Review: Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8 - Page 2

By Aaron Weiss
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Data Recovery

A full system backup can be a lifesaver when you need to restore a whole system, but you're more likely to need to restore just one or more individual files. BESR8's Recover My Files and Recovery Point Browser both give you detailed access to recovery points.

With the Recover My Files task, you can search for files in a complete (or partial) system backup and open or restore them on the spot. The Recovery Point Browser task is more like Windows Explorer, letting you navigate the full file system of a recovery point in tree-view. Again, you can open or restore files from the backup instantly.

Outside of the BESR8 application, you can also mount recovery points directly into Windows Explorer. They are assigned a temporary drive letter, which you can access like any "real" data. Although you can write data to a mounted recovery point, this data is lost when the backup is un-mounted.

Full Recovery or Thank Heavens for the Rescue Disk

Then there are the times you need to fully restore your system. It only takes one crash, be it corrupt system files from a power outage or a virus, to immediately appreciate the value of a full-system backup. A recovery process that could eat up days becomes a job that takes just a few minutes.

Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8 (Desktop Edition)
Recover a corrupt system with the BESR8 bootable recovery disk.
(Click for larger image)

In cases where your operating system is no longer usable, you will boot from the BESR8 recovery disk. The product includes a full recovery disk with drivers for typical storage devices. But you should test that the recovery disk can access your storage devices ‑ if not, you can create a custom recovery disk from within the installed BESR8 software with the drivers your system needs.

When you boot your PC with the BESR8 recovery disk, you're launched into a Vista-based guided environment. The disk automatically attempts to connect to your network, so that you can access any shares. You can also use the recovery disk to mount storage drivers in real-time, perform simple network analysis, run minor drive and partition table tools, or launch pcAnywhere so that remote machines can connect and troubleshoot your ailing PC.

Most often, though, you will use the recovery disk to restore a recovery point to a corrupted system ‑ a simple point and click affair, often followed by a sigh of relief and a beer.

Thanks to Symantec's Restore Anyware feature, you can actually restore a recovery point to a different hardware configuration.This can be a lifesaver when your system crash is due to a low-level hardware failure, like a blown motherboard, for which you're likely to re-build the system with new hardware. Or you might just enjoy the ease of migrating a heavily customized system to a new and improved PC.

Restore Anyware works by identifying hardware-specific drivers in your Windows install and replacing them, usually with generic substitutes. Of course, you will still want to install the "right" vendor-supplied drivers for your critical hardware once you have the restored system up and running.

From Physical to Virtual and Back

These days, virtual machines (VMs) are everywhere. It often makes a lot of sense to run systems inside a VM, whether for reasons of maximizing CPU usage or experimental usage. With BESR8 you can create a backup of a "real" hardware-based system and then convert that recovery point into a virtual image suitable for VMWare or Microsoft Virtual PC (or any other virtual machine platforms that read these formats).

The process couldn't be easier ‑ simply use the Convert to Virtual Disk tool in BESR8, and you are prompted to choose a recovery point and then a VM format. Virtual disks can optionally be split into 2GB files, and/or saved directly to a VMWare ESX server.

BESR8 uses the same Restore Anyware technology to substitute drivers from your hardware-based Windows install for a VM-based transplant.

Likewise, you can work it in reverse, too. Assuming you have a valid license to run BESR8 inside a virtual machine, you can create a recovery point of that VM. Using the bootable recovery disk, you can then restore that recovery point to hardware, going from virtual to physical. David Copperfield would approve.

No More Excuses

Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery 8 might have an awkward name, but the software itself is both simple to use and powerful, an all-too-rare combination. For the modest license cost and a few minutes spent creating a backup schedule, you can save untold hours and dollars when bad fortune, or a disgruntled employee, strikes.

Aaron Weiss a technology writer, screenwriter and Web development consultant who spends his free time stacking wood for the winter in Upstate New York. His Web site is: bordella.com

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This article was originally published on July 10, 2008
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