Three Backup Systems for the Enterprise
Any enterprise network that is not backed up deserves what it will get -- a disaster at precisely the most inopportune time.
You grab the most recent backup tapes and begin the restore process. But will it perform at the critical moment of a restoration and what integrity will the restoration provide for the data being restored?
This review focuses on three products that strive to answer these questions -- Computer Associates Int’l Inc.’s ArcServe, Veritas Software Corp.’s Backup Exec, and Legato Systems Inc.’s Networker. All were tested on a Microsoft Windows NT Server-based network, but all three have versions that run on a wide range of platforms. The enterprise-scale products promise to answer critical backup questions, as well as show you how they stand a cut above other backup software products.
The Test Platform
We tested all three products on a Compaq Proliant Pentium II 400-MHz server with 256 MB of memory running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 (SP4) installed, running on a Fast Ethernet 100-Mbps switched backbone network between three other corporate servers. We also deployed two other servers on a Cisco-routed multiple segment network to test the backup platform’s network abilities. We scheduled routine incremental, differential, and full backups across the entire network.
Two servers were running database systems -- one Windows NT Server 4.0 with Microsoft SQL Server 6.5, the other running Oracle 8I -- which housed our dbWeb applications for our customer Web sites. We also had a Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 SMTP mail platform for our enterprise mail system tests.
We evaluated each product’s capability for system management, ease of administration, rotation of media, protection of media, and reporting of the backups whether they completed or not. We evaluated the products’ handling of the resultant database systems as the backups completed and caused growth of the databases.
All three products installed with few problems. Computer Associates’ ArcServe consumed the most physical memory, 39 MB. Veritas’ Backup Exec was the leader in disk space consumption at 65 MB, but all three products will boost these requirements when you start adding the options that really let the product function as a true enterprise backup solution. Granted, most of the optional agents are installed on that respective server, such as a Microsoft SQL Server. These agents consume little memory, but the backup process greatly benefits from a fast backbone connection between the servers.
Legato’s Networker took the longest time to install, about 30 minutes. Both ArcServe and Backup Exec completed in less than 15 minutes. We had the SCSI tape drive identified, configured, and initial tape preparation finished in another 30 minutes, which included defining media pools and rotation schemes. All three products handled these tasks equally well.
All products were provided with extensive online help systems, and Networker came with a rather large contingent of CD-ROMs where the product’s documentation was located.
While evaluating the operational characteristics of these products, our multiple network servers presented us with enough data that we were able to pull together several differentiating factors. Networker has the widest representation of clients and servers of these products. It supported our Red Hat Linux server and clients with ease; neither ArcServe nor Backup Exec did so out of the box.
We performed two standard backup tasks and one database pruning task, all automated as would be expected with an enterprise solution. ArcServe and Backup Exec completed their tasks in a similar manner, as they have for the last several version releases. Networker, however, treats the target environment differently by using volumes and territories of data. You can define abstract groups of data across multiple servers so that the data is logically combined rather than physically, the traditional method on standard server backups.
We then tried our hand at disaster recovery, which ArcServe and Backup Exec advertise. With each product, we created a set of floppy boot diskettes with the restoration program on it, created an image backup of the server, and then proceeded to destroy the server.
We went through the process of rebuilding the server without needing to reinstall the server first. We were glad to see that these options performed as advertised; they do, however, require some minor maintenance to keep the diskettes updated.
When deciding what was important to highlight in this review, we had a difficult time matching the products to an exacting set of standards. What one administrator may deem as important is not as useful to another. In our eyes, restoration and disaster recovery are prime reasons to pass judgement. To that end, Backup Exec had the smoothest recovery of the three products when total disaster struck. For normal backups and restorations, Networker has the widest coverage of servers, clients, database systems, and other data platforms with diverse requirements. ArcServe, however, is not to be outdone. Its strengths are its solid backup, restore, and seasoned recovery of data.
If we had to pick one product for its price, feature specifications, and overall functionality, we would pick Backup Exec as a well-rounded suite of tools. That said, we are confident that any one of these three products could meet or exceed your enterprise data protection needs.
Computer Associates Int’l Inc.
Price: Single server -- $695; multiple server -- $1,395
Backup Exec 7.3
Veritas Software Corp.
Mountain View, Calif.
Price: Single server -- $695; multiple server -- $1,395
Legato Systems Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Price: Multiple server -- $2,300 for 10 servers