Better Backup for Windows Shops

Veritas Software Corp.'s Backup Exec for Windows gains close to 100 new features and enhancements with Version 9.0.

Veritas Software Corp.s Backup Exec for Windows gains close to 100 new features and enhancements with Version 9.0, including support for the prerelease Windows Server 2003, a more useful GUI, and improvements to groupware and database agents such as Microsoft Corp.s Exchange and SQL Server. Put another way, Backup Exec 9.0 provides one of the most comprehensive data availability and protection applications that eWeek Labs has seen for Windows-based environments.

Backup Exec 9.0 became available in January, almost 18 months after Veritas last update of Backup Exec, Version 8.6. Pricing is the only thing that hasnt changed much since then: A Backup Exec Server license is still priced at $795 per server (the same as 8.6). Prices for agents and optional component licenses arent much higher than those for Version 8.6, either, ranging from $250 for remote server agents to $4,995 for the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Option starter pack.

Backup Exec 9.0 is the first backup package eWeek Labs has seen that supports Windows Server 2003, which is slated for release next month. Being the first to support Windows Server 2003 will allow IT managers to test Backup Exec on this platform earlier to iron out compatibility issues beforehand, and it will allow for a faster transition during migration.

We recommend that sites planning to migrate to Windows Server 2003 platforms consider using Backup Exec 9.0 as the backup solution. Backup Exec 9.0 includes a new Web update feature that allows IT managers to quickly patch their backup servers via the Web with the latest available software updates.

Backup Exec 9.0 is best suited for small and medium-size Windows-centric shops looking to protect application data. It supports most Windows server lines and Mac OS, Unix and Linux clients.

IT managers with mixed-operating-system environments and those looking to back up distributed systems should look to Veritas NetBackup Datacenter or products from Computer Associates International Inc. or BakBone Software Inc., which provide broader Unix (Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, Tru64) and Linux support.

Backup Exec 9.0s ability to perform test runs of backup jobs is a welcome addition that will help administrators quickly validate a job before committing to it, saving valuable time and facilitating shorter backup windows by eliminating recurring backup jobs due to failures. Test runs can also be scheduled ahead of actual jobs to warn administrators of errors early in the process. This is the only software weve seen that offers this capability.

Backup Exec 9.0 enhances the Exchange Server 2000 agent, providing better backup performance and user data restoration capabilities. To help bring users back online faster, Version 9.0 can re-create Exchange mailboxes and user accounts on the fly during the restoration process.

Veritas has enhanced the granularity of managing Exchange mailbox backup jobs, by supporting incremental or differential backup of mailboxes and folders. Administrators can globally include or exclude specific folders, to streamline the protection of Exchange data.

In tests, Backup Exec 9.0 impressed us with its simple installation and easy-to-use management user interface. We installed the software on a Windows 2000 Advanced Server system. The entire installation took less than 15 minutes and required only one server reboot.

After installation, Backup Exec automatically launched setup wizards that quickly guided us through initial setup. We easily configured the media sets (tapes or disk drives used to store backup data) using one wizard. Another let us create Backup-to-Disk folders used to store backup jobs. We liked having the option of setting up the backup folder as a removable folder if we wanted to use removable media to store backup data.

In minutes, the Intelligent Disaster Recovery preparation wizard enabled us to create an alternate data path to prevent the loss of disaster recovery information. Setup wizards can be accessed from the administration console later if administrators want to quickly reconfigure settings.

We found the new Win32 GUI to be much easier to use than the GUI in earlier versions of Backup Exec, while also providing a better arrangement of menus and configuration parameters for quick access compared with previous versions of Backup Exec. We scheduled backups and restored data from our test server to a Dell Computer Corp. PowerVault 122T LTO, or linear tape open, autoloader without a hitch.

The Win32 interfaces Outlook-like layout and calendar-based job scheduling will enable administrators to view daily, weekly or monthly scheduled backup jobs at a glance. Backup Exec 9.0 can also provide a Web-enabled administration console if the backup server is running Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server Appliance Kit.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at