by September 6, 2000 0 comments

HP SureStore AutoBackup PC100 model C7446A 

Network backup solution. Rs 385,000 
Features: Disaster recovery; large storage capacity.
Pros: Very easy to administer; smooth disaster recovery.
Cons: Support for Win NT/2000 Server backup would add more value.
Source: Hewlett-Packard India Chandiwala Estate
Maa Anandmai Marg
Kalkaji, New 
Delhi 110019. 
Tel: 11-6286000 Fax: 6286030 
E-mail: avijit_basu@hp.com  Website:
www.hp.com 

This is an innovative backup device from HP. It isn’t the
usual tape-backup solution for a network–it’s the size of a standard PC
cabinet with 240 GB of storage space and allows clients to backup their data
themselves. The device plugs in directly to a port on your network and can take
backups of all Windows-based client machines. These include Win 9x, NT
Workstation, and Win 2k Professional.

The
device also has HP 8200 Plus CD-Writer, which can be used to create disaster
recovery CDs for clients. This is a very useful feature as the recovery CD
contains a client’s operating system with all the settings. You just have to
boot the client machine with it for recovery. The device also has a SCSI port
(Wide Ultra SCSI-3 interface) to which a tape backup device can be connected.
The tape backup can be useful if the device itself breaks down.

AutoBackup has an LCD display that shows device status,
disk(s) being accessed, network information, etc. There’s also a power/reset
button to switch on/off and reset the device.

Installation

This was a fairly easy process. When we initially got the
device, it was password protected. However, we managed to clear these settings
(IP, administrator login name, and password) by pressing the reset button
quickly four times. Though a convenient feature, it could be a security issue as
anyone who has physical access to the device can reset it. So, keep it locked
away safely.

We plugged the device directly into our network using our own
RJ45 cable (the device didn’t come with any). It took about 109 seconds to get
ready (and 74 seconds to shut down later). Next, we assigned it a static IP
address and name using the application that comes with it. It gives an error
message if you assign it an IP address that’s already in use. You could also
have a dynamic IP assigned to it using DHCP server on your network. Once you’ve
given it an administrator login name and password, you can access the remaining
settings through a Web browser. You’ll need IE 4 or higher for this–having
Netscape won’t do.

Administration

The administration interface lets you to monitor backups of
clients (called protected machines), backup capacity remaining on the device,
physical status of the device like temperature, voltage, etc, and tape backup of
the device.

The device generates backup logs containing the time of
backup, status–whether successful or not, number of files backed up, size of
backed-up data, etc. Each client can access his own backup log, while
administrators can access all.

An administrator can allow or deny clients the right to
configure their backup options. These include retention period for files–how
long files will remain on the device, type of files to be excluded from backup,
scheduling, and system rollback facility. A client can use the latter option to
roll back to a previous state. The administrator can also clear the password,
which allows the client to access the AutoBackup device without a password, or
even delete the account of a protected machine.

AutoBackup can be shut down or rebooted from the Web-based
console. There are some advanced administration options as well for managing
multiple HP SureStore AutoBackup devices on the network. The application
required for doing this didn’t work under Win 98, and flashed an error saying
that it uses some features available only with NT.

Backing up

Backing
up data is pretty simple. To backup their data, clients have to use the Web
interface of AutoBackup to download and install a backup application agent. You
also have to give a username and password. Once installed, the agent rests on
the taskbar, and provides options to backup and restore data. You can also
customize backups from here, if the administrator has given you those rights.

You can selectively restore specific files from the device by
specifying the filename and perform system rollbacks. Multiple modified versions
of the same file can also be stored. The first full backup of the machine is
called Baseline backup. Thereafter, only incremental backups are taken of new or
modified files. You can also schedule your backup process.

Backup performance

Time taken for backups can vary significantly, depending on
the amount of traffic on your network. To check this out, we tested it both on
our main network as well as a clean 10 Mbps network. To do a full backup of 1.65
GB of data, it took 52 minutes on the main network. This dropped to just 15
minutes on a clean network with just the AutoBackup device and a node connected.
So, plan your full backups during after-office hours.

We then tried incremental backup by adding another 546 MB of
data. It took 19 minutes on the busy network and just five minutes on the clean
one. Backups for modified files can be done at any time as this takes only a few
seconds. SureStore compresses data before transferring it over the network to
make backups faster.

Disaster recovery

We checked out the disaster recovery feature in AutoBackup
for Win 98, NT 4 Workstation, and Win 2k Professional. Unfortunately, the
AutoBackup doesn’t back up any editions of Windows servers –whether NT or
2000. The disaster recovery feature works only for full backups, and you can
create CDs either for the operating system alone, or for all your data. Only the
administrator has the right to create these CDs.

The administrator can create disaster recovery CDs, which can bring back a crashed Windows machine along with all the data The
recovery CD is bootable. If a client’s BIOS doesn’t allow booting from a CD,
you can also create a bootable floppy from the AutoBackup device. The backed up
data on the CD can also be password protected. It’ll prompt you for a password
when doing disaster recovery. The data on CDs is compressed in CAB format and
can be viewed by an application that gets copied on the CD automatically, when
you create the disaster recovery CD.

Our first target for crash recovery was a Win NT workstation
system. We took its full backup, created a disaster recovery CD for the OS,
password protected it, and created a bootable floppy for it. We then crashed the
machine by deleting some important system files. The system recovered without
any hitches, and the remaining data was later fetched from the device over the
network. We then crashed a Win 98 machine by deleting its registry. This time,
we’d taken a full backup of the client, together with all the data. The
recovery was effortless.

Last of all, we installed Win 2k and instead of crashing it
this time, we installed Red Hat Linux over it. This wiped out the Win 2k
partition completely. The recovery process once again went off without a hitch.

Overall, a very useful device for Windows-based networks. The
model we reviewed can handle 75-100 clients costs Rs 3.85 lakh and comes with a
warranty of one year. A model for 25 clients is also available for Rs 1.78 lakh.
The device comes with extensive and well-structured HTML documentation.

Shekhar Govindarajan
at PCQ Labs

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