Microlite’s BackupEdge backup utility software has been on the market for many years and has gained a reputation for solidity and effectiveness. Microlite recently released a version of BackupEdge for SCO UnixWare 7 so we decided to put it through its paces. Microlite provided an evaluation copy that runs under both UnixWare 7 and the earlier UnixWare 2.1 release. BackupEdge is available for many other UNIX variants, including SCO OpenServer 5, IBM AIX, HP HP-UX, SunSoft Solaris and Linux.
BackupEdge is a classical character-driven backup and restore utility although this version has added X-based GUI interfaces to most tools in the set. BackupEdge comprises a number of different utilities, all triggered from a common menu or launchable individually. BackupEdge employs a compression algorithm within the software which can be toggled on or off. Since many tape drives also use a compression algorithm, administrators may want to experiment to find the best combination of hardware or BackupEdge compression methods.
One of the primary uses of BackupEdge is a master backup, which includes everything on a filesystem including symbolic links, named pipes, virtual files, and empty directories. Incremental backups are handled through two levels, both user selectable. Two types of verification are available: byte-by-byte absolute verification and block error or checksum passes. An optional automatic cataloging feature lets you keep track of the backups easily. BackupEdge works with practically any UnixWare-supported medium including floppies and SCSI tape drives. We tested on a dual PIII 500MHz system with 128 MB RAM, 90GB disk storage, and an HP DLT and HP DAT 24e tape drive. We also used BackupEdge to backup up some files to floppy.
Changes between versions of BackupEdge are sometimes difficult to keep track of because of the changed in minor numbers. The latest Unixware release is version 01.01.06, which replaces 01.01.03 (the last version we tested). The primary changes between releases are the addition of tape autochanger support, fast find restore capability, a faster executable, and stated Y2K compliance (not that we had any problems with the older release in this regard when we advanced the dates, but it’s a good excuse to add a new feature bullet to marketing literature).
One of the primary changes to the new version of BackupEdge is the binary itself. It is faster, offers network support, and adds a bunch of variables and flags for use in scripts. The speed of the executable is noticeable, although since most backups will be automated this may not have much effect for many administrators. The improvement in performance seems to be from the use of multiple buffers, so BackupEdge likes a machine with lots of RAM.
Autochanger support is becoming important as server drive capacities quickly outdo tape drive capacities. Even with the highest capacity tape units like DLT and AIT 50GB or Travan 20GB tapes, many servers now have more than 100GB of disk storage in place. Rather than have multiple tape drives, most administrators prefer to add changer support to existing drives. Changers are more inexpensive, offer automated capabilities that are not available with multiple units, and tend to run longer without operator intervention. Changers are available for most high-capacity tape drive units today, holding five or more tape cartridges. BackupEdge works with any autochanger that adheres to the standard SCSI specifications. We tested BackupEdge with both an HP DAT 24e autochanger and an HP DLT autochanger and both worked perfectly. BackupEdge can communicate with the autochanger to obtain status information and can trigger media swaps as needed. You can also automate the use of a cleaning tape if it is kept in the autochanger.
The Fast File Restore utility indexes a tape during the verification pass and uses the index to allow rapid location of any file. Fast File uses a graphical interface to allow a point-and-click recover from a tape. Simply highlight the files or directories to be recovered from the file list, and the utility takes care of the rest. The time difference on a fast tape drive is considerable. On a file half-way through a DLT tape the Fast File Restore utility plucked the file in less than half a minute, compared to eight minutes using tar. To use the Fast File restore utility the tape drive has to support fast tape positioning, but many high-capacity units have this feature.
A new utility bundles with this release of BackupEdge we found handy provides support for low-level tape devices. The tool allows querying of a tape backup device for its parameters and also allows low-level changes to the formats. This can be handy for using a different block size for compatibility with older drives, for example. A neat feature is that the parameters determined by the utility can be exported as variables for use in shell scripts. This allows for automatic pickup and use of tape parameters in an installation script for other machines, as well as many other scripts.
BackupEdge is supplied on a CD-ROM along with a perfect-bound manual. Getting familiar with the packages takes only a few minutes, and you can easily use the menu-driven interface to accomplish most backup tasks right away. We experienced no problems at all with BackupEdge, but then we were not expecting any. This is a solid backup utility. Every system administrator should have a better tool than tar and cpio, and while there are many backup utilities on the market Microlite has released a useful update to an already excellent product.
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Summary: A feature-laden and fast backup utility. Several new features make this latest update of BackupEdge a winner.