- Powerful online backup system that collects data at remote sites and saves it to disk storage in a datacentre
- Can be used by large corporations and service providers thanks to support for multiple customers and systems, SLAs and billing options
- Data is encrypted during transit and while in storage
- Optional message-level restore option for several email systems
- Relatively complex architecture, which includes the requirement for a SQL database at each site
Asigra’s Televaulting 6.2 suite enables companies to backup data from a range of desktop and server operating systems using LAN and internet connections to transport the data, rather than old-fashioned tape. Asigra says the main reason that firms buy Televaulting is to backup data from remote sites to a central location. We found the Televaulting suite, which costs $11,250 (£5,752) for 200GB of compressed data, remarkable for its comprehensive range of options for handling multiple customers, such as various billing, data retention and SLA options. There are also controls to limit the amount of storage and bandwidth that customers and their individual computers can use. Data is stored on disks attached to the Televaulting server, while metadata, such as descriptions of when and where the data came from, are stored in SQL databases.
We found that large distributed LAN or WAN-based networks can be easily backed up from a single console, with data encrypted while in transit across the network and also while it's stored in the datacentre. Firms currently running remote office or off-site backup systems should certainly evaluate this product; service providers could also use it as the basis of a service offering.
The Televaulting suite has two main components. DS-Client software usually runs on a single system gathering, processing and transporting the data to the central Televaulting server. DS-Client does not require additional agent software to be installed on the systems that are being backed up: instead, its agentless backup facility is based on the idea that a DS-Client system can connect to other computers on the same LAN using OS protocols such as Microsoft Windows File Sharing (CIFS) or Unix/Linux NFS. Once directories from agentless PCs on a LAN have been mapped to a drive on the DS-Client system, they can be used to create Backup Sets in the same way as existing directories on the DS-Client. DS-Client users can set and adjust retention rules for each Backup Set. However, because of differences in the ways various operating systems handle things like permissions and network file systems, Asigra recommends that the Windows version of DS-Client be used to backup Windows systems, and the Linux version of the client be used to protect Linux systems.
The DS-Client software is available for a number of platforms, including Linux, Mac and Windows, and can make incremental backups where it transmits only those blocks of data that have changed rather than an entire file. DS-Client stores some data in a SQL database located on the same LAN, or it needs a SQL database such as Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE) on the system on which it is running. The installation utility can install MSDE if necessary.
The DS-System server collects data from various DS-Clients and manages how it is stored. One of the key features is an automatic data de-duplication feature, which ensures that only one copy of a file is ever stored by the system regardless of how many copies exist on the network. The DS-System server runs either on Linux or Windows 2000 or 2003 Server, and requires a Microsoft SQL Server or MSDE database plus suitable disk storage. We also needed to open a small range of TCP/IP ports in our firewall so the DS-System server could work with remote PCs. Asigra does not support running DS-System in a virtual machine.
The suite also includes BLM Archiver, which is a tool to move data from the DS-System server’s primary storage, such as a SAN disk array, to a secondary storage system, such as tape library or SATA disk array. BLM Archiver also comes with Asigra’s Web Portal system, which allows administrators to work remotely with the BML software. Web Portal can also be used to manage the main DS-System software, but Asigra charges an additional licence fee for this facility.
Installation and use
We installed the DS-System on a Windows 2000 Server system fitted with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 and 128MB of RAM. The software uses a hardware key that must be plugged into a USB port, and also requires an appropriate licence file to be copied into the Asigra directory. With these steps completed, we then used the DS-System console to create a customer account for our tests. Each account can be configured with options controlling how much network bandwidth can be used, and there are options for billing the customer based on their usage.
We installed DS-Client on a Windows XP desktop with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 and 2GB of RAM, which was located in a remote office. The installation utility requires information supplied by the DS-System administrator, such as the DS-System account number and customer number. It also needs a 16-character encryption key, so whoever installs the client software must also make a careful note of the encryption keys and store that information safely for future reference. In order to create a customer number, the DS-System administrator needs to supply the IP address of the DS-Client. Fortunately, DS-System accepts a range of IP addresses: our DS-Client was connected to the internet using an ADSL connection with dynamic IP addressing, so we used the IP address range option and supplied the entire range of possible IP addresses in shorthand notation.
With the client software installed it's a straightforward task to create Backup Sets based on a selection of files and directories. We also tested the Continuous Data Protection feature, which is accessed via a tab in a DS-Client dialogue box. With this option enabled, each time the contents of a file were changed, DS-Client immediately sends the data that's changed to the DS-System server.