose a template to apply to the backup. You can choose from a selection of precreated templates for typical backup jobs, or you can create custom templates for your environment. The templates contain specifications (e.g., backup options, file selections, device options) for backup jobs. You can modify any of these template specifications and set a schedule for the backup job before choosing to save, start, or start a preview of the backup. File-system and SQL Server database backups worked smoothly and performed impressively.
Restoring data from a backup is similar to initiating a backup. You switch to the Restore context, choose the type of backup from which you want to restore, and select the appropriate files or directories to restore. Tabs along the top of the Results area let you precisely control the method of the restore. Before you start a restore job, you can specify options for alternate destination, file-conflict handling, and pre-execution and post-execution commands. The software supports individual-table restores for SQL Server 6.5 and filegroup-level restores for SQL Server 2000 and 7.0. OmniBack II doesn't offer a point-in-time restoration option. If you have any concerns about potential restore problems, you can use the Preview Restore option, which initiates a dry run of the restore. To proactively identify which media are necessary to complete a restore, you simply click the Preview Restore button before you start the operation. You can also access details about restore operations in the OmniBack Database context, under Sessions.
The online Concepts document provides an overview of factors that affect backup and restore performance. In addition to hardware-related considerations, the document discusses OmniBack II's Load Balancing feature, as well as the pros and cons of one-to-one and many-to-few object and media schemes. Generally, you have a great deal of flexibility when deciding whether to concentrate performance considerations on backups or restores. When you back up and restore data, OmniBack II prompts you to select a network load value of High, Medium, or Low. I accepted the default value of High in my tests. The software's performance during all my backup and restore operations on the DLT drive looked good, but I couldn't directly compare the results with other products' results, which I used the four-drive library to obtain.
High Overhead, but Easy to Use
OmniBack II's easy-to-navigate interface and thoroughly organized online documentation were impressive. The product's reporting functionality was also user-friendly and robust. OmniBack II's CPU and memory utilization on the backup server was higher than that of the other products. An HP representative informed me that the high utilization results were due to the number of objects I had inserted into the catalog (i.e., database). Apparently, for the next product version, HP is planning to reduce the utilization by introducing a flat-file catalog, which will let you write more records in a more streamlined way. One concern you might have when dealing with HP's technical support for OmniBack II is that because of the time-zone differential between Germany (where most of this product's technical experts reside) and the United States, you might experience delays just when you need to resolve a mission-critical problem.
|HP OpenView OmniBack II 3.5|
| Contact: Hewlett-Packard * (49) 7031-14-0 or 800-752-0900 |
Price: $4890 as tested
Pros: Easy-to-navigate interface; strong reporting; good value for feature set
Cons: High system-resource utilization; support structure might cause problems at crunch time
UltraBac 6.3 Enterprise Edition
UltraBac arrived in a folder that contained one CD-ROM and a printed User's Manual. I used the Full Install option to install the software on my backup server. Per an UltraBac support technician's request, I updated the driver for the autochanger in Win2K with an UltraBac-supplied driver. Then, to ensure that the application properly enumerated all the tape library's slots and drives, I opened the UltraBac program and selected Media Changer from the Tools menu.
UltraBac doesn't offer any client-side software for Windows computers. To transport backup data, the product uses standard Windows network connections. UltraBac also offers no client-side software components for SQL Server, although you must install the SQL Client Network Utility on the backup server to enable appropriate access.
A Very Simple Interface
UltraBac's interface, which Figure 7 shows, isn't as slick as some of the other products' interfaces, but it's straightforward and effective. The first time you open the interface, Backup mode appears. From the Mode menu, you can select Restore, Verify, and Archive modes, and you can set any of these options as the default mode. The interface doesn't change as you select different modes, but available menu options do.
Tape Library and Media Control
Before UltraBac can be a serious contender in the enterprise backup and recovery arena, the company needs to improve its tape-library and media control. Although the product successfully recognized the ADIC tape library and let me easily perform manual media functions, the lack of media-allocation and drive-allocation automation is a drawback. Also, the product somewhat oversimplifies media management for large environments and lacks automated features for implementing a comprehensive media-management scheme. However, UltraBac does contain a facility for manually creating copies of tapes for archiving or redundancy.
Because I didn't need to install any agents on most of my environment's clients, I was able to start backing up systems 30 minutes after I installed the software. The processes of creating and running backup jobs are simple. You first create sets, which contain the set of files you want to back up. Then, you create a group, which contains one or more sets. You perform backups by groups. To create backup sets for the various machines in my environment, I selected New from the Backup menu. A wizard helped me define the set that I wanted to back up. Next, the software wrote a text-file definition for the set to the UltraBac directory. To create additional backup sets, I modified several of these intuitively formatted text files and saved them under different names.
To create a group, you choose Schedule Backups from the Scheduler menu. You use the Scheduler dialog box for both scheduling and configuring backup groups. A large array of settings are available at the group level—including device targeting, verification, and media handling. After you configure a schedule and add one or more sets to the group, you click Run Now to immediately execute the specified backups. I configured multiple groups (logically organized by computer type), then tried scheduling some jobs and manually running the remaining jobs. All the backup jobs executed as expected.
To enable the restore-associated menus in UltraBac's interface, I selected Restore from the Mode menu. To initiate a restore, I could choose to load the index from either the storage media or from disk. For my restore activities, I used the indexes stored on disk. After I chose which index to use, the software displayed a list of available backups to restore. I then selected the objects I wanted to restore from a Windows Explorer—like interface and clicked Perform Restore. UltraBac supports individual table restores for SQL Server 6.5 and filegroup-level restores for SQL Server 2000 and 7.0. The product doesn't offer a point-in-time restore option. Restore operations in my environment worked as expected and performed nicely.
Backup and restore performance was impressive; however, the inability to automate the use of multiple drives and multiple data streams will be a drawback in busy backup environments. To use multiple drives simultaneously, I needed to schedule multiple groups to execute at the same time—allowing some buffer time so that robot activities from one job could finish before another job started.
A Scrappy Competitor
Given UltraBac's simple and compact design, I didn't expect it to perform as well as it did. Although the product requires some server-side software (i.e., a SQL Server client) to enable special backups, the functionality that the product provides without requiring client-side agents is impressive. Automated media and device management, however, isn't UltraBac's strong suit. The product doesn't intelligently load-balance between drives to exploit the power of multidrive tape libraries. UltraBac's low price and operational simplicity make it an attractive option for organizations that don't require highly automated performance management for their backup operations. However, if Win2K System State backups are important to you, the current version's inability to perform them on remote clients could be a serious detriment.
|UltraBac 6.3 Enterprise Edition|
| Contact: UltraBac Software * 425-644-6000 |
Price: $2885 as tested
Pros: Simple and compact; no client-side software required; good value
Cons: Insufficient automation for media and device management; necessity to manually manage parallelism