Arkeia 5.2 Network Backup

The design shows careful thought about what a backup manager needs.

Arkeia can be managed through a GUI client program, xarkeia, or by means of a set of command-line clients. The actual work is done by dæmons reached through these clients. Many system administrators may find the GUI easier to use for routine operations and configuration.

The xarkeia GUI was written from scratch on top of X, using no Motif, Qt, GTK or any other third-party GUI libraries. The appearance is distinct and different, and although it requires some getting used to, was easy to use after only a little practice. The window decoration buttons you might be used to seeing along the top bar aren't there; they are replaced by a circle of buttons in the upper-left corner. I missed the ability to move an instance of xarkeia from one virtual desktop to another.

xarkeia has an error message panel near the top that was a source of some annoyance. It featured error messages that vanished too quickly for careful reading.

Context-sensitive help is provided from a Help button in the button circle. Based on an unscientific sampling, I found meaningful help messages in only about half of the screens. There is room for some improvement here. Experienced system administrators should not shy away from reading manuals, however, and I found the Arkeia User's Guide to be complete and comprehensive.

I was unable to discover much by way of customization available for the GUI. The colors and fonts it comes with are, as far as I can tell, the ones you will live with.

Other than that, I had no problems with xarkeia. Among the many features I liked was what they called their function path bar. If you use many applications having multiple levels of menus, you're no doubt all too used to clicking back, back and so on until you climb back out to the top-level menu. xarkeia's function path bar, as shown in Figure 1, stacks the icons you've used as you descend to the lower levels of a menu tree. Clicking an icon in this bar can take you back out through multiple menu levels with only a single mouse click.

A Real Backup and Restore

The Arkeia User's Manual is the next stop after finishing the Quick Start Guide. At 330 pages, there's a lot of reading there. I opened the User's Manual using xpdf and continued on to configure some real backups using an Exabyte VXA drive. The drive was detected and configured easily. A new drivepack was defined, several tapes entered and labeled and enrolled in a pool. The tape labeling dialog could have used an eject button. I already had a savepack set up from the Quick Start Guide exercises, so I ran an interactive backup and then configured a periodic one to run several times, allowing me time to add and delete files in between.

Within the Restoration menu, files can be selected by filename search or by file tree browser. The “Invalid regular expression!” popup I got when I clicked Search puzzled me, until I read the related section of the User Manual, which pointed out that I had to check some boxes in the search screen as well as enter search words into adjacent text boxes. “You must check at least one checkbox” would have been more helpful.

Restoration offered many options with respect to where to restore, ownership, access rights, overwrite of existing files, verifying backed-up files and so on. After selecting files using the backup browser, I started restoration only to be told “Please insert tape Monthly22” in one tape drive. After a little bit of guessing I was able to initiate restoration.

Tape Indexing

Arkeia maintains on-line tape index, history and configuration information that it uses when it is time to restore. This index makes it possible to browse the backed-up date on-line for easy restoration. The downside, as always with such an arrangement, is that there is a point of failure: loss of the on-line index.

This index is kept in the Arkeia installation directory, by default /opt/arkeia, in the server/dbase subdirectory. In the event of disaster, it can be reconstructed from the tapes by use of provided utilities. Every backup tape must be fed through, which can be a lengthy and laborious process. The fact that index rebuilding is supported at all is a good thing. I've used backup products with on-line indexes but no way to rebuild them from tape. Having a way to rebuild these if need be is good; however, it is better to avoid being in a place where this is needed.

Arkeia Disaster Recovery provides facilities to handle this situation, accommodating bare-metal restore of the backup server or any of the client systems direct from tape. For the prudent but more adventurous administrator, who might want to restore using a standard installation method, followed by bringing in backed-up data files from tape, Arkeia Support advises me that an up-to-date copy of the arkeia install directory kept in a safe location, augmented by snapshots of the server/dbase directory taken after each backup, should suffice to allow a restore even following a loss of the backup server. Always test your restoration procedure. Your results may vary.