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Working around no backup window?

Here's a look at one solution for working around no backup window.

Working around no backup window?
By Linda Christie

With the growing number of 24x7 e-business solutions, it's becoming harder and harder to kick users off the network to perform backups. In this constantly changing environment, most standard backup software solutions fail. Either open files are skipped or saved in a corrupted state, or groups of files containing related data lose relational integrity, thus, making the backup unusable. To address these problems, many companies have turned to application-specific open-file backup solutions. While these solutions work well for specific environments, they can be expensive to upgrade and maintain.

Dedicated backup agents
Dedicated backup agents are supplied by backup software manufacturers to work with defined applications. Typically, a different agent is required for each version of the application (database, email, etc.), as well as for each backup utility. While dedicated open-file backup agents work well, installing, configuring, maintaining, and upgrading separate software for each application can be expensive and time consuming.

One solution
However, there are generic open file backup solutions that support all NT and Netware applications and backup utilities--without locking users out of applications or forcing them to log off the network. St. Bernard Software's Open File Manager (OFM) claims to be one of them. "Unlike dedicated open file backup solutions, St. Bernard Software's Open File Manager supports every backup package and handles every application on the market, including email applications," say Bobbie Presten, marketing manager for the company. "In addition, OFM's Open File Copy feature can be used to make copies of open files for system management purposes such as placing a copy of a live database on another server for training or testing purposes."

Here's how OFM works. When the backup operation is initiated, OFM begins maintaining a dynamically allocated pre-write cache for all open files on the system in a preview data file. During the backup process, users have normal access to their data. When the backup application reaches the part of a file that has changed during the backup process, OFM substitutes the original (pre-write) data from the cache to fulfill the backup request. Hence, the file on tape will look exactly like it did when the backup process started.

"Unlike other generic open file solutions, there's no need for administrators to manually group sets of related files. OFM does that automatically." Presten says. "In addition, OFM synchronizes the data at a point in time when it is stable, across the entire file system, guaranteeing a coherent backup every time. And, it is transparent to our users; many don't even remember they have it installed."

Dedicated open file backup solutions may be well suited for companies with one or two applications requiring support. However, a generic agent may be less expensive and easier to administer in a more diverse environment.

For additional information about St. Bernard Software and Open File Manager, visit the company's website.

Also, read "Challenges to Open-file Backup" by Alan Welsh, Computer Technology Review, Oct. 1999.

Additional resources:
* Check out searchStorage Best Web Links for other storage management resources.

* Do you have any tips to help perform faster or more effective backups? Share your knowledge with your peers. Submit your own tip. (If you are nominated to our Tips Hall of Fame, you could win a free Storage CeNTral SRM software suite from WQuinn, valued at $895.)

* For other topics of interest, check out our archive of Storage Management tips.

About the author: About the author: Linda Christie is a contributing editor based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She's the author of the bimonthly "Storage Management" newsletter published by

This was last published in June 2001

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