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Microlite BackupEDGE 01.01.07

By the way, Microlite has always responded to bugs like this VERY quickly. This one was fixed within 48 hours.

New products always have bugs; the important thing is how the company handles them, and Microlite handles them very well.

The situation is that I have a very old DDS drive. It has passed from computer to computer, has outlived a few hard drives, but my backup needs are light, the darn thing works, and, well, I know I should replace it but I just haven't gotten around to it. It's always easy to put off spending money, and it's even easier to put it off when you'd also have to tear apart a machine and spend time installing something new, and buy all new tapes- well, you know how that goes.

So there I am with this very old 2 GB DDS drive. It is able to do fast positioning, but it doesn't do compression, and that's the problem. Either Microlite never knew such drives existed, or they forgot, because the "edgemenu" backup program tries to force compression when it is working with a tape device. This fails spectacularly on my drive (not on the command line or within edge.nightly; that all works fine- just in "edgemenu").

As explained above, that bug has been squashed. My ancient tape drive now works both within and without edgemenu.

Since writing this review, I've replaced that ancient drive with something new, and Edge is getting ready to release 01.01.08. That version does all the work of the resource manager automatically during installation. If you install over a .07 release, however, it will keep what is already defined.

However, the command line works fine. I can back up and then use "edge.index" to create and index. You used to have to use the GUI based tool to restore (and I never liked that interface either), but now you have a command line "edge.restore" and it makes short work of restoring. I tested by restoring one file from the very end of the tape: using "edge xvf" it took almost an hour and a half to get that one file (I did mention that this is an old, old drive, didn't I?). But using the command line "edge.restore", the file was extracted in 90 seconds.

There's another advantage to using "edge.restore". If you mistype the name of a file (my traitorous fingers do that all the time), you know in seconds-without even looking at the tape- because "edge.restore" checks the index.

The Media is on the Network

Everything in this release assumes a network model. Everything works over the network: the Linux machine can back up through the OSR5 machine's tape drive, for example. This is not to imply that you lose any functionality on stand-alone systems; you certainly do not. However, if you do have other machines on the network, this could be a really good feature for you.

Network backup requires either "rcmd" or "ssh" (secure shell) to be running on the machine that will have the tape drive. While this makes for portability, "rcmd" is often disabled (with good reason), and "ssh" is not always available. I think it would be better for Microlite to define their own protocol and provide a daemon to implement it.

Nonetheless, if the security aspects of rcmd can be lived with, or if you have ssh, this is a neat feature. Linux or OSR5 hosts can use the resources of a Unixware 7 machine or vice versa. The syntax is dead simple; for example you might say:

/usr/lib/edge/bin/edge.restore -f scobox:/dev/rStp0 ./file
 

That would go get the label from the tape on "scobox", find the index for that tape on that same remote machine, and then issue seek commands so that file, and only that file, was read from the tape, transferred across the network, and restored. Neat.

If you find that "edgemenu" hangs while your internet connection is down, try editing /etc/default/edge.cfg and adding the EDGEFQHN variable set to your machine name and domain.

Jean-Pierre Radley objected to my use of "media" in this section- he thinks it should be "medium". However, BackupEDGE handles multiple tape drives and autochangers, and of course more than one machine could have more than one tape drive, so I think it's fine. I do agree with him that the unfortunate tendency to use "media" as though it were singular deserves discouragement.

New Stuff, Missing Stuff

This doesn't just take the old menus and repackage them in a new interface. There are new capabilites, but you lose some of the old (not from the command line, though- anything you ever could do from the command line you still can do).

For example, you now get to use /etc/edge.exclude when making a manual master backup. But Tom Melvin noticed that when you interrupt the backup (now done by hitting "C" for cancel), you no longer have the option to resume. I've used that now and then, and I have also used the feature that let you add new excludes. I'm not sure that's critically important, but in general I don't like to lose features.

So, to answer those complaints, Microlite added a "Legacy" mode that you can choose. This shows everything on the screen as it backs up, and you have the old "delete" functionality where you can add more exclude directories and then continue the backup.

By the way, you'll find comprehensive lists of new features (and instructions for using them) in /usr/lib/edge/docs.

Crash Recovery

The OSR5 crash recovery hasn't changed much, if at all. The Unixware 7.1 and Linux versions now have remote telnet and modem support, as well as the ability to use CDROMs and create bootable tapes. I didn't even look at any of that in the Linux version that I tested; but that is extremely important. The "stock" (SCO supplied) recovery strategy on Unixware is a pretty awful beast (my opinion, of course), so having the smooth, reliable features of BackupEDGE is a big gain for Unixware users. Linux users also benefit from this, especially in mixed environments where Linux co-exists with OSR5 and/or Unixware running BackupEDGE.

Upgrade

If you already own an earlier version of BackupEDGE, you can usually upgrade either free or for a small charge. For this version, any 01.01.00 or higher version qualifies for a free upgrade- just download the new code and you are all set. The 01.00.0x users have to pay a small upgrade fee; contact Microlite or your reseller for details.

When you consider that Microlite began shipping 01.01.00 in September of 1995, being able to upgrade free of charge over four years later is pretty incredible. How many other products can you think of that have done anything close to that? Take SCO as an example- an upgrade from 5.0.4 to 5.0.5 retails for $399.00- and that's a very minor upgrade with very little offered in the way of new features. Microlite BackupEDGE 01.01.07 is a MAJOR improvement over the 01.01.00 release, but it's free. Pretty amazing, isn't it?

Competitors?

At this particular moment, Microlite is (in my opinion, of course) leading the pack in terms of price/performance/features. Of course, the other Supertar vendors aren't sitting still. I'm sure you'll see them bringing out more and better features, so if you are considering buying for the first time, you should always check them all out to see which will best meet your specific needs.

One of the features Microlite sorely needs, for example, is a Windows client so that Windows data can be sent to the Unix server. Given that capability, it would be nice to have the server able to contact the Windows machines so that an entire enterprise could be backed up centrally. These features already exist on higher priced products, of course, and many of those higher priced tools don't have the proven reliability of BackupEDGE or the crash recovery capabilities, so I'm not at all complaining- just wishing for the future.



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