Asigra’s Televaulting software puts an interesting spin on data backup and recovery concepts as, unlike the majority of products on the market, it’s designed to deliver off-site secure vaulting and a comprehensive billing system for service providers. A key feature is that pricing isn’t on a per client basis as it uses a clientless architecture so costs are based purely on the amount of compressed data to be stored in the vault. Client support is also another very strong feature as this latest version can secure Windows, Linux, Unix and Macintosh systems but it also geared up to handle a wide range of database and messaging servers including Exchange, GroupWise, SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle.

The basic Televaulting concept is quite simple as the hosting site runs the DS-System software component which provides remote storage services, management and monitoring tools, reporting and automated billing. The vault comprises hard disks but this adds another layer of flexibility as it can be anything from DAS, NAS or SAN storage. Remote sites run the DS-Client software which allows them to create backup sets, schedule backups and restore data from the remote site. From the DS-Client system, the operator can browse the LAN, select drives, folders and files and schedule the backups without having to load anything on each system.

On-line backup operations over a WAN connection need to be efficient and Televaulting reduces network traffic with three key technologies. Redundant file elimination (RFE) avoids file duplication by creating a checksum and comparing it with the vault contents to ensure only one copy of a file is stored. Placeholder or stubs will be created in the vault to indicate that a file exists on multiple systems. Block redundancy is tackled next as the DS-Client only transmits the blocks of data that have changed rather than the entire file. Data is compressed with a choice of two schemes and for secure transmissions all data is encrypted.

Installation starts with the DS-System component and we had no problems loading this on a dual Xeon system running Windows Server 2003. DS-System requires access to a SQL database so you can point it at an existing installation or use the bundled copy of MSDE2000. Licensing is a tedious affair as you have to generate a unique file for the DS-System server, send it to Asigra and wait for it to send a USB HASP key and license file back to you.

All DS-System functions are managed from the DS-Operator console and your first job is the create customers, provide an account number and add details about them such as their address and contact details. Billing details include payment methods such as cheques or credit cards and include information on card numbers, expiry dates and the billing period. You can stop users exceeding their allotted storage by applying quotas to each account whilst available bandwidth to the central DS-System server is controlled with inbound and outbound throttles. Companies using Televaulting internally can set up their accounts so that billing isn’t applied. An optional web portal is also available for managing multiple DS-System servers from a single browser interface and this also brings into play mass deployment tools for silently installing preconfigured DS-Clients on large numbers of systems.

At the remote site, you need to provide access to the DS-Client installation files and details of the account. This is really simple to do as the DS-System server generates an account information file that can be emailed out. The DS-User tool provides easy access to the DS-Client functions and you start by creating backup sets with a wizard making light work of the process. You can browse the network, select a system and add multiple entries for drives, folders and files although note that each backup set can only include one system. You also select your database and messaging servers from the same interface. Schedules are created for daily and weekly backups and applied to selected sets. Retention rules determine how many file generations to keep and how long files deleted at source should be retained in the vault.

The vault must be ‘seeded’ first to allow RFE to work so workstations with typical application suites and operating systems need to be secured first. This could take a while over a slow WAN link but Asigra has this covered as an initial backup can be made to local media such as a DVD-ROM and sent to the central site and imported into the vault. We found backup sets easy to create and on starting each provides a progress window during operation. We could see RFE in action as we selected four client systems and secured a total of 37.5GB of data. We knew a large amount of the data was duplicated across the clients and after completing backups of them all we saw that vault space was only depleted by 16.5GB. Restoring files is easy enough as you select a backup set, choose a drive, folder or file and send it back to its original location or another destination.

There’s much more to Televaulting as it includes features such the Disk/Tape Exporter which allows remote sites to request selected data to be copied from the vault to removable media. The software does show its service based approach clearly here as this is considered an order for which a purchase must be confirmed. Plenty of optional features are available allowing you to offer SLAs where you can monitor selected DS-Client systems. The vault itself could represent a single point of failure but Asigra’s N+1 option implements redundancy at the vault server and network connection level and provides load balancing across multiple systems.

For this type of product reporting needs to be good and Asigra doesn’t disappoint. From the DS-Operator you can create reports on companies and DS-Clients for invoices, billing, extra charges and, where third parties are involved in the selling process, information about how much business VARs and resellers have been bringing your way. Masses of information about vault usage, capacities, total storage and available storage is up for grabs and you can create charts showing the load on the vault and storage trends.

It’s difficult to make comparisons with Televaulting as it’s virtually unique. Altiris’ Client Recovery comes close as it also uses a hard disk vault and features such as RFE but it requires a client installed on each system and isn’t designed to deliver a billable service to external customers. That’s said we did find Televaulting easy enough to install and use with an impressive range of features and options. Support for a wide range of clients makes it a fine choice for heterogeneous networks and it’ll also be a good partner if you’re looking to offer hosted remote backup services.

OUR VERDICT

Televaulting offers a strong alternative to traditional tape-based backup that neatly solves the issues surrounding secure remote storage. Its extensive platform support makes it highly suited to enterprises with a diverse range of clients and the integral billing system makes it suitable for providing a managed backup service