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Back up desktop data

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    Last year, Todd Wessels, a systems administrator with the U.S. Department of Energy, evaluated remote PC and laptop approaches and products, and chose Storactive Inc.'s LiveBackup. He says it's reliable, has a low per-client cost, and is easy to implement and manage. Initially, he expected users to resist the idea of him taking over their desktop backups. Instead, he says, users embraced the new backup policy. Wessels likes LiveBackup's system rollback capabilities, which reduce his workload despite the added responsibility, because he spends more time proactively preventing problems.

    He's also experienced some benefits he didn't anticipate: Storage consumption on the central file server slowed, and because users moved their e-mail .PST files from the central file server back onto their desktop drives, storage costs dropped. Also, Wessels now protects program files unique to specific applications. One of the desktops he supports is a Windows 95 PC attached to an older electron microscope with specific program files. Prior to installing LiveBackup, he spent many hours rebuilding the operating system hard drive each time it failed. Because new drivers and file updates had been applied over time, getting the right combination of program and driver files was nearly impossible using existing backup methodologies. With CDP, restoring this desktop is much easier.

    However, not every user is ready, able or willing to jump on the

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    latest technology trend. Harold Alston, a network administrator at Athena Technologies in Warrenton, VA, prefers Veritas' Backup Exec to other, newer backup methods.

    Last year, Veritas reengineered its NetBackup and Backup Exec products to include CDP features. It first stripped out some seldom-used features such as its SendOnce option, and made CDP core to the desktop product. Then it stopped producing its NetBackup Professional line of software, and instead offered a desktop and laptop option for both lines of its backup software products with CDP as the internal engine. Finally, it lowered the retail price from $70 per desktop to $25 per desktop to make it easier for administrators to cost-justify the deployment of desktop and laptop backup products.

    Before purchasing a CDP-based backup product, it's important to identify how it performs the following:

    Local caching. If the desktop, laptop or central CDP server loses network connectivity, can changes to the data be cached locally until the connection comes back online? This feature should be viewed as a requirement for any CDP product.

    Open file protection. Most of these products don't have ways to handle open files. If this option is needed, make sure it's either on the vendor's roadmap or the current CDP product is certified with a third-party utility such as St. Bernard Software's Open File Manager.

    Data encryption and compression. These features place only minimal overhead on laptops and desktops while data is transmitted, and shouldn't greatly impact the user's experience. Laptop users will experience the biggest performance hits if they're only occasionally connected to the network or use only a dial-up connection.

    User vs. machine-named backups. Does the product recognize the backup by the logical desktop/laptop name or by the user name? If users tend to work on multiple desktops, it's best to find a CDP product that recognizes backups by user profile so users can restore files regardless of the PC they're using.

    Bandwidth throttling. If a user is offline often, the data in local caches can build up and negatively impact the ability to send and receive data when online, especially when using dial-up connections. Verify that the product has some way to control how much data gets sent and when.

    File recovery. Find out who has permission to do restores and if that capability can be controlled. It may be advantageous to give users the ability to restore accidentally deleted files rather than force them to require an administrator's assistance.

    Desktop protection applications

    This was first published in January 2005

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