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Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions (Read 5074 times)
EdV
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Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Jan 11th, 2007 at 11:35am
 
There are two fundamental flaws in the entire Ghost product line starting with Ghost 9. This includes Ghost 9 and 10, Symantec Live State Recovery Advanced Server version 6, as well as the newly named and "enhanced" Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server/Workstation versions.

These two flaws are encountered only when you rotate backup disks. If your backup strategy consists of a single backup drive, you won't see these problems. But if you maintain (and rotate) several backup disks so that you can keep one at an offsite location (which is the recommended procedure for a more fail-safe strategy), then you will encounter these problems.

Flaw #1 - The feature that limits the number of recovery points saved to a backup disk fails when rotating backup disks.

    This is a potentially great feature because when set up properly, it allows you to run backups periodically without having to manually delete older backups. Unfortunately, the feature does not base it's decision on the time stamp of the backup files, but on an internal catalog that it keeps. Here's an example of how it fails.

    Say you have a hard disk that generates a 20gb backup with compression and you have two backup disks each having 75gb of free space. So you create a backup job that limits the backups to two recovery points.

    The first week, you run the backup twice which creates backup001 and backup002. In the second week, you swap backup drives. When you run the next backup, it creates Backup003 and then tries to delete backp001 and is unable to find it since it's on the other backup drive. Same is true when you run the fourth backup, it creates backup004 and tries to delete backup002.

    On the third week, you swap backup drives again so you have the drive that has backup001 and 002 on it. You run the fifth backup which creates backup005 and tries to delete backup003 and doesn't find it. You now have three full backups on that drive, 001, 002 and 005. And when you try to run the sixth backup, it fails because the drive doesn't have space for four backups.

Recommended Fix: On the job setup under the option to limit the number of backup sets, there should be a radio button group with two options:

Option1: Delete old backups based on catalog history (for backward compatibility)
Option2: Delete old backups based file creation date/time

Flaw #2 -  Base plus incremental backup jobs can create orphaned incremental backup files when rotating backup disks.

    An orphaned incremental backup file is one which does not have an associated base backup in the same backup folder. And the documentation clearly states that you cannot perform a restore from an incremental backup that doesn't have a base backup present in the same folder. So it's amazing that the backup program allows this to happen in the first place, but this is how it can happen:

    Say you have a scheduled backup job that runs every night and creates a base backup on Monday and incremental backups the other nights. Normally you swap backup drives every Monday morning to accommodate this and rotate the backup drive off site. But one Monday, you're out of town, so you rotate on Tuesday instead. The incremental backups created for the rest of the week will be orphans because their base backup is on the disk you swapped out.

Recommended Fix: On the job setup under the option to create a base plus incrementals backup, there should be a radio button group with two options:

Option1: Allow orphaned incremental when base is not present (for backward compatibility)
Option2: Do not allow orphaned incremental when base is not present, create a new base instead

These two flaws should have been addressed by now but they haven't. Inexcusable since the flaws exist even in the top of the line Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server edition which carries a hefty $1000/server list price.
 
 
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John.
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #1 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 12:20pm
 
Edv, that is an interesting detailed explanation.  I can see why you are having problems.  However, I think you have several critical fundamental flaws in your strategy:

You are swapping your external hard drives on Ghost.  I am guessing that both external hard drives have the same Volume name.  That's the second issue.

To solve it, I think you could do something like this:  First change volid of disks to Disk1 and Disk2 (or similar).  Then create two new Ghost backup definitions, one to backup to Disk1 and one to backup to Disk2.

When Disk1 is mounted, Ghost definition1 will work fine, but Ghost definition2 each night or each week will fail because that Disk2 is not present.

I would also force XP to assigns different drive letter to Disk1 and Disk2.

After unmounting Backup1 one week or month, mount Backup2. 

The only unknown is your use of incremental recovery points.  Personally I use only full independent backups, so you will need to be sure and swap drives only AFTER you have the full backup.  (Please let me know if this works.)

I haven't tried these exact scenario personally, but I know that whenever I have my external USB2 backup drive powered off, Ghost can't find the backup target, and I get the error message.

Bottom line is that you can't change horses in mid stream.  You were fooling Ghost by swapping two drives with same name, but not really same drive.

 

Ghost4me  Ghost 9, 10, 12, 14, 15.  Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7
 
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #2 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 1:20pm
 
EdV,

A friend found Flaw #3. Ghost can't create an image on an external HD if the external HD isn't attached to the computer. Some common sense is needed.
 
 
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #3 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 1:25pm
 
Brian, have you ever tried rotating external usb2 backup drives?  I seem to remember a thread about a year ago with same desire.  I think it can be done as I described with full independent backups, but not sure about the results with incrementals as well.
 

Ghost4me  Ghost 9, 10, 12, 14, 15.  Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7
 
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #4 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 1:42pm
 
John, that was Howard's thread. I recall he wanted what Ghost couldn't do.

I do use two external HDs but I create daily images to the second internal HD and copy weekly full independent backups (never incrementals) from the second HD to an external HD, at a convenient time. I'm a home user, not business.

I don't let Ghost delete any of my images. I do it manually. Automatic deletion works on my kid's computers "most" of the time.
 
 
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EdV
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #5 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 3:37pm
 
Ghost4me, there are no "fundamental flaws" in my strategy, and Brian, If your remarks are an attempt at sarcasm, they're not appreciated.

I became aware of these flaws a couple of years ago when I first started using Ghost 9 for backing up my own system to usb drives.

Then early last year I migrated one of my company's Win2k3 Server's running Terminal Services for many users, away from DLT tape backups to usb hard drive backups using Symantec Live State Recovery Server because that product is certified for W2k3 Servers. That cost around $750 for the software and another $600 for a set of drives to rotate off site. So I was disappointed to learn that these two flaws were still present in software that they were charging a premium for.

Then a month ago I migrated another company's Win2k3 server to the latest and greatest Backup Exec System Recovery Server edition for another $1500 outlay, and alas the flaws remain.

So I thought it was high time to start posting this fact where appropriate in an effort to make people aware and hopefully add some merit to any requests I make to Symantec to have them corrected.

Understand that in a corporate environment, these two flaws are serious ones. At both sites, I have one designated person who is responsible for swapping the disks out each Monday morning and a pop-up reminds them of that when they log into the system on those days. Additionally, I have the backups configured to email me their completion status, so I see the results each morning when I log in. But those people can be out sick and the disk swapping will be delayed until they return, which throws the backup process off.

Brain's suggested workaround in this case is not very practical since it would result in a deluge of messages for every backup job that failed (both servers and workstations) for the drives that are not present. And I rotate 5 disks at each company.

Your preference for full backups may be fine for you, but in a corporate environment with 15 or 20 users, it is not sufficient for me. Using an incremental strategy, I am able to recover any file from any particular day over the last month or so. The storage capacity of the backup drives we can afford do not provide enough space to do that with full backups every night.

Now I realize that this forum was intended for Ghost 9 and 10, but these two flaws have migrated themselves into Symantec's Server backup products, so I felt it was justified to post it here. I wasn't so much looking for a workaround as I was in pointing out theses flaws to others who may be interested.

That said, I've actually developed my own solution to Flaw #1. I simply wrote a small utility program I called "PurgeV2i" which takes two arguments. The first argument is a path to the base name of the backup file (i.e. F:\Backups\Server1_C_Drive) and second argument is the number of versions to keep. And because the server based backup programs allow for a program or batch file to be executed before and/or after a backup is completed, I simply invoke a batch file that contains a series of PurgeV2i commands that purges the base and incremental files to the appropriate level for each server or workstation that is being backed up.

I don't have a solution to Flaw #2 which is most problematic for laptops that are backed up with Ghost 9 to the server's shared backup drive. When they are in the office, the user's leave them powered on so that we get a backup. But because they are out of the office from time to time, this flaw has required me to configure them for full backups only, but limit the backup to only two versions.
 
 
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #6 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 3:46pm
 
 

ple • o • nasm n. “The use of more words than are required to express an idea”
 
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #7 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 4:11pm
 
EdV, couldn’t you accomplish your objective this way:  consistently store the Ghost recovery points on one disk, but periodically copy those recovery points to a removable Disk A or Disk B, rotating one of the latter two off-site?
 

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EdV
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #8 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 4:34pm
 
Pleonasm,

Thanks for the reference to the previous threads. I ran quite a few searches on this in the past to see if it was discussed before starting a new thread, but nothing turned up.

As for workarounds to the purge problem, see my last post above. I have a solution that works the way it should but I had to write my own utility program to accomplish that . It just bugs me that a $1000 software package isn't smart enough to do it for me.
 
 
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John.
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #9 - Jan 11th, 2007 at 6:25pm
 
EdV wrote on Jan 11th, 2007 at 3:37pm:
I simply invoke a batch file that contains a series of PurgeV2i commands that purges the base and incremental files to the appropriate level for each server or workstation that is being backed up.

I used a similar technique for a small business customer with Drive Image (the predecessor to Ghost 9); that is, a daily bat job that would roll off older generations of backups because Drive Image didn't have that feature.  I think that automatically limiting the number of generations was added in Ghost 9.

I'm not familiar with the Corp versions of Ghost, but I used to be responsible for Technology Support at a large company.  Backup jobs are/were only one part of the requirement.  In reality you need an entire Library Management System to track everything, which is exactly the point that you have been making.

I'm surprised that Symantec's Backup Exec for Windows Servers doesn't have the robust library rotation and offsite rotation that one would want.  But I agree with you that in a corporate environment you need something that is more automated with library management, daily/weekly monitoring, daily/weekly reports and automatic error notification.  I'm not sure what the product would be today, but definitely Ghost 9, Ghost 10, Norton Save & Restore are designed for home and home/office users, not corporate accounts.

I understand your pain now, and please post if/when you find a better solution.
 

Ghost4me  Ghost 9, 10, 12, 14, 15.  Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7
 
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EdV
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #10 - Jan 12th, 2007 at 12:41pm
 
John. wrote on Jan 11th, 2007 at 6:25pm:
I'm surprised that Symantec's Backup Exec for Windows Servers doesn't have the robust library rotation and offsite rotation that one would want. ......

Actually, that particular product does support those features. But Symantec has shuffled and renamed their backup products so many times it's no wonder that it's easy to get confused about exactly what each product does and doesn't do

That said, here's a summary of their current backup products, including my interpretation of the key features and limitations:

Norton Ghost 10        69.99
Disk based backups
Supports Windows XP Home, XP Pro, 2000 Pro
Back up entire volumes only
Can restore volumes, folders, or files
Bootable disaster/recovery can only restore a system volume to similar systems (i.e. cannot restore single cpu system to Core 2 duo, or IDE based system to SCSI system without problems)

Norton Save and Restore    49.99
Same features and limitations of Ghost 10
Drops support for Windows 2000 Pro but adds support for Windows XP Media Center Edition
Adds ability to backup individual folders and files
Adds a few bells and whistles that interface to Symantec security products

Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Desktop Edition    69.00
Same features and limitations of Ghost 10
Supports Windows XP Pro, 2000 Pro
Adds ability to restore a system volume to dissimilar systems (i.e. can restore single cpu system to Core 2 duo, or IDE based system to SCSI system.)
Adds support for running a program/batch file before and/or after the backup is completed

Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server Edition    1,095
Same features and limitations of Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Desktop Edition
Supports Windows Server 2003, 2000 Server, 2000 Advanced Server
Supports backup and restore of Windows domain controllers
Supports Microsoft VSS integration and automatically sets databases that are VSS-aware (i.e. SQL Server) into the “quiet” state so that recovery points can be captured without taking the databases offline.

Symantec Backup Exec 11d For Windows Servers    Big $$$$$$
Symantec's Venerable Tape Based Backup Solution
Supports a wide range of tape drives and auto-loaders
Has storage management/archiving and reporting options
Lots of add-on optional modules for a wide variety of backup needs
You'll need long arms and deep pockets to afford this enterprise oriented backup solution
 
 
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #11 - Jan 12th, 2007 at 12:55pm
 
EdV, thanks for the update and summary.

It's easy to see now the predicament for supporting a medium sized company with 15-20 users and a server--The $49 home/small business solution doesn't work or provide the central repository and control you need.  And a $10,000+ (I assume) or more large business/corp enterprise solution can't be justified and doesn't fit either.

I would think there would be Symantec support reps as well as competitor support reps to "advise" (sell) and support something for your middle range, but I'm not familiar with that software market place.

The two most well known home/small office products are from Symantec and Acronis (True Image).
 

Ghost4me  Ghost 9, 10, 12, 14, 15.  Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7
 
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Re: Two Fundamental Flaws in all Ghost versions
Reply #12 - Jan 12th, 2007 at 9:25pm
 
It's my understanding that Backup Exec Desktop Edition at $69 is sold with a 10 license minimum. Thus raising the cost to $690.

Please let me know if I am wrong about this. I would like to buy the program at $69.
 
 
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