Every storage administrator has an application or utility that stands out from the crowd as being unusually useful, easy to use or just plain effective in helping them do his job. These tools may or may not be cutting-edge, and they may or may not be backed by big advertising budgets or established vendors. What distinguishes them is that real users are finding them useful in their everyday lives.
Here, based on a totally unscientific survey of storage administrators, industry analysts and users at small and midsize businesses, are some "hidden gems" in storage and storage-related software.
Web-based backup and recovery: One of the better-known services is Carbonite Inc., which charges $49.95 for a 12-month subscription for one system. David Hill, a principal at Mesabi Group, a Minneapolis-based IT consultancy, says enterprises might also "find this a good way to protect multiple devices." He says that installation was simple, "and I don't have to do a thing, as it works in the background." Carbonite is available for both Windows and Macintosh clients.
Berkeley Data Systems Inc. offers similar capabilities through its MozyHome and MozyPro services. MozyHome costs $4.95 per month for unlimited backup, while MozyPro costs $3.95 per system per month, plus 50 cents per gigabyte of storage per month, and includes features such as 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer encryption and near-continuous data protection. MozyHome supports Windows 2000, XP and Vista, and Mac OS X 10.4. MozyPro supports Windows 2000, 2003, XP and Vista.
Local backup and recovery: When Jeff Pieper, the president of Pieper and Associates Inc., a Torrance, Calif.-based marketing design firm, began looking for a backup and recovery application, he wanted a program that he could set and forget. "I also wanted something that made it easy to get the info if and when I needed it," he says, adding that SmartSync Pro fit the bill perfectly. "All I had to do was set it up once -- five or six clicks -- and I was off to the races," Pieper says. "It was cheap, easy and seems to work consistently."
Hill recommends $39.99 DriveClone from FarStone Technology Inc. as another good option for backing up laptops and desktops locally (such as to an external hard drive) rather than over the Internet.
Protection against data corruption and deletion: Anyone who has ever upgraded a piece of hardware or installed a software patch knows how easy it is to corrupt a database or turn a perfectly functioning system unusable.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of system-rollback utilities on the market, including some within popular operating systems such as Windows XP and Vista. But Hill recommends $69 RollBack RX from Horizon DataSys Inc. It runs on any Windows client up to Windows Vista. The company claims that the application can "restore a completely crashed system to any snapshot in seconds" and supports multiboot systems and VMware.
On a more personal note, Hill says he recently used Rollback RX "to restore from Outlook's blowing away my PST file."
Disaster Recovery: Have you ever tested your data recovery setup to see if it really can recover all your data? Neither had I, and I paid for it big-time recently when a hard-drive upgrade went south. Hill calls RecoverGuard from Continuity Software Corp. "a very important product" that storage and system administrators should consider.
RecoverGuard costs $2,000 per protected server. It continuously scans a customer's storage, server, database and replication infrastructure and compares what it finds to a knowledge base of hundreds of potential risks and vulnerabilities, such as unprotected databases or replication configurations that aren't compliant with the target protection goal. Once a risk is detected, a ticket is opened in the system, and the operator is alerted to take immediate action and remediate the risk. RecoverGuard supports a variety of server operating systems, including Windows Server 2000 and 2003, Sun Solaris 9 and 10, and Red Hat Linux Versions 3 and 4. Supported storage environments include EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix and DMX Series, EMC's Clariion and Network Appliance Inc.'s OnTap 7 operating system.
Continuous Data Protection (CDP) for Exchange: Today's users can't stand to be without functioning e-mail for more than a few minutes. Neither can the corporate counsel or (even worse) an outside regulator looking for e-mail evidence of possible wrongdoing by your CEO. If you need CDP for your Microsoft Exchange Messaging servers, Hill recommends DigiVault from Lucid8, which the company says continuously backs up changes to e-mail, scheduling, contacts and other Exchange-related data as they occur.
Among other features, the company says, are compression, which reduces the volume of data which must be transferred and stored by as much as 80%, and the ability to protect data both in motion and at rest with 256-bit encryption. DigiVault starts at $695 for a one-time license to protect 25 mail boxes, with a mandatory support license of $139 per year .
CDP for BlackBerry e-mail: Mobile users also want e-mail access wherever and whenever they need it. For organizations that send e-mail to remote users through Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), Charles King, a principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc., recommends Neverfail for RIM BlackBerry. IT costs about $20,000 for a 500-user environment, and King says that it's the only product he knows of "that offers both robust backup and quick recovery for Blackberry networks/devices." Neverfail for BES, he says, "is designed to support the end-to-end BlackBerry delivery platform including BES, e-mail, related files and applications, and Internet connectivity."
The product requires Microsoft Windows client and server operating systems, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Standard or Enterprise and BlackBerry Enterprise Server Version 3.6.
File synchronization in Unix environments: IDC analyst Laura Dubois recommends rsync, a free Unix program that synchronizes files and directories from one location to another while minimizing data transfer using delta encoding (that is, copying only changes) when appropriate. Besides being easy to set up, she says, it "offers compression on the fly, further saving you file-transfer time and reducing the load on the network." Wayne Davison, who maintains the utility, points out, "This program comes installed on most modern Linux/BSD/MacOS/etc. systems, so chances are you may already have it."
Backup tracking and analysis: When you're running a very large, very complex backup environment, how do you track the health and performance of each component and make sure every critical backup gets done? For Emilio Griman, vice president of operations at managed storage service provider Arsenal Digital Solutions Worldwide Inc., the answer was to purchase WysDM for Backup from WysDM Software Inc. Griman praises WysDM for Backup's ease of use, the detail it provides in its reports and the fact it works with most popular backup applications, including HP DataProtector, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, EMC/Legato's NetWorker, NetApp's SnapVault and Veritas BackupExec. WysDM for Backup also supports Sun Solaris, Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating systems.
"We run close to 100,000 backup jobs per month," Griman says, and WysDM alerts him whenever a scheduled job fails to run. Its analytic engine also helps him find and eliminate performance bottlenecks and address capacity planning. Pricing begins at $15,000 for a 50-client environment.