This box is a fairly cool toy. It's HP's entry into the automated appliance market for backup solutions. It's a slightly fru-fru looking box (looks like they reused some of the cheesier HP Pavilion cases) with a huge light on top that can be green or orange and a backlit LCD display. It apparently runs some sort of embedded Windows 2000 instead of sanely using Linux or a derivative, but what the hey. In any case, it has a CD-R drive and an external SCSI interface as well as an internal hard drive (30 or 80 GB).

It is designed to allow computers on your network to make unattended backups of their hard drives. Although you can specify which files to back up, it is most useful as a disaster recovery backup - that is, it backs up an image of your machine to its internal drive. In the event your computer crashes, or (if it's a laptop, say) you lose it, you can restore its last backup state to a new machine or new drive.

This thing has some nice touches. Among these are included:

  • It can burn its own autorecovery CD-Rs! Just boot your new machine off the CD-R created with your old machine's data and networking info, and it will connect to the SureStore and restore itself.
  • In a pinch, it can also write boot/restore floppies.
  • It comes with a fairly smart agent that's free for use; to install it, you need simply surf to the appliance's web address, appending '/agent' and it will walk you through the installation. It'll download the software from the appliance.
  • It can automatically back itself up to a DAT autochanger. They claim that only HP SureStore models are supported; I fully intend to stick a Sony on it and see what happens (because I already have one).
  • It, and the agent, can be used to back up NT Domain Controller registry information.
  • Backups are account-based and password-protected.
  • The Administrator has full control over backups.
  • Best of all: Smart File backup. In other words, it only backs up one copy of any particular file on the network. So if you back up ten computers which are running NT and MS Office, for example, it'll only save one copy of each of the NT and Office files to its drive. It'll always back up any files that differ (preferences, templates, documents, etc).
  • Hardware compression onboard.
  • Acts as a windows file server to always make the 'last backup' version of files available to users. Handy.

Of course, it has a few flaws, too.

  • Only does Windows backups. What? No Macintosh or Linux? Come on, how homogenous do you think we are?
  • Can't be upgraded vis-a-vis its internal storage space. I can sorta see this one; it's designed for SOHO/small business/workgroup, and HP would rather you just bought more of them (they coexist fine; each client can choose which to back up to).
  • Management (the advanced console) requires Microsoft Management Console, which only runs properly on NT/2K. Sheesh.
  • As far as I can tell, you can't have it use Domain authentication, meaning you have to have a whole separate set of accounts and their associated overhead.

These are just some first impressions. I must say, though, that I do sleep better knowing that my lus...er, users have their data backed up to a spot I administrate. The client is also smart enough to handle laptops being connected and disconnected from the network (it'll resume backups) and the incremental backups can take place over a modem link (if you haven't made major install changes since your last one).

Finally, the client performs backups in the background; the only time I've noticed it is when I tried once to run Outlook(yecch) and the .pst file was locked for backup, but it was done in about a minute. Over a 100 Base-T network, a full backup of 6 GB of system data was done in less than 10 mins, while working on the machine. Not bad.

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