Super Tars

These are the Super Tars: tar compatible, but capable of much more. They are backup solutions that go beyond the builtin tar and cpio. All of these are very similar, and although list prices vary, the "street" price (what dealers usually sell them for) are just about the same for all of them. Generally, you can get versions for SCO, for Solaris, for Linux, and more.

THESE ARE NOT PROPRIETARY FORMATS. These are completely tar compatible: if you had to, you could read their archives with standard tar. They do MORE than standard tar, but they are compatible. Even if you use their compression features (standard tar has no compression), you could use standard Unix "uncompress" on restored files.

That paragraph isn't entirely true anymore. These products have changed and added more features. They still use a tar like format, but maqy not be directly restorable with tar. You can ALWAYS freely download a binary that WILL restore them.

The importance of running one of these on Unix/Linux systems cannot be over emphasized. Most of us who support Unix systems professionally INSIST that our customers use one of these products.

YOU CAN'T DUPLICATE THESE FEATURES WITH HOME GROWN SCRIPTS AND STANDARD UTILITIES. If you clobbered together a bunch of open source software and spent a long time working at it, you might come close, but consider this: there are thousands and thousands of engineering man hours in these products. They have built in support for problems you have never even thought of. The products have been field tested by thousands of users over decades of use and the experience gained there goes right back into the engineering. Can you match that?

All of the below use a similar base. Each vendor approaches the backup system slightly differently, and while most features are identical, specifics vary from time to time. Remember too that these folks compete strongly with each other: a feature one lacks today may very well be there tomorrow.

Microlite BackupEDGE SS and Lone-tar Version 3.2.31 for recent reviews of two of these.

Note: BOTH of those reviews are a bit old, so you REALLY need to check out current specs from the vendors web page.

All of these are available for limited time period free trials. You can download these trials directly from the web sites above.

What they do

  • Backup everything, including device files, named pipes, etc.
  • Support for backing up raw partitions and sparse files
  • Support for file locking
  • Intelligent support for media errors (both disk and tape)
  • Non-proprietary compression optional
  • Backup across the network
  • Use multiple tape drives
  • True bit-level verification
  • Menu driven operation
  • Point and click restores (assuming GUI available)
  • Tape labeling
  • Tape indexing for fast restores
  • Boot recovery diskettes that can recreate disk partitions and divisions for simple restore without reinstallation.

There is more: see the web pages above for detailed information.

Be very careful when comparing features- these vendors leap-frog each other constantly. Don't assume that a feature one of them didn't have last month isn't in there now- it may be.

So what?

Can you do all this yourself with cpio and some scripting? Sure, most of it anyway, but it won't be as neat and clean, it won't be as fast, and this stuff is not expensive: the street price for these is usually under $300.00 including the crash recovery features (sometimes priced separately).

There are even personal use versions available for about $100.00

But if you need support for sparse files, or raw partitions, or need very fast individual file restore, then you'll definitely spend more than $300.00 worth of your time getting these features, assuming you have the necessary skills at all.

Moreover, these are much simpler to use. I've actually had non-technical customers restore crashed hard drives by themselves, without assistance!

I strongly suggest that one of these should be installed on every Unix system.

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