- Straightforward to use
- includes a disaster recovery facility.
- No support for file exclusion by name
- documentation could be improved.
Backup Exec is probably best known in its cut-down form, as the backup application that Microsoft has licensed and shipped with recent versions of Windows 9x. In fact, Backup Exec from Veritas is a family of products consisting of Simple Backup, Desktop and Desktop Pro.
The basic £26 (ex. VAT) product provides automatic device detection, support for a wide range of devices including SCSI tapes and CD-R/RW drives, compression, spanning of backups across multiple media and a wizard-driven interface. The £54 (ex. VAT) Desktop version adds support for Zip/Jaz, LS-120, PD and DVD-RAM drives, file exclusion, password protection, unattended backup and 'automated data protection'. The top-of-the-range £89 (ex. VAT) Desktop Pro version adds disaster recovery and peer-to-peer network support.
Backup Exec could hardly be simpler to use. Select the drives, directories and files you want using an Explorer-like tree with checkboxes, select the options (compress, verify, prompt for media overwrite and so on), save the job and run it. Files can be excluded, in the Desktop and Pro versions, but only by file type. If you want to exclude specific files, you cannot do so by name, but have to navigate the tree to wherever the file exists and uncheck its box. This is a cumbersome procedure if there are specific files that you know either will not back up properly (because they are open and changing, perhaps) or that you don't want to back up.
The disaster recovery option in the Pro version creates emergency boot disks -- six in the case of Windows 2000. In conjunction with a full backup of your boot drive, this allows you to quickly reload a system from tape without having to manually reinstall the operating system and backup software before you can get at the tape. Effective though this is, there's nothing revolutionary about it.
The peer-to-peer network support is useful in that you can back up data on a small workgroup as part of a single backup tape, but you will not be able to use the disaster recovery option on systems across the network. You will also, obviously, need access rights to remote hard drives to back them up. Network systems appear on the tree structure just like local drives and, apart from the absence of the 'system state', work in the same way.
Backup Exec may not have the power or versatility of packages like Retrospect, but it is much easier to use. Operation is intuitive enough that users are unlikely to need the electronic manual. All the expected options, including password protection, software compression (if your backup device does not have hardware compression), hardware support for numerous device types and a competent scheduler for unattended operation, are all present and work correctly.
If Backup Exec lacks anything, it is decent printed documentation and perhaps some advice on topics like backup strategies, tape rotation and the practical aspects of a backup system, rather than just a software manual. Overall, though, this is a superb product for individual users or small workgroups.