Computer Associates ARCserve Backup 12 review

Price when reviewed

It’s been quiet for far too long on the network backup software front, with no significant updates of the key products being released for a couple of years. However, just when you thought it was all over, along comes Computer Associates (CA) with the long awaited release 12 of its ARCserve Backup software, and in this exclusive review we give you the low-down on what’s new and improved.

First up is pricing. CA has simplified the overall product and options structures with the claimed aim of improving value and reducing complexity. ARCserve is now offered primarily as four main suites with the file server suite providing everything you need to back up, well, file servers.

The same goes for the email suite: this includes the latter component and also adds every agent needed to secure all popular mail servers. The other two suites are for securing database and application servers.

Management has also been streamlined with a focus on centralisation, mainly because CA has finally integrated support for the XOSoft replication software it acquired in 2006. The main backup window now provides options that allow you to browse replicated data, back it up, restore it to selected servers and fire up the XOsoft management console from ARCserve.

This further strengthens ARCserve’s already strong management abilities: it’s long allowed you to manage multiple backup servers, clients and job queues from a single console.

The ARCserve backup domain hierarchy has a primary server at the top, which manages multiple member servers beneath it. From this elevated position it dishes out backup and restoration jobs, and allows any locally attached backup devices to be controlled and configured remotely.

Installation is a swift affair and during this phase you can pick and choose from options for loading primary, member and standalone servers, just the management console or the multitudinous backup agents.

We used a Boston Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 system running Windows Server 2003 R2 as our primary server and added a second Boston server as a member server along with a bunch of XP client systems running the ARCserve agent.

Member server installs just require the name and password of the primary server running the ARCserve Central Management option. Note also that ARCserve 12 fully supports Windows Server 2008.

ARCserve’s management console sees a lick of new paint and some cosmetic improvements, but little else is needed as it’s always been easy to use. You get a backup wizard on first contact and a new navigation bar pops up when requested to provide easy access to the various functions.

Basic backup is a simple three-step process: you pick your source data, decide where to secure it and then schedule the job. You can choose any source system and view its contents from a single screen, whether it be a Windows, Unix, Linux, Macintosh, NetWare system or NAS appliance. A new feature is the VMware agent allowing data to be secured and restored on virtual machines as well.

In a backup domain you can view all member servers and their associated backup devices – selecting one will cause the job to be sent to it, where it’s run locally. With the optional disk-staging component loaded, backup goes up to a four-step process. You specify the disk location where data is to be backed up first, as part of a D2D2T strategy.

Backup device virtualisation is a hot topic and CA has improved ARCserve’s VTL support allowing virtual devices to be integrated neatly into a D2D2T strategy as well.

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