Tape Backup Solutions

When it comes to backup, good old reliable tape remains the method of choice. We tested seven tape-backup products. Computer Associates' BrightStor Enterprise Backup 10.5 won our Editor's

February 27, 2004

17 Min Read
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We also looked for support for full-system restores, sometimes called bare-metal restores. This is the process of restoring not only the data, but also the base-bootable OS underneath, to bring back the entire system from a blank disk set. This kind of restore is not essential for every machine on the network, but is critical for systems that must be loaded rapidly at a disaster-recovery hotsite, for example.

Tape, which harks back to the days of mainframes and centralized backups, has had disadvantages that stem from their use at outlying IT departments. One person may remove a tape without replacing it, losing the entire backup. Satellite offices also tend to have unfavorable physical conditions, such as excessive heat, humidity and dust, that can damage delicate tape drives, causing backups to fail.Tape-backup software makers may be the least standardized bunch in networking. No two packages use the same terminology or even remotely similar methods of setup and operation; each product sports a complex list of compatibilities.

Before you start shopping, figure out which OSs require support. Know which OSs need only tape drives or libraries hooked to them, which need network clients, and which will function as your centralized server. Make a master list of hardware, software and OSs, including configurations and version numbers. Decide which OS platform will run your management console. In addition, note which platforms run your libraries, as well as which libraries are "server-free" SAN units or users of third-party data movers, such as NDMP (Network Data Management Protocol). The more complete this inventory, the more likely you'll get the software you need.

Also, find out where the tape-backup software indexes its files. Indexes can become cumbersome, especially if tracked in a flat text file. Some products come with full database applications; for instance, CommVault's Galaxy includes Microsoft SQL Server. Others come with their own databases or with a third-party database option.

Finally, get to know your data. If your applications use thousands of tiny files, you may experience excessive tape thrashing and low throughput. Media files, such as sound, video and still pictures, tend to be precompressed, so your backup won't benefit from additional compression. You also need to anticipate your data-growth rate, not only in terms of size, but in servers added. Maintaining a thorough inventory will remind you which apps require a special software package or module for backups.We performed simple backups and restores with each product to test the software's day-to-day capabilities. Once we got past interface inconveniences, we found the daily procedures well-automated on all the packages.

Computer Associates' BrightStor Enterprise Backup 10.5 won our Editor's Choice award by virtue of its price, ease of use and reporting features. Veritas NetBackup 5.0 and HP OpenView Storage Data Protector 5.1 did well, too; however, NetBackup's higher price and complicated licensing procedure lowered its score, and HP's rock-bottom price didn't help us see past the program's relative shortcomings in reporting, interface and management.CA's BrightStor Enterprise Backup once lingered in the shadow of its smaller, better-known cousin, ARCserve. But BrightStor is emerging as a leader, not only within CA but within the backup arena. BrightStor Enterprise Backup 10.5's advanced GUI and ease-of-use features help backup administrators do their jobs. This package combines convenient wizards and checklist functionality with an excellent interface, all at a low price.

We installed BrightStor in less than 15 minutes. The main administration page provides access to the program's functionality in four tabs on the left side of the opening frame: a quick-start menu, a wizards menu, a utilities menu and a handy "most recently used" menu. On the right is a Web browser displaying links to CA's main BrightStor Enterprise Backup, technical support and e-News pages, and the certified device list, among other information.

Licensing CA's product is easy: The company's "click-on" licensing let us select the components to install without a complicated licensing process. CA's method isn't the simplest, but it's far easier than others, including Veritas'.

BrightStor shines at reporting. Its default reports provide information on finished backups, errors, backup duration, backup space and compression. Further, the intuitive interface makes it easy to create custom reports.Like most products at this level, BrightStor supports a wide variety of hardware and software platforms. Most major platforms--including Compaq Tru64, IBM AIX, Microsoft Windows and Sun Solaris--are supported as clients and master servers. But the product doesn't support Macintosh clients or servers, and, like many other software packages, doesn't provide a master server option for Linux. The Linux client support list is extensive, though, and includes Debian, Red Flag Linux and others.

BrightStor offers several options for client installations: The Windows Server platforms allows remote installation, and the other platforms permit unattended or silent installs, though the client code must be locally available. CA's Unicenter Software Delivery tool, available separately, also permits client installations.

BrightStor supports Microsoft's VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service) on Windows 2003 Server. And BrightStor offers bare-metal restore for Windows and Solaris.

BrightStor Enterprise Backup 10.51, $10,440. Computer Associates International, (631) 342-6000, (800) 225-5224. www.ca.com/brightstor

HP has done more than just change the name of its backup solution. This package, once called OmniBack, is now a true multiplatform tool. HP has made many improvements, especially in licensing. The pricing and licensing for OpenView Storage Data Protector are simple, and the basic package includes features others lack, such as bare-metal, system-level restores. Furthermore, this package is less than half the price of competing solutions.

OpenView Storage Data Protector's management interface, called Cell Manager, starts (optionally) with a window that has buttons for basic tasks, such as adding clients, adding users, configuring new devices, changing backup specifications, running a backup and running a restore. Past the wizard pop-up, on the button bar, a drop-down box lists options for specific menus on the dual panes below. The dual panes contain the familiar Explorer-style tree menu and information/action window. The interface is not as attractive as those for BrightStor, NetBackup or Tivoli StorageManager, but it's much better than anything on Legato NetWorker.The reporting element is adequate, but lacks features found in other products. Reports may be e-mailed, broadcast, sent to an external script, made into a log file or sent via SNMP. HP provides no pregenerated reports, but its report-creation tool is simple to use. Endpoint deployment is easy, too, thanks to the "Add New Clients" wizard. Remote-installation services are available for HP-UX, Solaris and Windows.

OS support is a mixed bag: Support for Cell Manager, the GUI, Manager of Managers and the installation server is limited to Windows, HP-UX and Solaris. HP must address the lack of Linux support for most of the product's management portions. Media-changer and disk agents are available for most major platforms.

HP touts OpenView Storage Data Protector's unique zero-downtime backup for HP's StorageWorks enterprise virtual array line: This is nice for StorageWorks customers, but because NWC Inc. has a heterogeneous environment, we didn't find this feature useful. The product's disk-to-disk backup features are weak; we expect them to be improved in future versions. HP calls its disk-to-disk backup scheme the "mezzanine approach," but these features are poorly documented in the administrator's guide. Maximum size for a file device is 500 GB, and there's no support for file compression. The product supports NDMP backups from some NAS devices, but the supported product list is small--most of HP's NAS devices and some Network Appliance and EMC NAS devices.

HP OpenView Storage Data Protector 5.1, $6,405. Hewlett-Packard Co., (800) 888-0262, (650) 857-1501. http://h20015.www2.hp.com/hub_search/document.jhtml?lc=en&docName=lpg30712#P2_221Veritas' product has long been the gold standard of backup software, and this release didn't let us down. Loading it onto our Dell 2650 servers was a breeze. It detected and inventoried our Quantum M1500 library immediately.

NetBackup's interface is well-laid-out and easy to use. The screen has three panes and a button bar. The left pane shows a tree menu and an activity monitor that displays the status of the various jobs listed in the lower-right pane. The upper-right pane draws the backup environment, including the server and the library. When you double-click on an individual job, a job-overview window pops up with a tab for details. In addition, a useful "Troubleshooter" button lets you look up relevant information and get troubleshooting help for errors. As a last resort, you can link to Veritas' support site.NetBackup's 10 default reports cover topics from job status to media written. The product also lists seven vaulting reports for tape media. Each report can be limited by time and date, job ID, individual media server, or individual client. For more-detailed reporting, you need Veritas' NetBackup Advanced Reporter (a separate product), which parses NetBackup's log files. Even better, DLT Solutions' CommandCentral Service, which works with NetBackup, has the same functionality as NetBackup Advanced Reporter, but allows chargeback and control functionality. You could parse the NetBackup logs and create reports yourself, but such a time-consuming task isn't practical for a large environment.

Although our NWC Inc. setup wasn't expensive ($13,585 for our requested configuration), Veritas' licensing and pricing scheme is difficult to understand. The company should simplify these options.

You can install NetBackup 5.0 clients remotely from Windows onto Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 only. Support for other OSs is good. Support for Linux as a backup client is good, too, but the company supports only Red Hat Advanced Server as a NetBackup Server. New with 5.0 is support for files larger than 2 GB under Linux. Also, this product is one of the few supporting Debian as a client.

NetBackup 5.0 doesn't perform full-system restores on its own, but the add-on Veritas Bare Metal Restore can do that task. Veritas has improved NetBackup's ability to take advantage of disk-to-disk-to-tape scenarios, by upgrading support for disk staging. In addition, NetBackup includes Synthetic Backup. It creates a full backup set out of incremental backups, which provides a faster restore than loading multiple incrementals. NetBackup 5.0 also supports Windows Server 2003 VSS, which NetBackup uses for open-file backups. Through an add-on feature, NetBackup supports NDMP backups using NDMP 3 and 4.

Veritas NetBackup Enterprise Server 5.0, $13,585. Veritas Software Corp., (800) 527-8050, (650) 527-8000. www.veritas.com

Similar to IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, CommVault Galaxy is a component of the vendor's QiNetix (pronounced "kinetics") self-managed storage network. It's average, with neither devastating weaknesses nor special strengths. Galaxy Backup and Recovery offers some advantages with Windows, but provides only endpoints for most other platforms.Galaxy's licensing scheme is straightforward; to support a given database or OS, you buy the module for that software. We only wish the license didn't arrive on a floppy disk. CommVault also doesn't show detailed OS-platform support on its Web site, making it difficult to research the product without calling the company.

Galaxy's clean, easy-to-use interface runs as a Java application in a browser window. You can access the interface from virtually any machine with a Web browser and Java support. An MMC (Microsoft Management Console) snap-in shows the Event Viewer, Job Controller and CommCell Browser windows, from which you can monitor or change just about every setting.

Galaxy lets you remotely deploy endpoints on Windows and other platforms, including Unix distros. You'll need to know your main backup server's DNS server name: Galaxy doesn't provide a drop-down box to select it.

Although Galaxy supports a decent range of endpoints, including Macintosh and Linux, the main backup server must be on a Windows box because the product uses Microsoft SQL Server. This disadvantage is somewhat mitigated by administration from any platform that supports Java and a Web browser. CommVault also has media endpoints for running libraries on other platforms.

Galaxy supports Windows 2003 VSS technology for snapshots and open files, though there's no full-system (bare metal) restore. The product also provides NDMP support for NetApp filers and EMC Celerra servers.Galaxy builds excellent reports. It comes with 16 MS SQL-based reports that appear in full-color, HTML format in your default browser.

CommVault Galaxy, $15,990. CommVault Systems, (732) 870-4000. www.commvault.comA relative newcomer to the tape-backup field, NetVault is strong in reporting but has management weaknesses. We had no problems installing NetVault. It detected and inventoried our Quantum M1500 library quickly and smoothly, and provided clear, uncluttered installation dialog boxes. The interface is simple, too, with boxes for backup, restore, client management, device management, status, media management, job management and logs. It's simple to set up jobs and schedule backups.

NetVault supports many of the common apps companies need to back up, including Microsoft Exchange, Postgre/SQL, Oracle and Lotus Domino. On the other hand, its weak online help section does little more than tell you how to load the administrator's guide PDF.

NetVault provides extensive support for servers and clients, including a wide range of Linux environments. All major Unix and Linux distros are supported, as are most varieties of Windows.

BakBone says the next version will offer remote deployment and silent installs. Meanwhile, you'll need to install third-party deployment software, unless you want to log on to each server.If disaster strikes, NetVault can perform raw file-system backups and restores. It supports disk-to-disk transfers by creating a pseudo-library device, with slots and drives. Drives can be specified on any media available, including SAN arrays. With this version, BakBone supports NDMP 3 and 4.

NetVault's reporting functions are robust; its 29 basic reports are colorful and readable, and include standard error reports and media reports. The reports can be saved as a Web page, an HTML-only page, a Web page archive or a text file. NetVault's included reporting editor lets you modify an existing report or create new reports based on collected element data.

NetVault 7.0, $14,310. BakBone Software (877) 939-2663, (858) 795-7500. www.bakbone.com

Tivoli Storage Manager is the perfect example of the axiom that says the more flexible something is, the harder it is to configure. Don't get us wrong--we like Tivoli Storage Manager's flexibility. You'll just have to do some extra planning and be willing to pay more to harness all the power that comes with being able to tailor a product to your needs. Note that Tivoli Storage Manager is designed to do more than backup and restore--its add-on modules cover space and SAN management.

Tivoli's Web interface is intuitive and works from any workstation with a modern browser. For retro types, the functions also are available from a command prompt.

Tivoli's Environment-Managed Licensing Model is the best of the lot. You get licensing for the devices you use, instead of for management consoles and endpoints.Tivoli Storage Manager runs on most IBM OSs and hardware and supports Linux, including Linux on IBM's Z series systems. A Blue shop can back up its entire infrastructure with Tivoli Storage Manager. The product also supports a wide range of applications and platforms for backup, such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Oracle databases. However, we wish this product could "push" clients to remote servers without requiring users to purchase additional software from IBM.

Tivoli Storage Manager uses Christie Bare Machine Recovery from Christie Data Products for bare-metal restores for Windows systems. For other systems, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for System Backup and Recovery is available. That add-on supports AIX 5.1 and 5.2, as well as the JFS, JFS2, NFS and CDFS file systems. Both the Christie package and Tivoli Storage Manager for System Backup and Recovery are add-ons.

Tivoli Storage Manager supports full disk-to-disk backups for companies that want to take advantage of the speedy ATA or SATA backups. Reporting in Tivoli Storage Manager is well-rounded but nothing to write home about.

Tivoli Storage Manager is also available in an Extended Edition. This product adds disaster-recovery planning, NDMP support for NAS filers and support for the largest of tape libraries. Larger companies will want to use Tivoli Storage Manager Extended for their backup base; upgrades require a minimum of fuss. Only this version supports NDMP, and only NDMP 3 at that.

IBM Tivoli Storage Manager 5.2.2, $18,675. IBM Tivoli Software, (877) TIVOLI1, (512) 286-0000. www.tivoli.comLegato NetWorker did all the tasks we asked of it. The product has a strong history, solid features and, now that Legato has been purchased, a strong company behind it. But Legato NetWorker has an interface that can be charitably described as retro--meaning, dating back to Windows 3.1.The GUI is organized into three panes: left, right and bottom. The bottom is primarily a message pane; the left contains the familiar tree menu for NetWorker clients and servers, and the right is a window within a pane, with lots of little button/icons that provide access to NetWorker's main components. It's all usable, but should be better. Furthermore, we had to use a CLI to configure our Quantum M1500 library. That utility worked fine, but only NetWorker had such a requirement, and we would prefer a GUI for configuring libraries.

Legato offers a smorgasbord of licensing options for NetWorker. The licensing process is as complicated as anyone's, with long license keys to enter and a convoluted purchasing structure. The large number of choices is both a blessing and a curse: It's more difficult to obtain your license, but you get what you want.

OS support on NetWorker 7.1 is very good. The product supports the full server on Linux. NetWorker also supports the expected full round of other operating systems such as Solaris, HP Tru64, AIX and IRIX. The client selection is equally strong and includes the very latest Macintosh OS X 10.3.

NetWorker supports bare-metal restores with an add-on package. It also supports disk-to-disk to tape options with a package called Disk Backup Option that allows for efficient use of disk resources. NDMP support by Legato is thorough--after all, Legato was instrumental in the developing NDMP.

Legato NetWorker 7.1, $15,100. Legato Systems, (650) 812-6056. www.legato.comSteven J. Schuchart Jr. covers storage and servers for NETWORK COMPUTING. Previously, he worked as a network architect for a general retail firm, a PC and electronics technician, a computer retail store manager, and a freelance disc jockey. Write to him at sschuchart@ nwc.com.

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Tape remains one of the cheapest and most reliable network backup media, but it's also among the most demanding at setup time. The requirements are so specific that you'll need a complete inventory of every operating system, software app and piece of hardware you're running, down to the version number. That means working closely with the vendor to get the backup you need.

In our tests of seven tape-backup products, from heavy hitters HP, IBM Tivoli, CA, Veritas and Legato as well as newcomers CommVault and BakBone, we loaded the software and performed backup-and-restore operations in our NWC Inc. applications testing lab. We graded the packages on how easy they were to install, configure and license; robustness of their OS and hardware support; completeness of reports; interface design; management; and pricing. Although we'd be comfortable recommending any of the packages, we gave our Editor's Choice award to Computer Associates' BrightStor Enterprise Backup 10.5. It is easy to use, has great reporting features and comes at one of the best prices in the batch.We tested tape-backup software in our NWC Inc. applications lab. This lab has a variety of hardware and OS environments, making it an ideal site for testing these heterogeneous tape-backup packages. We took one of our standard testing servers, a 2U Dell 2650 with 1 GB of memory and two 2.4-GHz Pentium 4 Xeon processors. We used seven hard disks (one per software package), each one a 36-GB, 15,000-RPM Seagate model loaded with Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition. Each disk was then loaded into the machine for the test of that particular software.

Our tape system was a Quantum M1500 with two DLT8000 drives, SCSI-connected to our Dell 2650 via an Adaptec 29160 SCSI card.

After loading and configuring each backup software package individually, we deployed agents to the Oracle, Microsoft Exchange, Windows 2000 ADS and general Windows 2000 file servers that make up the NWC Inc. infrastructure. We then ran several backup-and-restore procedures to verify and test functionality, and examined the products' media handling.


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