By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2005-10-24 Print this article Print

With the release of Backup Exec 10d (formerly code-named Panther), Symantec Corp. is providing IT managers with continuous data protection capabilities, self-service data retrieval for their users and the potential to eliminate tape backups at remote sites.

In tests at eWEEK Labs, we were impressed with the functionality and ease of deployment that Backup Exec 10d provided, but there are some things that need improvement—the most glaring of which is Backup Exec 10ds current scanty level of integration with other Symantec storage products.

To read eWEEK Labs take on how Symantec should unify its latest acquisitions, click here.
The core functions of Backup Exec 10d—tape backups and media management—are largely unchanged from the Backup Exec 10 release we looked at in January. What sets Backup Exec 10d apart is its Continuous Protection Server module, an important piece of software that manages disk-based backup chores and ensures continuous protection of file servers.

Backup Exec 10d, which was released earlier this month, is available in a highly affordable starter pack for $995. This package includes a license for Backup Exec 10d, a license for the Continuous Protection Server and agent licenses. Continuous Protection Server agents are priced at $295 per agent for customers that need to back up several remote servers.

with disk-based backup becoming an extremely popular solution for virtually all companies great and small, Backup Exec 10ds Continuous Protection Server is a timely addition to Symantecs already lengthy list of data protection products.

In terms of functionality, the Continuous Protection Server is very similar to Microsoft Corp.s recently released DPM (Data Protection Manager) solution. However, DPM lacks Backup Exec 10ds Web-based recovery tool for users, Backup Exec Retrieve. In addition, DPM requires dedicated disks for its backup repository—Backup Exec 10d does not. To read eWEEK Labs review of Microsoft DPM, click here. Backup Exec 10ds Continuous Protection Server can store data from multiple remote offices, eliminating the need to have separate tape autoloaders at each site and obviating the potentially onerous task of continually shipping tapes back to the home office.

Because the Continuous Protection Server stores virtually all backed-up data, we highly recommend that IT managers either run it on a server with a lot of storage capacity or be sure to budget extra money for an external storage array. SATA (Serial ATA)-based arrays should be able to handle these storage chores without breaking the bank.

The Continuous Protection Server can also back up data to a Backup Exec 10d media server via an IP link (either LAN or WAN). Bandwidth management controls are built into the Continuous Protection Server, ensuring that backup jobs do not saturate the modest WAN links typically found at remote offices.

Administrators can use the included push install utility to remotely install Continuous Protection Server agent software on servers located in satellite offices.

The push install was easy to use in our tests, and it could even reboot servers, if necessary, to complete the installation.

the continuous protection Server comes with Backup Exec Retrieve, an easy-to-use Web-based file recovery tool that worked without a hitch on both an Internet Explorer 6.0 and a Firefox 1.0.6 Web browser in our tests. Using the intuitive Web-based recovery interface, we could either scan complete file directories to locate files or use the search bar to look for specific files.

As data is written to the Continuous Protection Server, it is also indexed, which makes it easier for users to locate files using the Web-based recovery tool. Backup Exec Retrieve will therefore be especially useful for help desk staff, saving them from tedious tape-hunting expeditions and from angry users who demand immediate file restores.

Symantecs SmartLink technology connects Continuous Protection Servers to Backup Exec 10d media servers and sends backup and recovery job assignments via command-line requests from Continuous Protection Servers to the media servers.

Integration between the Continuous Protection Server and the Backup Exec 10d server is not as tight as we would like to see. Each server has its own management consoles for setting up backup and restoration jobs, and these consoles do not interact well.

Using SmartLink, we could send a request from a Continuous Protection Server to a Backup Exec 10d server to initiate a backup job. However, when we used the Continuous Protection Servers console, we could not tell whether the job was completed successfully. As a result, we found ourselves switching back and forth between the two consoles to initiate and monitor jobs.

The Continuous Protection Server is currently limited to Windows file servers—NAS (network-attached storage) units running Windows Storage Server 2003 can also be protected—but protection of other platforms and applications is a reasonable expectation for future releases. Symantec officials agreed that additional protection is a possible improvement for future releases, but they declined to say when it might be added to Backup Exec.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

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