Microsoft's customers will get their backup

Microsoft's first step into the disk-based backup software market is making its way through the pipeline and should be available in a few months.

While Microsoft didn't invent disk-based backup software, its entry into the market has drawn attention to the storage industry's move in that direction.

Microsoft's System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM), the software company's first foray into disk-based backup software, has been in public beta since April. It is expected to be available in the next few months.

If Microsoft weren't here, this market might not have as much buzz, and therefore not as much obvious momentum.
Ray Paquet

The product backs up files as they change, saving the changes to disk, thereby eliminating the window needed to save the contents of server to tape. Over 50,000 copies of the beta version of DPM have been downloaded from Microsoft's Web site.

Some analysts and users think DPM is a strong product, but the existing disk-based backup market will certainly offer some stiff competition to Microsoft. Indeed, the competition may be further along than Microsoft.

Small companies like TimeSpring Software Corp., in Montreal, and Mendocino Software, in Fremont, Calif., sell disk-based data protection software. Veritas Software Corp., the storage industry leader now owned by Symantec Corp., in Cupertino, Calif., began a beta of its Panther continuous data protection product in May.

Ray Paquet, an analyst with Gartner Inc., the Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm, said that much of the noise around disk-based backup software is happening because Microsoft jumped into the market. "If Microsoft weren't here, this market might not have as much buzz, and therefore not as much obvious momentum," Paquet said.

For Dan Warren, a network specialist with Des Moines Public Schools, the software has made his job easier. The Des Moines public school system has tested the product since last November. Warren has 40 servers running Windows 2000 Server, and he would like to use DPM until he has the budget to upgrade to Windows 2003 and purchase new hardware. Windows Server 2003 has volume shadow copy services, a built-in backup feature. The schools plan to continue using DPM even after the upgrading their Windows 2000 servers as part of their continuous disaster recovery plan.

Prior to using the backup software, Warren said that the school system had one full-time staff member doing backups and restores. Moving to disk backup gave him more time to do more important tasks. He said the software is easy enough to use and that end users can be taught how to restore their own files, which reduces help desk calls. But, he added, he wished that DPM could support Windows 98, Exchange Server and SQL Server.

"That's one thing right now that we don't have an easy solution for, so that's something we'd like to see," Warren said.

Microsoft said it will support Exchange Server and SQL Server in future versions. "Our long-term vision is that DPM will protect any of the Microsoft applications in the Windows Server system family," said Ben Matheson, a group product manager for DPM at Microsoft.

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