Sonasoft's SonaSafe application software takes the heavy lifting out of Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange Server backup and recovery and database replication for standby servers, as well as file system backup and recovery. Although for this article, I focus on SonaSafe for SQL Server, SonaSafe works much the same way with Exchange servers and file servers. Created for backing up to disk, the SonaSafe Backup server supports local disk, SAN, and NAS for backup storage. SonaSafe for SQL Server supports SQL Server 2005 or SQL Server Express, SQL Server 2000 (including Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine—MSDE), and SQL Server 7.0 and includes support for SQL Server clusters. SonaSafe installs on a system running Windows Server 2003, Windows XP Professional Edition, or Windows 2000 Server and requires Microsoft IIS. Sonasoft recommends a minimum of 1GB RAM and a 2GHz processor on the backup server.

Architecture


Note that although I use the term backup server to refer to the system you install the SonaSafe application on, understand that backup server also refers to standby servers. SonaSafe supports both one-to-many and many-to-one standby server database structures. When restoring backups, SonaSafe supports both point-in-time and point-of-failure restores, in addition to full and redirected database restoration.

The application installed on the backup server communicates with agents installed on the SQL Server machines it works with. Because SonaSafe is a Web-based application, the management console is accessible from most anywhere. Sonasoft says the SonaSafe agent uses about 15MB of memory and about 2 percent to 3 percent of the processor on target servers. The agent executes the jobs you define and manages the movement of data between a SQL server and the backup or standby server. Within the Web console, you tell SonaSafe about the SQL Servers systems it'll work with and the work you want it to do.

Sonasoft requires a license for each server and application that participates (e.g., a license for the SonaSafe backup server and a license for each SQL Server machine that's a source, target, or standby server—multiple SQL instances are allowed).

Hands On


Installing SonaSafe wasn't difficult. Sonasoft provides a preinstallation check routine to ensure that the server has the prerequisite software installed. Next, I installed the SonaSafe for SQL agent on several SQL Servers—nothing unexpected here. I made frequent use of the browser-based SonaSafe for SQL Server User's Guide, which was clearly written and logically organized. I later discovered one glitch, however, when none of the jobs I created would run: SonaSafe needs the NetBIOS form of all server names, and I had entered the full DNS form.

The console interface is organized functionally. On the left, Backup, Recovery, and Standby menu options expand to expose related tasks. The Disaster Backup Plan demonstrates the simplicity of the template-based approach—fill in a few fields, and SonaSafe creates and schedules jobs to perform daily full database backups and hourly differential backups with transaction backups every minute for each database of the instance.

SonaSafe for SQL Server is a great concept for a product. The current version, however, has a number of rough edges I found myself working around. Rough edges or not, SonaSafe's ability to create, schedule, and track database backups will save you a lot of time. SonaSafe's ability to select the correct set of backups for the task—often an arcane task done manually—can not only save you time, but also the consequences of restoring from the wrong set of backups. If that's attractive to you, give SonaSafe for SQL Server an audition and see how it works for you.

SonaSoft SonaSafe for SQL Server verSion 3.5.9.6


PROS: Simplifies creating, scheduling,
and tracking SQL Server database backups; automates log shipping to maintain standby database servers; automates several scenarios of database recovery
CONS: Somewhat clumsy UI; lacks an ease-of-use I'd expect in a version 3 product
RATING: 2 1/2 out of 5
PRICE:
Pricing starts at $1995 for the application, $1295 for each standby server, and $995 for each SQL Server backup source or target.
RECOMMENDATION: It's still a bit rough but can save a lot of time. Give it a test drive if you prefer not to create backup scripts manually.
CONTACT: Sonasoft • 408 927 6200 • http://www.sonasoft.com