SonicWall rolls out second-generation continuous data protection

* Backup every file after every change and save multiple versions

Do you feel lucky? Well, do you? I ask because a recent backup vendor survey claims almost two-thirds of you backup less than once a month. The report also reveals that 2GB of data disappears every single minute due to drive failure, disaster or human error. Do you still feel lucky? Would you rather feel prepared? If so, say hello to the second generation of continuous data protection appliances from Lasso Logic, now subsumed by SonicWall.

I wrote about the first generation of Lasso Logic products more than a year ago, and told you I was impressed. Now part of SonicWall, Lasso Logic's products have been strengthened and upgraded. The products have also gone upmarket a bit, meaning they cost more. But there are now more than 10,000 SonicWall resellers able to help businesses backup reliably compared to the few hundred resellers hawking the previous product from start-up Lasso Logic.

Lasso Logic made appliances in small footprint desktop cases running a customized Windows operating system and SonicWall has now expanded the line to include serious business 1U and 2U rack-mount backup appliances now running Linux (you don't see the operating system, just the browser-based administration screens). Throughput is up, but so too is the noise level. All 1U servers make too much noise because they have to push air through a tiny fan, but the one I tested is the King of Noisy. If you don't have a server room or an enclosed rack cabinet, add that to the project cost or get one of the smaller units. Since SonicWall's target customer usually has 20 or more employees, this shouldn't be a problem for most of you.

SonicWall's installation routines always aggravate me, but there are two reasons why that won't bother you. First, I will almost certainly not be installing your appliance. Second, a trained SonicWall reseller or consultant probably will be. They can pull serial numbers off hardware and type them into online forms and go back and forth while you plan how to organize your backups and deploy the client software.

The only way to grab every file change on a computer is to actively monitor every file change on that computer. While small (between 6MB to 8MB on my test XP system depending on activity), the CDP software must be installed and configured. Clients choose their own folders to backup, but the administrator can add or delete folders for users and watch over the entire backup file pool using the enterprise management application. Since the files are stored on the appliance's hard disk, searching for a file across all the backups uses a single search field to find the file no matter which user's computer it came from, a chore that could drive you crazy with an old fashioned tape drive.

Automatic local backup is only half the road to backup security; storing files offsite helps in disaster recovery. Sometimes the disasters are hurricanes or crooks who steal your computers and backup appliance. Each user and folder can be enabled or not for remote backup, making the process automatic once configured. SonicWall sells backup space and its resellers often run their own backup server for their customers. However, you do need to buy the optional offsite service.

Buy isn't the right word, exactly. This appliance follows the services subscription model, meaning you license services. Maintenance is highly recommended, so you can let SonicWall and your local reseller keep the appliance up to date and supported while you do little or nothing. Pricing starts at $4,999 for the 3440i unit tested here, built to handle 75 or so users. The 1440i starts at $1,999, the 2440i at $2,999, and the 4440i at $7,999 (higher prices support more users). You will spend hundreds more on software, service and maintenance licenses. Some are free for the first year, but you must pay on a yearly basis thereafter to keep software updates and hardware service support.

Using the excellent Acronis True Image software, SonicWall offers optional bare-metal archiving and recovery for both servers and workstations. You still need to make a bootable rescue disk or hidden local partition for the server or workstation, but when you're in a hurry the Acronis software recovers much faster than loading Windows far enough to connect to your backup appliance.

It makes sense for SonicWall to jump into data backup because the company is all about security and security now includes file safety. If your network doesn't have the files you need, can you call it secure? Not in today's market, so SonicWall maintains its lead on competitors with this Lasso Logic acquisition and product re-introduction. Of course, other companies in the backup software and hardware business may not be impressed, but current SonicWall customers will be. SonicWall wins awards for its reseller network and now the resellers have a new service that's critical to every one of their customers. If you trust SonicWall (and your local reseller) to protect your network, you can now trust them to protect your files.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.