IT pros find backup software that 'fits'

Deciding which backup software package to use can be challenging with all of the choices on the market. Here, three IT managers, each with different needs and budgets, share their stories about choosing the best product.

Organizations have a wide range of choices when it comes to backup software products, ranging from basic products at the low end to robust, industrial-strength tools at the high end.

We asked IT professionals in three organizations with different backup needs to share their reasons for the choices they made.

Backup on a tight budget
Ingenuit Technologies Inc., in Vancouver, Wash., is an application service provider that focuses mainly on the financial services, legal and health care industries. As an authorized Microsoft service provider, the company offers a wide range of Web-based terminal services to its customers, which tend to be small to midsized organizations with from five to 70 users.

Ingenuit's data center houses a mix of 35 Windows and Linux servers. The company uses EMC Dantz Retrospect backup software to back up its own data and its clients' data.

Dan LeBaron, Ingenuit CTO, said that Ingenuit chose Dantz in large part because the company responded quickly to their needs -- unlike some of the larger backup software vendors they had dealt with.

"Retrospect invited us to talk with them," LeBaron said. "They took our ideas for improvement seriously. They are really customer focused, and they deliver on what they say," he continued.

After testing the Retrospect product, evaluating it feature by feature and reviewing the pricing (depending on the product, prices ranges from $300 to $1,300, Ingenuit decided "its features are as good as anyone's," said LeBaron.

The company has used Retrospect for two years to back up more than 1TB of data. LeBaron's team finds the product easy to manage and easy to use. Whenever they have encountered problems, "the vendor got right on it," he said.

Surprisingly, Ingenuit does not back up its applications and data to tape but to another RAID server. "We back up to a RAID subsystem and synchronize that with another system at a remote site. I'm not a fan of tape," said LeBaron.

Dantz, which developed Retrospect, recently was acquired by EMC. Whether the vendor remains as responsive as part of a giant company is unknown, but LeBaron is hopeful.

Colleges pick the midrange with Veritas BackupExe
The women's College of Saint Benedict (CSB) and all-male Saint John's University (SJU) are two colleges that share one academic program. Almost 4,000 men and women students attend classes together on both campuses, which are about five miles apart.

To support the academic program, CSB operates the combined data center. Although the IT budget is tight, the school implemented a new SAN from Hewlett-Packard Co. last year to support its AlphaServers running Open VMS with the SunGard SCT Inc. Banner software, which handles the school's registration and accounting. The SAN also supports about 100 file servers, primarily Windows systems (HP ProLiant servers) but with a few Linux servers, which mainly serve some of the Computer Science Department's course applications.

The SAN currently handles about 10 TB of data, "but we are continuously adding disk capacity," said Jim Koenig, director of information technology services. The SAN itself consists of an HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array 5000, which was chosen for its performance and high availability, he added.

For backup, CSB/SJU keeps things simple. "We back up everything to tape, which works very well for us," Koenig said. The school uses Veritas Backup Exec, from Veritas Software Corp., which it first began using about 10 years ago. Today, Backup Exec offers a Web-based user interface, wizards, centralized administration and agents and options that ensure it works with Windows, Linux and Unix servers. The price of Veritas Backup Exec for Windows Server is $499.

"When we first got it, there was very little to choose from," said Koenig. The school has found no reason to change since then. "Sometimes we need a new driver or something, but there has never been a problem," he added. HP helped his group implement the backup software for the new SAN.

Manufacturer needs high-end backup
Saint-Gobain U.S. is a manufacturer of building materials, abrasives, glass and ceramics. In the U.S., the company runs several dozen Windows servers across five locations. These servers handle Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and file and print applications.

Over the last several years, the company has dramatically increased its disk capacity to 3 TB of storage. "We've been adding disk drives, and they all have to be backed up," said Mohamed Alkazaz, IT and telecommunications manager. It runs backups overnight, beginning at 9 p.m. It takes about 4.5 hours to back up all the data, Alkazaz said.

For several years the company has been using ARCserve for backup. Now ARCserve is part of Computer Associates' BrightStor enterprise storage management suite.

Saint-Gobain recently upgraded to ARCserve Backup 11.1 with enterprise options. Previously, the company loaded ARCserve on multiple backup servers and ran the backup process multiple times. With the enterprise release of BrightStor ARCserve, however, it has been able to eliminate that repetitive task by running the latest version on a single network backup server that backs up its entire set of distributed servers centrally. "Why do something multiple times when you don't need to?" Alkazaz wonders. (The price tag for CA BrightStor ARCserve Backup Release 11.1 for Windows is $775.)

The biggest payoff, however, comes from ARCserve's centralized management. "I have several dozen servers in five locations," Alkazaz pointed out. To manage the backup, he simply walks over to the central console. "I know which files have been backed up on which servers, and I can restore any file anywhere if needed." To ensure efficient backup of the Exchange and SQL Server systems, it deploys ARCserve backup agents on those servers.

To learn more about your backup software options, read "Sorting through the backup software maze."


Alan Radding is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. He can be reached at alan@radding.net,

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