If you’re tired of command-line backup programs, Merlin Software’s PerfectBACKUP+ is worth a look. It makes short work of backup and restore chores and includes an impressive feature list. However, despite its name, PerfectBACKUP+ is not perfect. Its menu-oriented interface can be tedious, and it lacks a way to synchronize with applications before and after operations.
PerfectBACKUP+ installs easily and will back up to standard devices such as hard-drive partitions, floppy disks, and other removable-media drives, as well as to disk files. This last option is handy because it facilitates distributing backups via FTP or e-mail. It also supports almost any tape drive, including the Seagate SCSI tape drives we tested, but their drivers must be installed separately. Although Merlin Software’s documentation does not address these details, the extra steps are often as simple as copying files or installing an RPM package.
We were initially confused by Merlin’s use of the term “package” since this term is normally associated with installation files. With PerfectBACKUP+, “packages” refer to backup or restore job templates. The default packages further add to the confusion because they handle data files associated with particular Linux applications, but they have nothing to do with the packages (such as RPM files) used to distribute those applications. PerfectBACKUP+’s packages back up documents, not the files from RPMs.
Basic backup and restore operations are set up with a menu-based interface. This interface is generally easy to use, but some tasks will require a close reading of the documentation or at least some tinkering with the software. For example, it took us some time to
figure out that only scheduled (and not ad hoc) backups could be used for packages.
File and directory selection for packages is a bit archaic. A browse button makes finding a directory or file easy, but you must use wild-card characters to select files as opposed to the more usable tree selection method commonly found on Windows products. We had no trouble setting up complex PerfectBACKUP+ packages, though it took longer than we would have liked. To its credit, PerfectBACKUP+ handled every kind of connection we threw at it, including networked drives that were linked via NFS, NetWare, and Samba, and it dealt well during restore operations.
PerfectBACKUP+ ran with our tape drives at top speed and, as expected, ran even faster when backing up to disk. Given the low price of hard disks and removable-media drives, storing backup information on another hard disk can be a less complex alternative to RAID. Backups can be restored by PerfectBACKUP+ or cpio, a backup utility found on every Linux distribution. PerfectBACKUP+ can also read backup data written by both cpio and tar.
Like any other high-end backup program, PerfectBACKUP+ maintains a library of each backup performed on the system. PerfectBACKUP+ can even print a label for a tape or disk, making it easier to catalog and track media for later retrieval.
* Backup and restore using any device or file
* Handles network drives and multiple filesystems concurrently
* Tedious menu-oriented interface
* No application integration for backup
PerfectBACKUP+ handles disaster recovery well, though you must use a manual recovery procedure that’s outlined in the documentation, instead of an automated technique, to create a set of diskettes and backup media. This is reasonable given the vast number of different Linux distributions, but it would have been nice to have a more automatic setup for the most popular distributions.
As good as PerfectBACKUP+ is for Linux workstation and server use, it’s still lacking in some areas. It would benefit from a mechanism to run scripts before and after a backup or restore so that an application could be suspended to allow its data files to be handled properly. And unlike some other backup programs it lacks direct integration with major applications like Lotus Domino. Finally, PerfectBACKUP+ doesn’t have an agent-based backup system for remote PCs, only access via network files, which typically doesn’t provide access to security information. These features are necessary for PerfectBACKUP+ to be considered an enterprise solution.
As it stands, PerfectBACKUP+ is a very solid program that works as advertised and is an ideal backup utility for any individual Linux PC.
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