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Even More Pros and Cons of Tape Backup Solutions

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench

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Updated: 15 Sep 2005

Part One of this enormously popular collection was getting way too big, so we thought we'd start Part Two.

OPEN CALL: tell us how you're handling tape backup, and we'll pass it along.


Jeff Tull


Most all tape backup problems are the Tape Drives & Tapes. So get rid of them. Novell always improves their TSA's with TSAUPxx updates, you just have to apply them. The same with Veritas & their service packs.

We stopped using tape drives. We now backup to external 400gb Seagate USB2.0 Hard drives. Then Veritas seems to work great. You can change out the USB HDDs so you can take them off site. And/or backup the "Backup-to-Disk Folders" known as B2D on spanning 8Gb DVD's to take them offsite. Backups and restores are about 8 times faster!!!!

The cost are lower. We paid about $3k for an internal DLT 320 & 10 tapes. We paid less than $1k for two Seagate 400Gb USB2.0 HDD's & a 10 pack of 8Gb DVD's.

Bryan Thoreson

This is my answer to our backup problems:

We recently switched from Syncsort's Backup Express to CommVault Galaxy. CommVault's Galaxy is able to backup our NetWare 6.5 4 node cluster with fail-over support. Galaxy provides a nice Direct to Disk to Tape functionality. They also have some nice functionality to be able to make copies of backups to and from any media regardless of disk or tape media. This allows you to move from LTO to LTO3 to SDLT without losing those backups, you just transfer them to the new media type. This is really nice if you need to archive something for a long period of time. Galaxy has fit into our environment with no issues. We have actually seen some speed improvements after the switch.

Like Syncsort, CommVault develops closely with Novell's latest TSAFS code. They utilize Novell's Supper Labs for testing new code. In our search to find the best backup solution, we talked to many CommVault customers and the what impressed me the most is all of those customers never had any restore problems. CommVault also provides awesome reporting and scheduling. Everything is policy based so it feels even very Novell like in its configuration and setup. All and all I would recommend CommaVault's Galaxy product to any Novell customer looking for a better long lasting backup solution. The only downside is their website does not do their product justice, but the product speaks for itself.

Richard Molenkamp

At our hospital we just installed a new backup system: CommVault Galaxy.

Facts: 8 x NetWare 5.x/6.x and 20 x Win2K/2K3. Total data about 400GB. Diskspace for magnetic library 2,3TB, Taperobot 100 slots Ultrium II (=200/400GB). Budget EUR 70K.

We installed a MagneticLibrary which is a portion of diskspace which can be used by the CommCell (Main backup application) to backup to. CommVault calls this the primary backup. From this primary backup one or more secondary backups can be made to tape (in full streaming mode). It is even possible to create a Full backup to tape based on a full primary backup and additional incremental primary backups! Restores from recent files are (automatically) read from magnetic library, which is very fast.

The whole EBS is policy based and that means you must first think about what you want and when. Instead of creating jobs one by one and scheduling each job, you need to configure a Storage policy, Schedule policy and a retention strategy. Adding a new server is just installing the backup agent and associate it with a storage- and schedule policy.

Another good thing is the retention options in which you setup how long data should be protected on the media (both magnetic library and tape). For example the magnetic library (primary backup) should contain two full backups and at least all backups from the last 7 days. After the retention criteria are met the space is freed up.

CommVault Galaxy works fine on Windows, NetWare and UNIX. It's part of the CommVault Qinetix storage suit. Only disadvantage is the amount of licences needed. It is needed to install an agent on every client (EUR 450 to 650 per client). Also the real knowledgebase is not accessible for customers, only a portion of it. Reporting is good.

This product really makes a difference! Once you find your way around, it's even simpler to use and it takes very little time to admin.

Teresa McGoffin

We are a small school district with 11 NetWare 6.0 sp4 servers and 8 Windows servers. We are using Veritas BackupExec 9.1 on the NetWare and Windows systems.

For years we attempted to run to local tape systems at the school sites. What a nightmare. Tape drives are unreliable. We ended up with more work orders from the school reps who were trying to manage the backups. So currently we use the central server to backup to a HP SureStor 6 slot robot using Veritas remote agents.

There are issues with this arrangement:

1) tape magazines need to be rotated manually,
2) T1 bandwidth to schools limits the throughput,
3) the open file option has caused pool corruption and
4) don't even try backing up GroupWise when users are accessing mail, which I swear is 24/7.

My next strategy is to backup-to-disk since hard drives are relatively cheap but that doesn't provide good disaster recovery. Is anyone using Portlock Storage Manager for imaging servers and partition management? I am also looking at Tandberg StorageCab 4000 NAS units and Syncsort Backup Express. Cost is always an issue. The rapid deployment of gray hair on my noggin doesn't bother anyone but me.

Roger Linhart

Follow up to our migration from CA Brightstor ARCserve for NetWare to Syncsort Backup Express.

We are finally settling into our Syncsort Backup Express system. The migration wasn't without some bumps and bruises. We took an old server and installed NetWare and ARCserve so we could still do restores from our old tapes. This has worked well with the only real hassle being having to switch the SCSI cables for the tape library from one server to the other.

The problems we encountered while bringing up the Backup Express server were handled by Syncsort in a timely and efficient manner. I can agree with the comments from others in this thread that the user interface feels dated. There are aspects of the user interface that are not intuitive. In some cases we've had trouble figuring out how to do some kinds of restore where specific files or folders need to be restored instead of full recovery. We've had trouble setting up a tape operator user for the purpose of only being able to manage tapes but have not followed up on this with Syncsort support.

We do like the way Backup Express handles tapes by appending jobs to a tape until it is full. We've seen about a 15% reduction in the number of tapes required for a weekly backup set. We've also not had any of the database related problems that plagued our ARCserve system. Restores with Backup Express have been quick and painless.

All in all, we are very pleased with our migration.

David Field

It's not the backing up that counts, it's the restoring. We use Arcserve 10 for backups and generally it's ok but not great with GroupWise. When we went to restore the system into a fresh DR environment then all hell broke loose.

Basically you try restoring the schema and dns ..... not at all easy.

Only way we got it to work was to take a very small server that is already part of our tree along with us. We used this to provide the schema and directory and then built the other servers into this transported tree.

We're now looking for a product that can do this for us instead of carrying small d330's home with us each night (only kidding -- we will have one configured in each of our three locations).

Geoffrey Carman

We use NetBackup DataCenter 4.5, and find that the major bottleneck on backup performance is actually our tape drives. We STILL are on DLT7000's, yep, that old. They max out at 20 GB/hour on backups. We are multiplexed, since historically it was believed (but never proven, to my mind) that most servers are too slow to stream at 20GB/hour.

Netbackup supports Disk Storage Units (and in NB5.1 Disk Staging Storage Units) that allow backup to disk, and performance there hits 60GB/hr, which we believe to be limits of the RAID controller we are using for reads.

Netbackup is mostly ok. The Novell support is weak, but the parts that are there, basically just work. The client is VERY thin, which is nice.

Gordon Ross

We use both Veritas Backup Exec and Syncsort Backup Express.

For single server, single tape drive setups, Backup Exec just works fine.

For multi-server/tape library setups we use Syncsort.

Syncsort is not cheap. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the quote. But, to be fair, compaing Backup Exec and Backup Express is like comparing a Skoda to a Rolls-Royce. They are aimed at different markets. Backup Exec is a departmental level product, whereas Syncsort is an enterprise class product, and truely cross-platform.

Syncsort just works.

You pay your money, and take your choice.

Dianna Drew

Currently we use SyncSort Backup Express. We, like so many others, ran the gauntlet with Veritas and CA. The support was probably the most difficult aspect of both of those products. I can usually make anything work with decent support, but with no support - well enough said.

I agree SyncSort is expensive. VERY expensive and they are not very willing to work with anyone (not even a school district) on prices. If you need any SQL services that will cost you even more, but we took the pill, swallowed it and for 18 almost blissful months had good results, even with a fairly complex setup of cluster, SAN and GroupWise.

We are a NetWare shop with about 70 or so NetWare Servers, all 6.5sp3. We have 2 EMC CX400 SANs that are mirrored. We run snaps of the mirrors so our second SAN is strictly a DR unit with "dead" data. We don't have the usual problems associated with backing up GroupWise files since they are not live and we do not have the need for OFM (open file management) on most of our data. Our main SAN runs a 12 node cluster with all of our data volumes and GroupWise running on it.

We do have about 39 remote servers and have used the OFM from SyncSort with fair results. Of course all of this was with version 2.15d. I agree that this interface was a bit dated, but it worked and we had very little issues with it - and then there was 2.2.

What a nightmare - someone wake me up. Yes the new version is web based, however since switching to it, we have had nothing but problems. The GUI is very slow to load, changing screens - go get some coffee, the interface locks up frequently and it will not run with anything other than IE with Microsoft's Java. Don't even think about using Mozilla and don't install Sun Java - you must accept this marriage without question. I have been told that "future" releases will allow other versions of Java, but I don't see a divorce anytime soon, so plan to grow old with the big M.

Our biggest problem since the switch has been with communications between the nodes and the master server. Backup Express uses BSDSOCK and for some unknown (after 5 months) reason random node servers stop communicating with the master server and you can't run backups or restores. All other communication is fine, you can ping from master to node by long name, short name, IP, blah, blah, blah, but when you try to talk from the software to the server - the node isn't available. The only solution is to reboot the server. Which means if this is a clustered device running snaps, you have to rejoin the cluster, resnap and mount the volumes - a real mess. We have been working since late April with support and still have no resolution. This happens with remote servers and with local. We are 100% fiber connected and are not timing out due to bandwidth. There have been several other issues associated with the new version. All of which have taken a long time to come up with some sort of resolution.

Catalog restores are also quite difficult and can be very time consuming. Trying to restore data from longer than 30 days (that is a far as their logs allow you to go back) is very time consuming.

It seems they have also had some change in the support area. Their support was pretty good, but I have seen a sharp downward decline in the last 6 to 8 months. It seems like they know less and less about NetWare and don't really care to keep up. I don't know anything about their SQL or Linux support, but I guess since I have 18 months of contract left I will find out soon.

I should have paid more attention in programming class and wrote something that works.

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