Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: everStor, Inc., go to the web site
Requires: Linux or Solaris (Sparc and Intel) server or network appliance, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape; supports clients running Win95/98/ME/NT/2000, AIX, HP-UX, Linux, Solaris
MSRP: US$2475.00 (5 client Linux license)

Backups, backups, backups - the bane of our existence. But if you're a network or IT manager, backups are a way of life. The big problem is quickly getting at individual files within backed up data, whenever they're needed, avoiding costly delays and downtime in the process. So if you can imagine a situation in which certain directories on client computers scattered around a typical network are backed up transparently and automatically, after which the data can be accessed by a client computer through a web browser, then you understand the basic premise behind Replicator. Couple that basic application with the ability to automatically move infrequently used data to lower cost storage media (moving it back to active network storage drives only when needed), while keeping high-usage data ready at hand in network area storage or active servers, and you've got a good overview of the serious replication, archival, data storage and data retrieval power in Replicator.

Replicator can be installed on most Linux and Solaris-based servers, replicating data from selected clients throughout a network (LAN, WAN or Internet), then storing the data in local and/or off-site media. Replicator is designed to maintain the latest copy of your data, create archive copies of the data and generate a data history. Replicator allows clients to retrieve their latest replicated data or any one of their archived copies without outside assistance. It will replicate data from virtually any client computer running any standard client operating system. Replicator manages complete file systems, specific directories and/or files. We performed our usage tests with three different SunSparc servers, all running SunOS 5.7.

Nothing to do with tape backup and data encryption systems is easy. Media failures, drive failures and other problems abound. Hard drives are cheap and easy these days however, so can we please kill tapes? Please? By the same token, nothing to do with any Linux or Solaris installation is ever easy either. The scope of this review is too limited to go into all the details. It's sufficient to say that everStor's technical support seems to be up to the task of getting problem areas sorted out. If you have any flaky network segments or nodes, we recommend fixing them before horsing around with Replicator. After installation, a Network Administrator can get into the GUI via IE or Netscape to select the replication frequency for each data set, create configurations, etc.

We configured Replicator for part of our WAN (in three separate server locations in the Toronto, Canada area) using Replicator's server-to-server function. We set up a higher level Replicator corporate server to replicate data from lower level Replicator servers. The lower level Replicator servers grabbed data from local workstations and servers. For security purposes and according to the very insistent advice from everStor tech support and the product documentation, each client's data was stored in a directory tree on a destination disk unique to the client. It was a bit of a pain to set up, but it worked well. We gave a couple of client computer users their own server to control along with a password which allowed them to set up custom directories, replication frequency and selective restore. This also worked well (except for one individual, who shall remain nameless, who insisted on trying to delete existing directories while creating his own. BAD DOG!). Geez.

Cons: Since the Replicator GUI is web-based it requires an operating web server - OK for many applications but relatively insecure for WAN-based applications (you've got to open a server port and all that). There are several firewall and security issues here. Replicator is designed to replicate only data changed since the last replication action and we're trying to figure out why everStor didn't add full backup capabilities to the product (thereby providing IT managers with a seriously heavy-duty, comprehensive data tool).

Pros: Good quality middle-ware that fits nicely between full backup policies and the need for automated, high-speed, incremental data backup & retrieval for clients and servers throughout a network. You can select the replication frequency of a data set while preserving the network bandwidth needed to conduct your normal business activities. Replicator is excellent for replicating critical configuration files, customer data and for data recovery needs caused by buggy productivity software. Mission critical password, revenue and inventory files can be replicated at higher frequency rates than less critical files. everStor also makes something called the jb Driver (a reasonably intelligent robotics driver for controlling tape libraries and optical jukeboxes) which in conjunction with Replicator, may make the job of managing storage media drive stacks significantly easier. Apparently decent sales support engineering staff. Good stuff.

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