Product Reviews

Backup Gets Better

A familiar tool gets a facelift and new functions.

Veritas has a long history of providing reliable backup technology for precious data. Backup Exec 9.0 not only meets the same standard of reliability as its earlier products, but has added new wrinkles that make it more functional and easy to use.

The Backup Exec core first gets installed on a “media server.” Next, a remote agent is required on every server to be backed up. To increase functionality, modules—such as SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint, Oracle and so on—are added to the media server.

The most notable change to Backup Exec is the interface, which has been revamped. The interface now has a Web page look and feel, with a quick launch links area on the left for common functions.

Reports are generated in XML format, set up with collapsible sections for each selection backed up, making them a whole lot easier to read and review. Failed sections of the job show up in red, making it easier to locate problem areas of the backup. And since the reports are XML, they can be easily incorporated into a more comprehensive management solution.

Backup Exec’s functionality has improved in other key areas as well. Notably, SharePoint Portal Server 2001 backup is now more flexible. You can restore individual dashboards and documents, rather than the all or nothing restore in 8.0. The Exchange Agent allows Single Instance Storage of attachments when backing up individual mailboxes (no more backing up 15 copies of the same attachment), and allows restoration of individual public folders.

Veritas Backup Exec
Backup Exec’s new interface is a welcome improvement. (Click image to view larger version.)

Those familiar with previous versions of Backup Exec will have a minor learning curve. Media, devices, selections, and jobs are configured as before. One cool addition is the ability to do test runs, so you can identify whether the job will pass or fail before chewing up resources for the actual job.

Some curious little gotchas came up during my evaluation. For Exchange, the Exchange Administration tools must be installed on the media server. For SQL, you might need to go into the Enterprise Manager tool, select the properties of the database you’re backing up, choose the Options tab and set the Recovery Model to Full. By default, SQL Server creates new databases in Simple recovery mode.

Veritas has, with Backup Exec 9, also released an updated version of ExecView. With previous versions of Backup Exec, you couldn’t see all servers at once, forcing admins to connect to each one and review its status. ExecView puts all the servers in server groups for a collective review. You can also drill down, look at job status and histories, and acknowledge alerts as they come in. This tool is strictly a viewer, so you can’t schedule jobs or configure devices, but it does cut down on the amount of time spent reviewing servers.

Backup Exec earns a big thumbs-up. By cleaning up the interface and improving the reports, Veritas has taken a proven product and made it better by making it easier to use.

About the Author

Rick A. Butler, MCSE+I, is the Director of Information Services for the United States Hang Gliding Association.

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