Software takes stress out of data backup

NetVault 6 makes guarding agency info easy

The adage that information is your most valuable asset rings especially

true for federal agencies. Unfortunately, many agency data repositories

go unprotected because of the difficulty of using high-end backup solutions

from brand-name vendors such as Legato Systems Inc. and Veritas Software.

Fortunately, BakBone Software Inc.'s NetVault 6 provides stress-free

operation at a reasonable price, and its versatile design works with the

latest storage devices and networks. I would recommend it for both mid size

organizations and large agencies with complex multiplatform computing environments.

If you don't recognize the NetVault name, you're probably not alone.

The software was originally developed more than 10 years ago at Bell Laboratories

(now Lucent Technologies) for internal use. It was spun off in 1997 to a

group of developers in the United Kingdom and has been commercially available

for the last few years in Europe and Japan.

In our test of NetVault in a Microsoft Corp. Windows NT 4.0 server environment,

I installed the program in under 15 minutes — not the days that other solutions

typically demand. One important reason for this speed is automatic device

detection and configuration. In our case, NetVault 6 detected a locally

connected Exabyte Corp. Mammoth tape drive along with an Advanced Digital

Information Corp. DLT tape library attached to a client workstation.

I was similarly impressed with NetVault's overall operation and performance.

The program reduces backup, restore and management functions to eight main

areas. Commands for each function were generally very intuitive, taking

us just a few hours to master everything. For example, to perform a remote

system backup, we simply pointed to the particular system on our network

and then checked off desired options that appeared within several tabbed

dialog areas.

Furthermore, NetVault 6 includes a range of advanced options, such as

scheduling backups according to a custom schedule.

My only minor gripe is that alert messages, such as operator prompts

to mount a new tape, are not very prominent. For example, I had to examine

a log file (a process similar to using Windows NT's Event Viewer) to determine

why a certain backup job was stalled. However, NetVault broke speed limits

compared with Windows NT's built-in backup software, backing up our server's

six hard disks — containing 30G of data — in about half the time.

We attribute this excellent showing to several things. First, NetVault

compresses data at the client before it's sent over the network. Second,

the software buffers data to a hard disk, helping tape drives operate at

their full speed. And if you have enough RAM on your server, that memory

can be used as a special cache to further speed up data transfers. Also,

if your network has several tape drives, each attached to a different server,

NetVault can distribute backup jobs to them, cutting backup time even more.

NetVault offers special benefits for agencies operating the latest storage-area

networks. The software's graphical user interface makes configuring SANs

a snap. You merely point and click to share your tape library drives among

multiple servers and clients. At the same time, NetVault routes backup data

directly from servers and clients to tape drives configured on the SAN — with no backup server in the middle to slow it down.

This solution's modular architecture delivers yet another important

benefit: application plug-in modules. Put simply, those modules let you

back up data from running applications, such as Oracle Corp. databases or

Microsoft Exchange servers. Still, I would like to see more extensions.

Fortunately, BakBone is planning to release plug-ins for IBM Corp. DB2,

Microsoft SQL Server and Lotus Development Corp. Notes in the latter part

of this year.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with NetVault's design and performance.

It installed and operated easily. Those features alone should reduce training

and day-to-day costs, giving you a quick return on your investment. The

system's high-performance, modular design scales from workgroups to large

data centers.

NetVault is ready for the latest networking and new generation of very

fast backup devices. As more and more agencies find their data at risk,

BakBone Software's NetVault 6 is one of the top choices to safeguard that

information.

—Heck is a freelance writer and a manager of electronic

promotions at Unisys Corp.

REPORT CARD

NetVault 6

Score: A-

BakBone Software Inc.

(877) 949-2663

www.bakbone.com

Price and availability: Pricing begins at $1,000 for a Microsoft Corp. Windows NT or Linux workgroup package (server and five clients) and $3,725 for Unix. The software is available on the open market directly from BakBone Software, which has a sales and support group dedicated to the federal market, and also through authorized resellers.

Remarks: NetVault 6 storage-management software lets technical staff easily perform agencywide backup and restoration of data residing on Windows NT and Unix servers or workstations. The system's modular design supports multiple tape drives and libraries from a variety of manufacturers. Moreover, NetVault works efficiently over standard local-area networks and is also optimized for the newest technologies, including storage-area networks.

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