EMC Retrospect 7.5 review

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Since being ported over from the Macintosh environment about four years ago, Retrospect has grown in popularity to become a strong competitor to the established names in the Windows backup software market. Storage giant EMC clearly recognised this, and it started 2005 by acquiring Dantz, allowing it to expand further into the lucrative SME backup arena.

EMC Retrospect 7.5 review

This latest version delivers plenty of new performance tweaks, with the main aim being to increase backup windows. Also, the recent interest in D2D2T (disk-to-disk-to-tape) backup has prompted most backup software vendors to come up with a new solution or an additional supporting feature. We’ve already seen CA’s ARCserve r11.5 and Symantec’s Backup Exec 10d add respective disk staging and CPS (continuous protection server) components. However, all EMC has really done with Retrospect is realign and promote a number of existing features. Along with removable media, Retrospect has always had the ability to back up to hard disk, so all you’re effectively doing for a D2D2T strategy is creating one proactive backup job that secures client and server data to a disk, and other jobs that back up this location to tape at scheduled intervals.

Disk space is managed by Retrospect’s existing grooming feature, which automatically deletes older backups. The Transfer Snapshot option is used to secure the disk location to tape, although you’ll need to create separate jobs for each tape that’s being rotated offsite and change the media assigned to each backup set so that the replacement tapes will be used. In practice, this works well enough and has the added advantage of requiring a small number of tapes for a yearly strategy. However, there’s no interaction between the disk-to-disk and tape stages. In contrast, ARCserve’s disk-staging option requires one job to manage all three phases.

The new User Initiated Restore (UIR) feature allows users to retrieve their own files, but only from backup sets stored on hard disks on the backup server. With IIS installed on the backup server, clients can use a simple web browser interface to search through backed up files associated with their system, select candidates for restoration, and decide on a local destination. We found this feature particularly easy to use, and you can easily secure transmissions over SSL if you wish.

For general tape-performance testing, we installed Retrospect on a dual Xeon Windows Server 2003 system equipped with Sony AIT-4 and HP LTO-2 tape drives. We then asked Retrospect to secure 9GB of test data. It reported average speeds of 22MB/sec and 24MB/sec for the AIT-4 and LTO-2 drives respectively. Running the same jobs with ARCserve returned 23MB/sec for the AIT-4 and 26MB/sec for the LTO-2, showing Retrospect is catching up in the performance stakes for general tape-based backup.

One of the biggest selling points of Retrospect is ease of use, and its modus operandi will certainly appeal to smaller businesses. It takes a full backup only once and then compares this with the source on subsequent runs and copies only changed or newly created files. Job automation also sees some improvements, but beware that many features such as tape binding and the UIR require additional add-on packs, which will push up the price.

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