Review: SQL-BackTrack for SQL Server 5.0

SQL-BackTrack for SQL Server 5.0
Starting at $4,045 for up to 25GB
BMC Software
Houston, Texas

Microsoft SQL Server 2000 comes with its own backup and recovery utilities. Though they work, there are a number of annoying limitations. For instance, you can't back up directly to a UNC path, and you can't pick and choose individual objects to restore. Fortunately, there are better alternatives. One of these is SQL-BackTrack, now a very mature product with exceptionally flexible options. It also ties in to other BMC Software products to make SQL Server backup part of your centralized enterprise-wide IT operations.

One of the great features of SQL-BackTrack is logical extraction. This lets you take an object (such as a stored procedure or a table) out of a physical backup and restore just that object - without waiting for the entire backup, or even locking users out of the rest of the database. You can also recover objects to other hosts or instances, so you can see what's in a backup at the object level without affecting the production database. Other recovery options include selecting a point in time, selecting an object and its dependencies, or restoring at the file or file group physical level.

Also very nice here is the centralized management functionality. SQL-BackTrack installs as an agent on each server, but you can connect to the agents from across the network. It also automates some of the routine grunt work so that your DBAs don't have to do it: removing old backups and generating reports, for example, are handled automatically.

But centralized management means more than just backing up all of your SQL Servers from one spot. There are other members of SQL-BackTrack to handle other databases such as DB2. These, too, can be managed from the single console. Even better, the console lets you set up and handle policy-based administration. You can set service levels for backups, and keep track easily when they're met. For example, one database might need to be backed up daily, and you can see when this policy is broken even if the most recent backup was successful (but too long ago). SQL-BackTrack also ties in with BMC's PATROL management product to make it part of your overall IT management strategy.

Installation was very easy. Getting SQL-BackTrack on a single box was a matter of running a single install, and hooking up the management pieces with a data repository didn't take much longer. I was then able to run a backup and restore cycle without reading anything more than the single page quickstart guide - everything can be wizard-driven or accessed through a very clear user interface. Of course, you'll probably want to refer to the manuals to know what your more advanced options are, and these are also well-written and useful.

There are really too many features to list in a short review, but here are a few more you might be interested in:

  • Versions for both 32-bit and 64-bit SQL Server - and the ability to migrate data and objects from 32-bit to 64-bit databases. SQL Server 7.0 is also supported.
  • "Dry run" backup that lets you test your settings without actually doing anything with the data.
  • Full support for clustered environments, including moving SQL-BackTrack itself to the fallover server if need be.
  • Compatibility with storage management systems from Tivoli and VERITAS.
  • Backup to network shares and NAS devices.
  • A command-line interface for the Unix types in your data center.

Pricing is by the combined size of the backed-up data, but you can download a demo version and see how it all works without spending any money. Even better, small shops can take advantage of a promotional offer: you can get a free license that covers you up to 10GB of data. That's a fairly amazing offer, considering the amount of functionality packed into this excellent product. Just visit the BMC Web site for more details. I think it's definitely worth a look for anyone using SQL Server as a data store.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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