Microsoft Corp.s System Center Data Protection Manager, currently in late beta, is a notable first stab at disk-based backup and recovery. In tests at eWEEK Labs, we found that DPM was relatively easy to implement and use. However, DPM falls short of other disk-based backup products on the market. Although DPM can back up Microsoft file servers, its lack of application-level backupat a minimum, it should have Exchange and SQL Server backup capabilitiesis a glaring weakness. Microsoft must address this oversight to compete with third-party disk backup products, but IT managers will probably have to wait for future releases to get this functionality.The final version of DPM is expected to ship this summer or in early fall, and its entry cost will be roughly $1,000 for a DPM server that can back up multiple devices.As expected for a Microsoft product, DPM is tightly integrated with Active Directory and other Microsoft technologies. For example, SQL Server 2000 is used as the database repository for DPM and is automatically configured during the installation process. When compared with competing solutions such as Unitrends Software Corp.s DPU backup appliancewhich backs up Windows, Linux and multiple versions of Unixthe limited interoperability of DPM is a bit disappointing. Click here to read a review of Unitrends DPU 3000. In addition, DPMs server operating system has to be on drives separate from the disks used for backing up data. For external storage, DPM supports iSCSI and Fibre Channel, which means IT managers can leverage their existing SANs (storage area networks). In our tests, DPM worked well when backing up basic file servers. As one would expect from a disk-based backup system, DPM can write data to disk quickly, which reduces the backup window and allows file servers to stay online. DPM can be managed via its own MMC (Microsoft Management Console)-based management utility, which made it easy for us to push the install agent over to our file servers. DPM can also be managed and monitored using MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager). DPMs ability to perform byte-level backups is important because it minimizes the amount of space needed for each backup. However, DPM doesnt have the level of sophistication found in Data Domain Inc.s DD460 Restorer disk-based backup solution, which uses Global Compression technology to minimize space taken by backups. As a result, DPM makes individual copies of multiple versions of files, stored in different user folders, instead of simply recording changes to files. Click here to read a review of the DD460 Restorer. Backups can be scheduled to run daily or hourly. The hourly backups should be enough for the small and midsize businesses that DPM is designed to protect. After backup jobs are run, DPM automatically validates the backup replica against the production share. DPM supports Microsofts Shadow Copies technology, which allows users to see previous versions of their documents in their file shares and restore them when necessary. We welcome this capability because it allows users to fix mistakes (such as accidental deletions) on their own, freeing up IT personnel for other, more important chores. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.