So after many months of trudging through native SQL Server backups for new mission-critical application I'm deploying, I have decided to do some evaluations and cost/benefit analyses on aftermarket SQL Server backup products. I've started off with SQL Backup 5 from Red Gate. No disclaimers here - I have no affiliation with Red Gate except that they are kind enough to allow me to blog on SqlServerCentral.com (which is owned by Red Gate).
The download and installation of this product was very straightforward - the download is just under 50mb and includes the entire suite of applications on the SQL Toolbelt. I installed only the Backup tool, which was ready for use in under 5 minutes. The interface is very clean in intuitive, and allowed me to register my test server and view its backup history.
To actually backup and restore on my test server (to which I am connecting remotely), I have to install a server-side component. This process happened quickly (less than a minute), and resulted in the addition of a new service (SQL Backup Agent) on this test machine. This service is required to schedule backup jobs from within this application, as it appears that SQL Backup 5 does not rely on the SQL Server Agent service to run scheduled backups. Note that the server-side piece must be installed on the server even if you are not running scheduled jobs.
I ran a baseline backup using native SQL backup tools on my database. The database, somewhere north of 26gb in size, generated a 17gb backup file in just under 1/2 hour. Restoring this backup file to a new database took about 10 minutes. By comparison, the same backup using Red Gate SQL Backup 5 took just over 16 minutes and created a backup file a little less than 3gb in size; restoring this file took about 6 minutes. These operations were done using the default settings in SQL Backup 5, including a compression level of 2 (the middle-of-the-road) setting, and bypassing the Multiple Threads option. The total time for a restore + backup operation (which will be required for our datawarehousing app) would be cut down to just over half the original time required, which was not as good as what I had hoped. However, the size of the resulting file was less than 20% of the original size, which is right in line with my expectations.
I was interested to find that SQL Server reports the last backup date as the date and time at which I ran the backup from SQL Backup 5, which surprised me since this is a third party app and not truly integrated with SQL Server.
Licensing seems to be straightforward - the SQL Toolbelt, an all-inclusive suite of SQL Server administration tools, includes one server license for SQL Backup 5. Additional server licenses are available as well, and licenses for test/demo installations are available at 30% of list price. One important item of note is that the gentleman I spoke to by telephone at Red Gate indicated that we will need a license for both nodes of our SQL cluster, though the second node qualifies for the same price break as a test/demo machine.
My eval version of this product expires in a few weeks, and in the meantime I plan on pushing it further by testing some of the advanced features (changing compression levels, using multiple threads, etc.) to see how it responds. I'm also interested in hearing from others who have used this product - please ping me or just comment here if you've had experiences, good or bad, with Red Gate SQL Backup 5. I plan to eval at least two more products in this category as well in the coming weeks and months, and I'd appreciate any feedback.