StorageCraft Technology has released the latest version of its backup and recovery software, ShadowProtect 3.0. For disk-to-disk backup, ShadowProtect is a serious contender. However, its worth noting that the product is not intended to compete against backup software for tape or similar media.
The new version is designed to work with both Windows desktop machines and Windows Server 2003-based systems. While the desktop and server editions are different in terms of details, they both accomplish much the same thing for their respective platforms and they both work in much the same way. Configuring and operating the software is very similar for either version. I found both versions to be intuitive and effective.
StorageCraft makes ShadowProtect 3.0 available through its Web site, or you can buy it through resellers, channel partners and systems integrators. The software sells for $80 for the desktop version and $900 for the server version. The IT Edition sells for $3,500.00 for a years unlimited use. Volume discounts are available.
ShadowProtect works by creating a disk image, and then updating that image on a regular basis. If that reminds you a lot of Symantecs Norton Ghost, thats because it is a lot like it. According to a StorageCraft spokesperson, Symantec has licensed the ShadowProtect technology for Ghost. The big difference is that ShadowProtect has versions for Windows servers as well as desktop Windows. (Like the Symantec product, ShadowProtect works on Windows.)
In addition to providing backup and restore services, ShadowProtect can be used for disaster recovery and system migration. This includes what the company calls "hardware-independent restoration," which allows an image to be migrated to any compatible environment, including a virtual environment. Because of the ability to perform migration tasks, as well as to transfer disk images on to new systems, StorageCraft is aiming the product at systems integrators and other channel partners in addition to enterprise users.
Part of the ShadowProtect 3.0 release is what the company calls the IT Edition, which includes a bootable CD-ROM containing limited versions of both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003. The IT Edition is designed for recovering systems that cannot be booted or for transferring disk images to systems that arent configured. It does not contain all of the drivers that youd normally get with a Windows-based backup solution, but it does include the ability to load drivers from an external source, such as a second CD-ROM or a USB memory stick.
The other versions of ShadowProtect 3.0 can transfer disk images onto bare-metal systems, but they dont have the bootable CD.
During tests, I installed ShadowProtect 3.0 from a CD-ROM, however, many users will download the setup files from the StorageCraft Web site. Either way, you end up copying the installation files to your hard disk and executing the setup programs from there. Beyond providing your activation number when its requested, theres very little to the process.
Most of the heavy lifting in getting ShadowProtect up and running comes when you run the configuration wizards. There, you tell the software what disk or disks you plan to back up, and where you want the backup data sent. You can use any Windows-compatible storage target, including an attached hard disk, a network disk or a virtual disk. For this test, I used the Dell PowerVault MD3000i iSCSI storage device.
The iSCSI device was set up as a virtual drive on an HP server on the test network. Since the MD3000i appeared as an attached disk on the server, it worked just fine as a target for the ShadowProtect software. I used this virtual disk as the target for both the desktop and server versions of ShadowProtect.
Backup job details are set up using the ShadowProtect Backup Wizard. This wizard can be invoked using a menu bar on the left of the screen. During tests, the wizard led me through the steps needed to define what I wanted backed up, where the data should go, how often and when the backup should happen, and the desired compression and image. Once thats done, you fire it off and let it run.
I could select what days I wanted full backups performed, what days I wanted incremental backups performed and over what interval the incremental backups should take place. The minimum interval is 15 minutes.
During tests, it took about 13 minutes to perform the initial backup, of about 13GB, on the disk of the IBM x345 that was being used as the backup source. This was actually slightly faster than an equivalent disk copy when run between the IBM server and the HP server. After that, incremental backups took a second or two each. I had ShadowProtect set so that it performed an incremental backup every 15 minutes (more often than most businesses would perform incremental backups).
Of course, theres more to a backup program than simply backups. ShadowProtect includes a wizard to restore a disk image or individual files. You can also browse your backup image. I found all of these functions to be intuitive to the point that the manual wasnt really necessary.
There are exceptions. For example, you can use one console to manage backups on multiple servers. The management console spells out the process pretty clearly, but the details could be tricky. Once everything is set, theres nothing else to do unless you need to restore something. During tests, the software ran without asking me to do anything. If I wanted to see what it had been doing, the backup history tab on the console showed me the details. Because it runs in the background, ShadowProtect is designed to stay out of your way, and thats what it did.
During the course of this test, my teen-aged daughter managed to crash the hard disk on her laptop. This is the laptop on which shes creating the college essay that will get her into MIT, but, more important, its the laptop that she uses to IM her friends.
I asked my contacts at StorageCraft if the IT Edition would at least get the important stuff, like her iTunes files, off of the hard disk. It would, they said.
The process of doing the disaster recovery (and anyone who doesnt think this is a disaster doesnt have a teen-aged child) starts by booting from the IT Edition CD-ROM.
The IT Edition software booted, identified the hard drive and found the critical files without a problem. Once it was running, we went through the same settings choices youd use for the other ShadowProtect products to tell the software to back everything up to a USB-connected external hard disk. While this is a lot slower than a network connection, its still reasonably fast, and it worked perfectly. Once the backup was complete, every file was available for restoration.
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