Microlite BackupEDGE Version 01.01.08

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BackupEDGE from Microlite is an excellent backup product.
Backing Up

Naturally, the first thing I tried to do was a small test backup of about 9MB using my /etc directory. When I first tried this, the backup failed. Possibly the scan for sparse files affected the SCSI host adaptor. In any case, once I rebooted my system, I got successful backups on both of my tape drives.

The reason for the reboot was that I used another computer to test backups over the network, a process Microlite calls “remote backups”. I reconfigured BackupEDGE to use ssh because I already have ssh working with public key authentication, thus allowing secure transfers of data without passwords. I was able to configure the client machine and start a backup, but it locked up the server. Oops. After rebooting the server, I was able to back up on the server, but not on the client. My second attempt did not crash the server, which was an improvement. You also can use any host to administer another host. Apparently, the rsh or ssh connection is made and broken over the course of a session, so you may have waits while hosts authenticate.

Verification

Verifications can be done against the original file or by checking the CRC checksums stored with the data. The latter is useful for verifying a file after the original has changed. It is also a quick-and-dirty acceptance test of tape-drive head alignment, which is useful for less expensive tape drives, like some of the QIC offerings. Verification can be done as a routine part of the backup process, which is great.

Restoration

Restoration is easily done from the edgemenu program. You can restore redirected files to another location via any of the three interfaces. For the GUI addicts, there is an X-based restore tool, edge.emx (see Figure 5), that you may launch from edgemenu. It is suited for restoring individual files. Selecting a directory also selects the files and directories under it, if the directory is not expanded. The process is simple enough: select a database and click on it. Click your way down the tree until you select all the files you want. Click on Transfer to add the selected files to the restore window. Then click on Restore to restore the data.

Figure 5. edge.emx

Documentation

The manual is large, over 270 pages. With reasonably large type and a fair amount of white space, it is easy to read. Seventy pages of the manual duplicates the man pages, and some of that is for operating systems other than Linux. Then there is another 130 pages of documentation on the crash recovery software. A good contents page is provided in each volume, but the index is a bit sparse. For example, there is no entry for sparse files, and you have to already know that Microlite calls them “virtual files”. Overall, the documentation is plentiful, extensive, conversational and easy to read. Microlite gets an “A” here.

Part of the documentation expands on error messages. When a program produces a terse error message, you can look it up in the documentation and get a more detailed explanation. Other software vendors should learn to do this.

The documentation even tells you how to customize some aspects of BackupEDGE. For example, remote backups are done using rsh. However, the exact steps you need to take in order to use ssh are documented.

Support

Customer support is provided via e-mail, phone, fax or web site. There is no e-mail list that allows customers to exchange experiences directly. I did run into one problem that led me to customer support: I tried to substitute ssh for rsh. We never did get that to work, possibly because I took sick while trying to debug this problem. The support I got was polite but appeared to be perfunctory. E-mail responses were timely and had I not gotten sick, we probably would have gotten ssh working in time for this review.

Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery should be very easy to do with RecoverEDGE, BackupEDGE's disaster recovery software, once you have it set up. I say “should be” only because I actually have not tested the restore process. Using HP's OBDR (basically a bootable tape drive) or a floppy disk set you build with BackupEDGE, you can make a backup tape for disaster recovery. When you need it, boot to the floppy or tape drive and away you go. The Microlite RecoverEDGE software will also adjust your partition sizes as needed in case you are restoring to a larger hard drive. Even machines that back up over the Net can use RecoverEDGE, which is more than you can do with OBDR.

Please note: the current version of this product was not available at the time of this writing.

Product Information/The Good/The Bad

Charles Curley (w3.trib.com/~ccurley“) is a freelance software engineer, writer and occasional cowpoke in the wilds of Wyoming.

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