Microlite BackupEDGE Version 01.01.08
BackupEDGE from Microlite is an excellent backup product. It has a flexible command-line and menu interface, will back up over networks and can be used for disaster recovery. Documentation is extensive and readily available. It is a proprietary product, priced competitively. BackupEDGE uses existing utilities in Linux, such as rsh or ssh and crontab for its operations, making it easier to adjust BackupEDGE to live with other programs.
The product is delivered on CD-ROM. If your target computer does not have a CD-ROM drive, you can make installation floppies on another computer from the CD-ROM. You can even make floppies using that other operating system from Redmond, and you can get a 60-day evaluation copy via FTP. If you decide to buy, Microlite will send you a key that makes your evaluation copy permanent.
The installation script is easy to use. It is a command-line script with character graphics (see Figure 1), similar to the main program. Arrow keys move the cursor from field to field, but the tab key may not. I found the inconsistent responses to the Tab key to be disconcerting. For text entry, you can toggle between insert and overwrite modes using the Insert key on a standard PC keyboard, which is very nice. I used that capability to prepend the type of drive to the description of each tape drive. On-line help is readily available during both installation and normal usage (see Figure 2).
The installation does an excellent job of determining what tape drives you have. It correctly identified both of my SCSI tape drives, probably by reading the /proc filesystem. The installation script also will detect whether your tape drive will do fast seeks and what the threshold for changing to a fast seek might be (see Figure 3). Fast seeks are great for restoring one or just a few files, a common restoration scenario. The installation is the best tape-drive characterization process I've seen on Linux so far.
The installation script will even set up a background task to check for sparse files (Microlite calls them “virtual files”). Correct handling of sparse files can save vast amounts of media on backup and even greater amounts on restore. For those systems that have sparse files, lack of proper sparse-file handling can rule out a backup product. Unfortunately, on both of my testbed computers, the search program failed with an error number but no real explanation why. Fortunately, there is a text file of sparse files you can hack, and Microlite documented doing so. BackupEDGE also supports raw filesystem partitions, useful for database servers.
The installation even put an icon on my KDE desktop. A simple hack to the shell script launched by the icon allowed me to fix the font size, a necessity for us geriatric penguinistas.
The first thing I did after installation was fire up the program, edgemenu, from the command line (see Figure 4). The program's color scheme, a blue background with gray characters, reminded me of Colorado Memory Systems DOS-based menus of ancient history. Your choices for color schemes appears to be gray on light blue or monochrome. Sometimes when exiting edgemenu, it leaves its color scheme on both the KDE konsole and xterm. Big deal, I can live with this for reliable backups.
There is a full command-line capability, rather like tar, and “man edge” lists all the options available. Also, since the console-mode menu program is a front end for the command-line programs, you can study the commands it produces.
You can easily schedule automatic backups with the edgemenu program. It installs the backups into root's crontab, making it easy for you to adjust the backup in order to play with other cron jobs.