Arkeia is a multi-platform backup package that combines a central backup server with a number of remote "client" agents. The server application is very Unix-centric (it sits on HP-UX 10+, AIX, Irix 6.2+, various Linuxes, Solaris 2.6+, Tru64 Unix and UnixWare 7.1+), though there are client components for many more, including older Unixes (such as OSF/1), MacOS and Windows. We tried it out using a Red Hat 9 central backup server and Windows XP clients.

The various Linux implementations ship as Red Hat "packages" (RPMs), and so installation was a simple case of running the "rpm" command and providing it with the right installation files. The installation process installs the files and sets the package up to run when the system boots, so there's no intervention required. Installation of the Windows client software is equally straightforward – run the installer, choose a directory to put the software in, tell it the name of the Arkeia server and let it do the rest.

Once installed, you have the choice of managing the system via command-line utilities or through a more convenient GUI. The design of the user interface itself is something of a departure from the conventional Windows, or X-Windows layout, with what would normally be the menu bar on the top of the Window being replaced with a disc that looks more like an MP3 or DVD player application.

To set up the backup process, you define a set of "savepacks", which are the sets of machines whose data you want to dump. We found the system quite happily spotted the client machines over the LAN, so it was a simple task to pick the ones to back up in each savepack. When defining the savepacks, you're given the usual options to compress and/or encrypt the data. You can drill down into each of the machines being backed up to pick the files you need. Incidentally, on the Windows machines we were dumping, we were also allowed to select, or deselect, the system information files and even to drill down into the system files and, for instance, choose whether or not to back up the registry or the event log. To set up backup jobs you also need to define one or more "pools" (the devices and media elements to which the data will be written). The system will auto-detect backup devices if you ask it to, and there's a list of 40-odd supported tape drives (from DAT to LTO) and shedloads of autochangers from various manufacturers. You can also use a hard disk as a "virtual" tape drive if you wish, though we were a little disappointed that there's no option to record to CD-R or DVD.

As you'd expect, the system can deal with application-specific add-ons for packages such as Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 and Exchange. It's interesting to see that application-specific support for both MySQL and PostgreSQL (the two common freeware database packages used on Linux machines) are mentioned, though only MySQL seems to be a proper plug-in (the PostgreSQL backup seems to rely on you scripting a PostgreSQL data dump to files that Arkeia can then copy).

Although the hardware support, features and operation are well implemented, the only real criticism we can level at Arkeia relates to the user interface. While we don't have a problem with an innovative look and feel, it does take a bit of getting used to. We thought it could do with some more wizards - particularly when you're going through the process of defining tape drives, tape media and device pools. It would also be nice to be able to explode a savepack into an Explorer-like tree structure, instead of moving up and down the file structure and only being able to see the current directory in the window. This said, though, you do soon get used to the slightly unusual layout and most of the screens (such as the status page you see when a backup is running) are informative and well laid-out.

OUR VERDICT

Although many backup systems have similar features, the main discriminators for this type of product are (a) the range of backup devices supported (b) the range of application-specific bolt-ons and (c) the range of platforms you can back up to the central server.