For backup, Microsoft DPM is not the whole enchilada

Many administrators view Microsoft's Data Protection Manager (DPM) as a welcome solution for protecting data in branch offices and in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). However, the current version of DPM is not a complete backup system. Nor is it intended to be.

Many administrators view Microsoft's Data Protection Manager (DPM), which offers file-level recovery software for

file servers and network-attached storage (NAS) systems based on Windows Server 2000 and 2003, as a solution for protecting data in branch offices and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

However, the current (and first) version of DPM is not a complete backup system. Nor is it intended to be.

To many, the current version of DPM represents a compromise designed to solve the most common backup and restore problems, such as fast recovery of files, while more complex operations, such as bare metal restores, are left out and will be incorporated down the road. After all, when it comes to permitting quick recovery for servers or offering a way to replace low-end tape systems with centralized disk-to-disk backup, the software shines.

When it comes to more complex operations, the current version's telling lack is that it does not support tape directly. The assumption is that the DPM server will be connected to a conventional backup server, which will handle tapes. Similarly, the present version does not support server failover for the DPM server or bare metal restores of the servers it protects. (However, many observers believe that Microsoft will add bare metal restore to the next version of the product, which, says Microsoft, will come out in late 2007.)

DPM offers near continuous data protection (CDP) architecture. Although the file recovery feature logs changes to files as they are made, the changes are stored on the server and only transmitted to the remote backup hourly. This means that if the server is still operating, files can be recovered at any point in time. But if the server goes down, the backup could be as much as an hour old. (An administrator, however, can take a snapshot for recovery at any time.)

Despite these limitations, DPM provides fast, simple, cost-effective support for the most common recovery operations, which makes it attractive for protecting branch offices, workgroups and SMBs.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in issues related to storage and storage management.

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This was first published in March 2006

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