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Backup apps -- How newer storage backup products compare

Jerome Wendt

Newer and not-so-familiar backup products may offer some functional and operational advantages over the big three backup programs.

Free at last

As backup software breaks away from its historically tight integration with tape, less well-known backup products are addressing new priorities, such as closer application integration, backing up directly to disk and encryption. In doing so, they may be a better fit than the big three enterprise backup programs: EMC Corp.'s NetWorker, IBM Corp.'s Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and Symantec Corp.'s Veritas NetBackup.

Atempo Inc.'s Time Navigator, for example, includes support for heterogeneous storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) environments, encryption and hierarchical key management. On the small and midsized business (SMB) side, Symantec's Backup Exec 10d can manage disk-based backups by first staging them on disk for a defined period of time before moving the data to tape.

Complement or replace?

The role of backup software is changing. As organisations consolidate, expand or introduce new applications, there's a growing need to support numerous applications and sites running various underlying hardware and software platforms. As a result, a single enterprise backup software product may not satisfy every application requirement. This is forcing some organisations to reconsider and re-evaluate the role and scope that other backup software products should play in their shop.

For example, shops with Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. filers may want to consider adding another backup product that complements their big three backup products. In instances where users are attempting to do snapshots of dense file systems -- file systems that contain millions of small files -- Syncsort Inc.'s Backup Express might better satisfy snapshot requirements than products from major enterprise backup software vendors.

Backup Express allows users to overcome the inability of NetApp's native SnapVault snapshot feature to quickly execute snapshots on dense file systems. Executing a native SnapVault snapshot on a dense file system can take 24 hours or longer to complete. Using Syncsort's Backup Express, which includes hooks into NetApp's OS APIs, allows users to complete the same snapshot in seconds.

Another instance where users may want to consider using a lesser-known backup product is remote-office support. Rik Un, a TSM administrator with a Houston-based oil and gas company, is often called on to fly to remote sites to help administrators set up the corporate TSM product. Though Un works with TSM on a daily basis and is a certified TSM administrator, he likes CommVault Inc.'s Galaxy because it takes less time to set up and is more intuitive to manage, even though it lacks some of TSM's features. "TSM's setup and management interface is horrific," Un says.

Shops that make the wholesale switch to another backup software product usually cite multiple reasons for the change. Becky Berg, a system administrator at Farm Credit Services of America in Omaha, NE, was tasked with backing up her company's 47 remote offices to the central office. The firm's existing product, Symantec's Backup Exec, didn't provide her with the ability to accomplish the task at that time. She looked at Symantec's Veritas NetBackup product but found it to be out of her price range.

Berg chose CommVault's Galaxy, which offered all of the features she required and, she says, cost quite a bit less than NetBackup. One feature she particularly likes is the round-robin media agent, which identifies the least-busy tape drive on the firm's Spectra Logic Corp. T10000 tape library and sends the backup job to that tape drive. Berg also plans to use CommVault's QiNetix DataMigrator software, which moves files according to age and last use from primary to secondary storage.

Some backup products geared to SMBs are being enhanced with enterprise-class product features. For example, Symantec made the following improvements to Backup Exec last year:

  • Version 10d allows users to do Web-based file recovery.
  • Administrators can manage all Backup Exec media servers from a central interface.
  • A continuous data protection (CDP) option backs up a server at a remote site and, using a filter driver that runs continuously, sends all file changes to the central office on a schedule set up by the administrator to optimise wide are network (WAN) usage.