RBackup Remote Backup Software Review . . . continued

MSPs can use RBackup Remote Backup Software as a turnkey product. Because configuration and re-branding is relatively easy, it's possible for almost any MSP to get up and running with RBackup in one afternoon. The only configuration issues to overcome are usually limited primarily to integrating customer activity log data and exporting/importing data for customer usage billing. That sort of problem has to be dealt with no matter what sort of system you set up, so it's not strictly an RBackup issue. Harmonizing accounts receivable across various customer products at an MSP is always an interesting and ongoing task in any situation in which any customer uses a number of services provided by different back-end products.

We installed and ran RBackup's server, database and client access components on an idle server located at the office of one of our research associates. We installed the client software on several PCs running various flavors of Windows. We used the configuration utilities to preset strong encryption, then watched packet traffic on our gateway to see if we could intercept and decrypt anything useful. We poked at this for a couple of days, on and off, then gave up the effort as slightly stupid. At this level of quality, encryption is encryption and nobody is going to be able to steal data. The RBackup client software is adequate, and once its installed basically disappears into the background. Most users will only use it thereafter to either add new files, folders or drives to the backup set, or to restore files, folders or drives. Client software upgrades can be pushed silently from your server to client machines. Tracking users at the server is easy through the Central Client Management console. We found that RBackup supports multiple backup generations for clients and also provides archive life cycle management tools for managing client data redundancy. Selecting drives, folders and files for backup is done through a Windows Explorer-like file selector.


We set up the server for BitBackup. It's an RBS technology that, similar to other systems, allows the client program to backup only the portions of files that have changed. You may not be comfortable using BitBackup for documents, but it's actually an ideal backup method for databases of any size. Using BitBackup to handle really large databases substantially reduces backup times and of course also reduces the amount of space used for remote storage.

A important test for this sort of product is to determine how well it performs under less than ideal client and server situations. Basically, we wanted to find out if we could really use, as Remote Backup Systems claims, a non-dedicated Internet connection with a dynamic IP to run the server. Most inexpensive Internet connections have a dynamic IP address, which means the IP address of your connection can change whenever you log on and off, and sometimes while you're connected. The problem with this kind of connection is that you can never be sure of your IP address. It works well for surfing the web and doing most "normal" Internet activities. The RBS Server Locator solves the problem by assigning your server a unique Internet Domain Name that never changes. It then sends your current IP address to Remote Backup Systems' central Dynamic Name Servers whenever your IP address changes. Your clients can then find you at your domain name instead of your IP address, no matter what IP address you are on. If you're anywhere on the Internet, your clients can find you. If you move your server to a different city, just reconnect it and the central Domain Name Servers will find you and begin reporting the new server location to your clients.

If you sell your data backup business, you can automatically redirect your clients to the correct server. If you experience a prolonged server outage or some other similar emergency, RBS can temporarily redirect clients to a standby server anywhere in the world (including the RBS data center in some situations).

Cons: Despite improvements in the way Firefox deals with Java and ActiveX, using Firefox to install RBackup can still be problematic. The RBS Knowledge Base article about this issue has a 2005 date, but it still seems to be a problem. Our advice? Use Internet Explorer instead and save yourself some configuration headaches. Older routers, including pre-Cisco Linksys models seemed to confuse or firewall/block the RBackup client preventing it from communicating with the server, so you'll need to update or replace some old stuff (if present) and warn your clients in advance. We encountered, rarely, some dropped backup connections which we traced to network address translation (NAT) switching in wireless home/small business 4-port routers, but did not encounter the problem in non-wireless routers of any kind. There's no simple username/password combo for reinstalled clients; users have to keep track of their encryption key file or code in the event of a crashed PC or some other disaster which destroys the client software installation. Print your key file/encryption code and keep it somewhere safe.

Pros: RBackup Remote Backup Software setup and program configuration guidance is excellent. All aspects of the product documentation seem to be clear, concise and detailed. Whoever wrote the product documentation deserves a bonus. Backing up Exchange Server mailboxes is easy and there are exclusion selections for Junk E-mail and Deleted Items folders. The RBackup client provides a simple Explorer-like file selector in which you can choose files, folders or entire drives for inclusion in a backup set. Built-in quota system to track users who go over their storage quota so that billing can be increased. Client-side quota is relatively benign too, limiting a backup to available limits but keeping track of any overage to add to the beginning of the next backup session. The RBackup Knowledge Base has a nifty little bandwidth usage calculator. RBS Server and RBS Client can run as a Windows service. The server setup includes a recent build of Apache Server which can simplify installation. No client installation problems with Windows Defender, ZoneAlarm firewall, ZoneAlarm router, Linksys WGR-series routers, all D-Link routers we could find (the oldest was made in 2002), Norton firewall, McAfee firewall, AVG firewall and the System Solutions NetDefense firewall. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) interested in adding remote backup services to their offerings should consider RBackup. We think the remote data backup business is poised to take off in a serious way. A number of reliable, trusted, remote data backup and storage services already exist, with Carbonite being one of the best we've seen. Remote Backup Systems and the RBackup Remote Backup Software offer an easy and robust way to get into the remote data backup business using a set of products which are both highly configurable for the needs of many different target markets and which are also customizable enough to completely brand the product as your own. Very good product overall. Highly recommended.

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