Free Backup Management Software vs. Paid – Which Is Right for Me?

Question: Are the free backup software and commands that come with the IBM i operating system all I need to be recovery ready? Or do I need an enterprise-class backup management solution?

Short Answer: If you are not regularly saving everything, you may not be prepared to recover from a site loss or certain types of disk failures. However, saving everything on your system as often as possible may be unrealistic depending on the volume of your data and your backup processes.
 

When to Use Free Backup Software

You never know when you might need to do a server recovery, so backing up your data is crucial. Today, 31 percent of IBM i shops rely on tape for recovery, with another 10 percent backing up to a vaulting service and 7 percent backing up to disk. 50 percent rely on high availability solutions—hopefully in addition to regular backups.

Unbelievably, 2 percent of IBM i shops say they have no strategy in place for recovery! This is remarkable, especially since there are many free backup capabilities integrated into the IBM i operating system for saving and restoring data—this is one of the major perks of the platform!

The SAVE menu contains many options for saving your data, but three are primary:

  • Option 21 – Entire system
  • Option 22 – System data only
  • Option 23 – All user data

You can use these menu options to back up your system. Or, if your installation requires a more complex backup strategy, you can use the save commands in a CL program to customize your backup.

Entire System (Option 21)

SAVE menu Option 21 lets you perform a complete backup of all the data on your system. This option puts the system into a restricted state, which means that users cannot access your system while the backup is running. For small systems, it’s best to run this option overnight. For a larger system, we recommend running this option during the weekend.

System Data Only (Option 22)

Option 22 saves only your system data. It does not save any user data. You should run this option (or Option 21) after applying PTFs or installing a new licensed program product. Like Option 21, Option 22 puts the system into a restricted state.

All User Data (Option 23) 

Option 23 saves all user data, including files, user-written programs, and all other user data on the system. This option also saves user profiles, security data, and configuration data. Like Options 21 and 22, Option 23 places the system in a restricted state.

The SAVE menu options are simple and easy to use, and in the hands of a seasoned IBM i pro, they can allow for a degree of customization in your backups. However, they do not provide all the functionality necessary to be truly recovery ready.

IBM i’s free integrated SAVE menu options are great for ensuring you have good, complete, full system backups. More robust, enterprise-class solutions like BRMS and Robot Save take you beyond just a full system backup and provide faster backup performance along with the assurance of recovery readiness.
 

When the Best Free Backup Software Is Not Enough

Enterprise-class software like Robot Save or Backup, Recovery and Media Services (a.k.a. BRMS), IBM’s strategic backup and tape management product for IBM i, provide a more dynamic solution for all your backup and recovery needs.

Enterprise-class solutions give you the ability to manage your media. They also maintain a history of all your saved items, which simplifies the restore process and facilitate a detailed system recovery report if/when a complete system recovery is required. They also provide archiving capabilities for infrequently used objects.
 

Backup, Recovery and Media Services for IBM i

BRMS provides the following additional functions:

Tailored Save Operations

BRMS comes with several default policies to cover your basic backup needs, but you can easily create customized policies to save data based on your company’s specific needs. A key BRMS feature is the customization of backup policies that perform save operations on data that is critical to your day-to-day operations. You can also choose to back up individual files or directories or perform online backups of Lotus Notes servers while they are still active. Additionally, there are options to create archive policies, which provides a systematic way of saving infrequently used objects to media, freeing space on the system.

Media and Device Management

BRMS keeps an inventory of your media and tracks all the data on them. When you do a backup, BRMS lets you know which tapes to use, so you don’t have to worry about writing over active data. It also automates the use of physical and virtual tape libraries.

Enhanced Save-While-Active

BRMS has features for monitoring for a save-while-active checkpoint to make using the save-while-active function easier to implement. This allows for more use of your system during the save process.

BRMS FlashCopy Support

FlashCopy creates a clone of the source system onto a second set of disk drives, which are then attached and used by another system or LPAR partition. BRMS provides a mechanism to perform a backup on the second system such that it appears to have been done on the original system.

Parallel Save and Restore Support

BRMS provides the ability to save libraries and objects to multiple physical or virtual media devices at once. You can use up to 32 devices in this manner. This capability greatly enhances the performance capability of virtual tape libraries (VTLs). VTLs are increasing in the IBM i world as a great way to eliminate having to ship physical tape media offsite.  

Network Feature

With BRMS networking, you can share BRMS policies, media information, and storage locations across a network with multiple systems. This allows you to manage saves and restores consistently across all your systems.

Step-by-Step Disaster Recovery

After every backup, you can print a disaster recovery report or email it to an offsite location. This report will guide you through the recovery of your system. It even tells you which media you need to restore for each portion of the system. BRMS will then guide you online through the restoration of your data to completely recover your IBM i.
 

Robot Save for IBM i

Robot Save is another enterprise-class solution for IBM i backup management, part of the Robot suite of products from HelpSystems.

Robot Save provides the following additional functions:

Tracking Save Operations

Robot Save automatically tracks your backups, so you can easily see what information was saved, where it was saved and when it was saved.

Media Management

Robot Save manages your tape media, lets you define exactly how you want your tape media to move, and tracks them in a history file for detailed audit trails.

Centralized Backup Management

Robot Save manages backups from a central control center along with managing backup scheduling and sharing tape media across multiple instances of IBM i.  

Robot Save FlashCopy Support

FlashCopy creates a clone of the source system onto a second set of disk drives, which are then attached and used by another system or LPAR partition. Robot Save provides a mechanism to perform a backup on the second system such that it appears to have been done on the original system.

Concurrent Save and Restore Support

Robot Save provides the ability to back up your data to multiple physical or virtual media devices at once. Concurrent saves provide a simple way of completing backups sooner by using more than one physical or virtual tape device. With concurrent saves, you create multiple backup classes and sets, each with a different set of libraries, directories, or special saves. These sets are run at the same time.

Robot Save Guided System Restoration

The Robot Save Restoration Procedures report lists the volumes you will need to use to recover your system. The Guided System Restoration Procedures option in Robot Save tells you which volumes to mount and then restores libraries, document library objects, and the IFS automatically until all items and their changes are restored.

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