I’ll keep this simple. If you want the most flexible, powerful, networked backup solution available for Linux, Veritas NetBackup is it. Veritas NetBackup isn’t cheap, but it will provide everything you need for multiple Linux server and workstation backup and restore capabilities. We’ve looked at Veritas’ backup products before in their Windows NT incarnations, and that system is still in use on our servers. NetBackup goes a step further, and adds tons of functionality (and cost) to the package.

Veritas NetBackup isn’t a single backup tool. Instead, it is a collection of add-ons grouped around a central backup engine. You can buy only the extra bits that you need to handle your configurations. For example, there’s ad-ins for most RDBMSs, but you wouldn’t buy the Oracle add-in unless you run that database. There’s an encryption add-in (both 40 and 56 bit), but you only use them if you are worried about backup media compromises. There’s a Microsoft Exchange Server add-in to handle e-mail backups. And so on. The heart of the utility is the Veritas NetBackup DataCenter, and the add-ins are part of the BusinessServer series.

We tested Veritas NetBackup on a RedHat server, which is the preferred environment (and only supported platform) for the software according to the company documentation. Installation proceeds smoothly using scripts. Once installed, a set of wizards is available to help configure the hardware, detected devices and tapes, read tape contents, and perform backup and restore actions. There is a wizard that allows you to establish the backup policies and stick to them, prompting you for media changes as necessary. If you don’t want to use wizards, there’s manual configuration options available as well.

Installation and configuration on our RedHat test system took under an hour, with all our three tape devices (DAT, DLT, AIT) all recognized automatically. The DLT autochanger was also picked up and properly configured, as well. When configuring backups, you can choose which tape devices are to be used for which backups, especially handy when performing network-wide backups that exceed the media capacity of a single device.

Using Veritas NetBackup on a daily basis is simple: click a few buttons in the developing tree of network drives, indicate the backup drive, and leave the system alone. Backups are performed in background of the Linux server, and as long as the network connection remains good the process is uninterrupted. We did encounter a couple of little annoyances with Veritas NetBackup. First, when using a media device from another backup tool there is little chance of the contents being recognized by Veritas NetBackup. Also, if you delete the catalog stored on the server of the backup media contents, a time-consuming recataloging has to be performed. Finally, if the network fails to respond quickly enough, Veritas NetBackup can drop the backup and issue a failed warning. While this is usually only when a target machine NIC goes down for some reason, we did have several sessions dropped when network traffic was high. The timeout for the network response seems to be set rather short, and we couldn’t find a way to increase it. As a result, you will find you have to repeat some backup processes several times.

Apart for the minor niggles, Veritas NetBackup worked flawlessly, allowing us to back up every networked device regardless of operating system (if it can be mounted on a Linux system using NFS or Samba, it can be backed up). The backups are not the fastest we’ve tested for the server alone, but there’s a lot going on behind the engine. While Veritas NetBackup isn’t a good solution for backing up a single machine (not only is the price horrendous for such a backup, there are faster and more elegant single-machine backup utilities available), for a network backup solution Veritas NetBackup is second to none. Which brings us to the price. With the basic package costing $5,000 and most configurations running several thousand dollars more, this is not a home or small office backup solution. Veritas NetBackup is for big businesses (or small or medium sized ones planning to grow big). Veritas NetBackup is expandable as the company grows, and does a very good job of taking network backups off the administrator’s mind. Still, Veritas NetBackup holds the record as the most expensive RedHat utility we’ve tested!

Veritas NetBackup for Linux
$5,000 DataCenter
$1,995 BusinessCenter
400 International Parkway
FL 32746
(800) 327-2232
(407) 531-7501
fax: (407) 531-7730

Summary: Expensive, and worth it if you need network-wide platform-independent backups.