Microsoft Product Holes

Sometimes I can get very confused when finding ways to utilize a vendors’ product set. Of late this has been particularly true of Microsoft. My business environment is a LAN with a few workstations and laptops serviced by a Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 R2. It is a great product for a small business — provides pretty much all the services one could want at a reasonable price and amazingly trouble-free. The version we have supports exchange email, sqlserver and sharepoint. Now, I used to be an architect of database internals so I am no stranger to device level code and (gasp) assembler. But it is nice to not have to be bothered.

We had been doing backups to a network-attached 3rd party NAS. Had scheduled job on the SBS server and ran it manually on everything else. And duped the  backup savesets to a huge USB disk for portability. But I was wondering if I could do something better… then I discovered Microsoft Data Protection Manager. This is application aware so I could get much better granularity for my server-based applications and possibly old version  recovery for desktop files. But there is a catch.

The product is priced within the budget of a small business. But it won’t do laptops (unless they are on the network pretty much all the time) and it is dubious as to how well it does workstations. But the real kicker is that it wants to allocate 3x the protected storage for an uncompressed replica of the source and changes. So far, so good. Did I mention that one of my workstations (used for photographic images) has 900gb of disk? Well, DPM does not support USB or Firewire-attached disks (although Homeserver does) so one needs all that storage local or iSCSI. Has anyone priced iSCSI anything? Despite what the marketers may say, this stuff is definately not priced for small businesses. And DPM has kinky ideas about a second volume on the boot disk, so effectively one is limited to what can be accomodated on one drive. So if one has a small business LAN and relatively new machines (with huge disk drives) pretty much the only choice is what we did originally — use backup to write to a NAS disk. Pity, it seemed like such a good idea for a small environment, but the storage constraints (which it doesn’t see if virtualized, by the way) mean its not a general purpose backup solution. Which is odd considering how necessary what it does is in a small business environment and how nicely it does it (when you have the room).