Veritas Brings Desktop Backup Back to Center

The increasing amount of intelligence on the desktop computer has increased the importance of desktops and notebooks as corporate assets, but little attention has been paid to protecting these assets.

Tape backup units have existed for desktops for years. These units, however, can be slow and unreliable. More importantly, since they are individual devices for individual machines, they hardly constitute a comprehensive strategy for protecting all end user machines throughout an enterprise.

Veritas Software Corp. introduced its NetBackup Professional for backing up desktops and mobile devices. The software addresses issues unique to end user machines. "Traditionally, it’s been the responsibility of the user," says Steve Widen, an analyst at IDC (www.idc.com). NetBackup may make corporate backup policies feasible.

"The current strategies used for servers don’t work for laptops and desktops," says Jerry Hoetger, product line manager at Veritas. He says only 10 to 12 percent of a desktop or laptop is unique to the system; the rest of the data is operating systems and application software.

Unlike servers which benefit from full backups, only unique files on desktops and laptops need to be centrally stored. Backing up the operating system and applications for each machine is a waste of time and resources.

Additionally, remote users who only connect to the network via modem would suffer during a full backup. With today’s hard drives, a full backup would take days over a 28.8 Kbs modem, crimping productivity to say the least.

But the fact remains, laptops are particularly vulnerable to disasters since they are exposed to unusual environments, so disaster recovery is particularly important. An ideal backup program would be able to backup quickly, yet perform recoveries painlessly and completely.

Veritas’ approach includes determining which data is unique and backing up only that data. In addition, NetBackup Professional compresses the data, limiting the demand on storage space and network resources.

While only unique data is backed up, full recoveries are fairly simple for the end users. Administrators can create a boot CD with versions of the operating system and applications, as well as user specific data. This eliminates the need to track down operating system, application, and other installation disks.

The boot CD can restore a machine to a state before a disaster strike. Plus, backup intervals are automated, sparing end users the need to remember when to back up. Administrators set appropriate intervals for the users.

Users do have the ability to access some information from the back up system. NetBackup Professional creates a folder called "My Backups" on the end user machine with data from the backups.

Laptops and mobile devices present unusual problems for backup interval since they are randomly attached devices. Traditional intervals are inadequate for these devices. NetBackup Professional uses calendar-based scheduling to determine when to backup. When a device is attached to the network, NetBackup Professional compares the device’s last back up with the schedule, and performs a backup if needed.

Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group (www.enterprisestorage.com), says Veritas is in a league of its own when it comes to backing up end user machines.

Duplessie believes end user storage is not only a useful technology, but a potentially profitable one. "The mobile numbers are just going to skyrocket," he predicts.

While backing up end user machines may seem trivial, IDC's Widen thinks it may be an important practice: "It provides corporations the ability to receive better levels of TCO [total cost of ownership]," he says.