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Microsoft Takes On Backup Market

Microsoft has revealed plans for the Microsoft Data Protection Server, its first backup and data-recovery software.

It's a market that could use a shake-up. Backup and recovery still can be too expensive and complex for many small and midsize companies that rely on Windows, but the software is vital to their businesses. Enter Microsoft, with a lower-cost, automated system that it says will change all that.

The company last week revealed plans for the Microsoft Data Protection Server, its first backup and data-recovery software. It's based on a disk-to-disk mechanism that recovers data online as if it's coming from a LAN-based server instead of more cumbersome tape drives. Disk-to-disk backup and recovery will cut hours or even days out of a recovery process, without requiring IT intervention, Microsoft officials say. Data Protection Server, when used in conjunction with Active Directory, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Storage Server 2003, will make backup and recovery a continuous--not once-nightly--process. And the software won't impede desktop functions while it's operating, Microsoft says.

Many administrators believe disk-based backup is easier to manage than tape backup, says Stephanie Balaouras, an analyst with research firm the Yankee Group. "Tape has so many components to it that when something fails, it's hard to find the cause," she says.

At least one IT exec, who has been using storage management from backup-and-recovery leader Veritas Software Corp., is glad Microsoft is making a play. Data Protection Server "gives us everything under one roof, so we're evaluating our overall backup and recovery," says Richard McOsker, IS director with the Kansas City Chiefs football team. The football franchise will ultimately replace tape with disk-to-disk for online access, McOsker adds. That should cut recovery times from as much as an hour down to minutes, he says.

The system will facilitate Windows-based backup and recovery because there's no need for users to send file requests to the IT department to initiate recovery, Microsoft says. Instead, the software automatically "logs changes on continuous processes at the byte level," and users can recover files with a few keystrokes, says Jeff Price, a Microsoft senior director.

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