Backup software is a required element of every business, and with the large number of different solutions on the market, as well as more data storage and privacy mandates, these packages must continue to evolve to stay competitive. Along those lines, BakBone Software Inc.s NetVault 7.1 gains more muscular encryption and virtual tape functionality, making NetVault a more attractive backup platform for midsize businesses.eWEEK Labs tests show NetVault 7.1 is an adequate backup platform for SMBs (small and midsize businesses), but it needs some fine-tuning especially in ease of use and encryption capabilitiesbefore it can be considered a top-tier backup platform.The primary strength of BakBones NetVault backup suite is its outstanding platform support. For shops that have invested heavily in Apple Computer Inc. servers, BakBone Software recently released a native Mac OS X port of its NetVault software. This makes it a good choice for IT managers who want to back up their data to Apple servers. BakBone, unlike Symantec Corp. and other backup platform vendors, also has ported its product to Linux. NetVault 7.1 is priced at $1,195 for the Workgroup Edition (for Windows, Linux or Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris running on 32-bit x86 hardware), which is more expensive than Symantecs comparable Backup Exec 10d starter pack. For a review of Backup Exec 10d, click here. Running on 64-bit hardware, the price creeps up to $1,595 for x86-64-based operating systems and $2,995 for Unix (Suns Solaris 10). NetVault 7.1 was fairly easy to install on Windows Server 2003 test systems, and the software worked well with our Quantum Corp. SDLT 600 drive. Setting up backup media and scheduling backup jobs would not be difficult for anyone who has experience with backup software. However, IT managers in the small-business space or those with limited experience will find that learning to use NetVaults interface takes considerable effort. In comparison, backup tools such as EMC Dantzs Retrospect are easier for novices to implement and use. NetVaults management is divided into two interfaces: a basic interface for running and monitoring backup jobs and the NetVault Configurator interface, which controls advanced functions and additional modules (including encryption, and Microsoft Corp. Exchange Server and SQL Server backup). NetVault doesnt offer a client-side restore tool, however, so IT managers will have to assist users who want to restore files. This will be more of a negative in the future because client-side restore capabilities will be standard in forthcoming backup packages. The encryption module was easy to install and configure on our systems. However, once the module is installed, it cannot be uninstalled, although it can be disabled. NetVaults Encryption Plugin Module implements CAST 128-bit encryption by default, and we used the module to set up an encryption key to secure our media. To restore encrypted data, a user must have not only the encryption module installed but also the proper key to access data. One of the encryption modules strangest quirks is that it is not compatible with NetVaults Oracle Recovery Manager or NetVaults Informix backup agent. Considering that databases are applications that often carry sensitive corporate data, we are surprised by this incompatibility. The encryption module is priced at $195 per server, so it would be fairly economical for small shops that need to implement an inexpensive tape encryption system. The new SVDL (Shared Virtual Disk Library) module, available separately starting at $495, was easy to set up and use in tests. To configure a disk target, we just had to choose a destination and fire jobs at it. The SVDL module has the ability to use shared disks, connecting to servers either via a Fibre Channel SAN (storage area network) or by using iSCSI, to share virtual libraries among multiple backup servers. This will come in handy for larger companies that are trying to centralize their backup data onto a single array. The SVDL module offers 250GB of library capacity, and the workgroup-class version of NetVault 7.1 can be upgraded to 3.1TB of storage. Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.