Comparison of Backup Products

Backup of data is probably the most neglected aspect of system administration in small businesses and home offices.
Tape Formats

PerfectBACKUP+ uses cpio format, while Quick Restore uses tar. Both were developed way back when, and may not provide the data integrity of more modern formats. BRU, on the other hand, clearly uses its own format. The advantage, according to EST, is better data integrity; the disadvantage is that you must use that tool to restore your data.

As far as I can determine, Arkeia has its own tape format. They do provide a command-line utility that allows you to recover a directory of a tape. You can then use this directory to restore from that tape.

Conclusions

The marketplace is wonderful. We see here solutions to the problem of backups from vendors in all price ranges and all levels of support; no Post-Awful “One Size Fits All” mentality.

One concern I have for backup programs is Windows NT backups. Windows 2000 has more file descriptor bits than Windows NT. For example, a file may be a sparse file. Also, Windows 2000 has file system data structures called reparse points. Are the backup programs that handle NT Windows 2000-aware? I don't see anything in the literature of either of the two NT-aware programs reviewed here that indicates one way or another. I do not have Windows 2000, so I was unable to test this point. Workstations Solutions told me they are working on it. Absent any claims that Arkeia support Windows 2000, presumably Knox also is working on it.

If you are spending other peoples' money, or have the budget to buy software but don't have the staff to write your own configurations, and you don't have any Windows 95 or 98 machines to back up, go with Workstation Solutions' Quick Restore. Quick Restore is far and away the best documented of the four products reviewed here.

If you do have Windows 95 or 98 machines to back up over a network, and are willing to learn and use a slightly confusing graphical user interface, get Arkeia. Arkeia is also excellent for sites with a lot of data to back up. The steep learning curve gives you the flexibility to define a lot of different backup configurations. This in turn allows you to get the most out of your tape drives by keeping them as busy as possible.

In one area, Quick Restore is superior to Arkeia. If you have multiple databases to back up, you want to shut down each one for the shortest period possible. Short of exporting the entire database, and then backing that up, the ideal is to shut down each database, back it up, and then fire it up again, in sequence. Arkeia allows you to execute a script before the backup, and another after it. To minimize database downtime, you have to define a separate backup for each database, a nuisance at best. Quick Restore lets you insert scripts at any point in the backup process, which means you can back up an entire computer, and only have each of its databases down long enough to back it up. BRU's GUI has no facility to run scripts at all, but the command-line interface is excellent for writing your own. PerfectBACKUP+ does not appear to have any facility to run scripts.

EST, Inc.'s BRU Professional appears designed to compete in the high end, along with Arkeia and Quick Restore. Unfortunately, it was not publicly available in time for this review.

The BRU-PE personal edition is an excellent choice for backing up your own Linux machine and other machines over NFS or Samba.

For a small- or medium-sized shop, I would seriously recommend using Arkeia to back up the network, and then back up the tape server with BRU. For complete protection, I would add EST's Crash Recovery Utility or their QuickStart Data Rescue. As I have an HP One-Button Disaster Recovery (OBDR) tape drive, the CRU looks very attractive to me.

For home networks involving Windows, I would look at Arkeia's shareware version, supported by backing up Arkeia's database with BRU-PE or tar.

Resources

Table 1. Features Summary

email: ccurley@trib.com

Charles Curley (ccurley@trib.com) lives in Wyoming, where he rides horses and herds cattle, cats and electrons. Only the last of those pays well, so he also writes documentation for a small software company headquartered in Redmond, Washington.

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