NetVault 6

The adage that information is your most valuable asset rings especially true for government 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 midsize organizations and large agencies with complex multi- platform 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.

Why to Buy

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.

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