Product of the Day: BRU-Pro 2.0
Your data is really protected. Right?
The topic is backup and recovery.
Arguably, data is a business' most critical asset. Perhaps greater attention will be given to it when the IRS figures out how to tax it as an asset. The loss of data can wreak catastrophic consequences on a business, ranging from significant disruption to the doors being closed if engaged in a highly competitive market.
Still, many businesses don't employ a strategy to reliably protect their data, treating the requirement more like an art form than a science. Like an iceberg, the visual part of backing-up is only the tip. What goes on under the water, wherein the "science" of backup resides, determines the ultimate availability of your data.
This article will relate how the BRU backup and recovery products, with specific emphasis on BRU-Pro, compare to other offerings in operation, and why BRU provides users worldwide with backup peace-of-mind.
On January 3, 2002, the TOLIS Group, Inc. announced BRU-Pro 2.0 to provide backup and recovery services on Linux server-based, medium to large heterogeneous network systems.
Framed on the time-proven BRU engine, version 2.0 is a significant evolution of the BRU-Pro 1.0 product awarded the 2001 Editor's Choice Award for Best Linux Backup by Linux Journal. Also receiving the 8Wire Seal of Approval and a UnixReview.com "5 out of 5 recommend", BRU-Pro is receiving recognition as a rock-solid performer. Backup is serious business, and at the TOLIS Group we take our "Backup You Can Trust" servicemark seriously, providing products that deliver great value and unsurpassed reliability.
From a 40,000-foot perspective, doing backups is moving data from one place to another for safekeeping. Sounds simple, but how that migration is accomplished is a complex process. The genesis of BRU in 1985 was driven by the inherent unreliability of traditional approaches. These approaches are still being used today and continue to place one's archived data literally at risk.
The following information addresses some of the major characteristics that should be evaluated when considering backup and recovery products.
RELIABILITY - The cornerstone requirement of any backup and recovery solution is reliability, the ability to deliver accurate restores, whether a single file is needed or a bare metal restore must be done. The natural precursor to accurately restoring data is the ability to accurately back it up. Equally important is the ability to verify the accuracy of the backup. It is absolutely the wrong time to find out there's a problem with the backup when attempting to restore data in a pressure situation.
All of the BRU and BRU-Pro solutions produced by the TOLIS Group provide unsurpassed reliability. The BRU engine checksums each block of data to be backed up and places the checksum information in the header of each block of data to be archived. When the backup is verified, this special format allows the comparison of each and every bit of data to assure the data has been backed-up accurately. BRU can verify the backup immediately or at a later time. The ability to verify the backup off-line significantly reduces the total on-line backup window. BRU and BRU-Pro backups can even be verified on a different machine (386 or better)! That spare system you have laying around can now be used to further reduce the on-line backup window.
Competitive products (most are based on the traditional "tar" data format) rely on the ECC (Error Correction Code) of the archive device to verify the backup. This is not failsafe because many points exist in the data path between the hard disk/s and the archive device wherein data can be altered. For detail, reference the TOLIS white paper that addresses this issue. The ECC of tape drives doesn't have the intelligence to determine whether all of the data coming in is valid. The code simply assures that what it receives, it writes correctly. This is a classic example of "garbage in--garbage out" should the data be corrupted before reaching the tape system.
Some backup products that perform data verification can require access to the hard disk or disk farms to execute their verification capability. Since the data on the hard drives is dynamic (changing), comparing the disks to the archive device for verification of the backup is sub-optimal. This approach mandates doing the verification immediately, thereby extending the backup window. As mentioned, BRU's format contains all of the information needed to execute the verification at any time, without a requirement to compare against the hard disk drives.
RECOVERY - Assuming the data that has been archived is accurate, the next consideration is its recovery when needed. According to analysts, up to 90% of the time backup software developers expend on development is focused on the backup portion. The design of BRU is centered on the accuracy of the recovered data. This mind-set then guides the development of the backup operation to reach that end. It can be truly said of BRU's development, "form follows function". The result? BRU implements a data format that provides uncompromised reliability.
In a perfect world, data that was accurately written to an archive device should be accurately restored. It's not a perfect world though, and data can be corrupted on tapes by any number of external factors.
BRU tests the validity of data coming off the archive device during the restore. If the data is bad, BRU makes multiple attempts to read it. If the data cannot be read, BRU advances the tape, re-reads, and repeats the process until the bad area is passed and recovery can resume. The loss of a single file is preferable to an aborted restore that requires the manual reconstruction of all of the data. Most alternative backup approaches abort the restore when bad data is detected.
PERFORMANCE - Computers are used to make money for businesses. The backup operation does not, and merely provides data availability should something happen to the on-line storage. Therefore, it's key that the backup operation incur minimal disruption to money-making computing time.
BRU-Pro is a lightweight process, thereby allowing backups to be completed at the maximum performance level of the backup device and/or the network when applicable. The total backup completion time is reduced since BRU-Pro backups are verified off-line. BRU 17.0 (also announced in January 3, 2002) is compatible with BRU-Pro. Tapes written by BRU-Pro 2.0 can now be verified by BRU 17.0 users implementing the x11 interface as well.
Supporting true client/server computing, BRU-Pro supports client-side compression that significantly reduces the time to back up client systems. Also, BRU-Pro's tunable buffering technology allows tuning the backup system to utilize the new buffering schemes now available in today's modern tape drives to even further optimize performance.
EASE OF USE - BRU products are developed by engineers who are capable SysAdmins and NetworkAdmins in their own right. They know what's required, and their expertise is reflected in the ease-of-use and robustness of the products from installation to operation.
BRU-Pro provides the most simple, straightforward and efficient installation of any large network backup solution and virtually eliminates the human error typically associated with setting up a backup system on these networks.
BRU-Pro automatically recognizes and configures the server and archive devices on the system. When the agent software is installed on the client systems, BRU-Pro recognizes them and automatically configures them as well.
The straightforward graphical interface provides point and click ease to manage all backup and restore operations, and BRU-Pro manages your unattended, lights out backup so you don't need to be there.
On occasion, BRU-Pro users may need technical support. Literally 95% of all BRU/BRU-Pro calls for technical support are related to the system environment and not the BRU products. In contrast to most backup suppliers, typical support calls to TOLIS are straightforward and are quickly answered by the engineering staff, not higher-level individuals. When you call TOLIS for support, you're connected to the folks that develop our products and know them best.
VALUE - "You get what you pay for" is a common adage. One could interpret the saying to infer, "the more you spend, the more you get." This can be true but not necessarily in the case of backup software. BRU-Pro provides excellent value, from providing unequaled reliability and flexibility to realistic pricing. BRU-Pro 2.0 is shipped with three (3) clients/agents. Additional agents are also cost-effectively priced and available at quantity points that make sense.
Out of the box, BRU-Pro supports virtually all SCSI tape devices including drives, tape loaders and libraries, thereby eliminating the need to purchase the costly add-in drivers associated with alternative products.
And, BRU-Pro provides additional value through investment protection. BRU-Pro supports 64-bit computing and is Itanium-compatible already. All of the key algorithms within BRU and BRU-Pro have been upgraded to manage the increased bandwidth. The BRU-Pro you implement today will serve well into the future.
BRU-Pro supports servers running all popular x86 Linux (glibc 2.1+) and ia64 Linux systems and heterogeneous workstation/client systems running Linux, Windows and most UNIX.
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One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
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