Backup & Recovery, by W. Curtis Preston, ISBN13: 978-0-596-10246-3

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, June 2007
Published by: O'Reilly
Requires: N/A

MSRP: US$49.99, CAN$64.99

Author and technology expert W. Curtis Preston has written a couple of dozen books on a variety of advanced IS/IT subjects, quite a few of which are focused on data backup and data recovery. He's a bona fide expert in several technical fields. Backup & Recovery is packed with practical, freely available backup and recovery solutions for Windows, Mac OS X, Unix and Linux systems and databases. Preston has fully revised his well-known Unix Backup & Recovery book to produce Backup & Recovery. Because this one includes full Windows and Mac OS X coverage, over 75% of the material is new compared to the Unix edition.

Backup & Recovery starts with a complete overview of backup philosophy and design, including the basic backup utilities of tar, dump, cpio, ntbackup, ditto, and rsync. It then explains several open source backup products that automate backups using those utilities, including AMANDA, Bacula, BackupPC, rdiff-backup, and rsnapshot. Backup & Recovery then explains how to perform bare metal recovery of AIX, HP-UX, Linux, Mac OS, Solaris, VMWare, & Windows systems using freely-available utilities. The book also provides overviews of the current state of the commercial backup software and hardware market, including overviews of CDP, Data De-duplication, D2D2T, and VTL technology. The book also covers backup automation of DB2, Exchange, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQL-Server, and Sybase databases, all without using a commercial backup product. Backup & Recovery has been written to support system administrators in environments of all sizes and budgets and is also oriented toward data protection methods which don't involve expensive commercial solutions.


Backup & Recovery functions well as a reference work for system administrators and IS/IT managers. It is not meant to he a How-To or Tutorial on specific uses of specific products and it contains very little step-by-step hand-holding. The expectation is that readers who are already knowledgeable are simply seeking to find a shortcut to the methodology and application of solutions which they already know exist. As always, the best shortcut to clear understanding is a book which is well researched, well organized and thoroughly authoritative. Through his extensive sysadmin work and consultations as a specialist in data backup, Preston has managed to identify a rather large number of needs which are common to a rather large number of businesses. His efforts have produced a usable and readable book.

In any coverage of backup and recovery methods, techniques and software, the most interesting information almost invariably centers on the effectiveness of data restoration or recovery in any situation in which a backup actually has to be put to use. Preston and his contributors are all seasoned with many years of experience in dealing with bad backups, tapes which contain nothing but a handful of garbage, and backup process verification which consistently fails all the while convincing you that all seems to be well. In fact, from our perspective, data restoration and the significant amount of space used in the book to cover this part of the process is one of the reasons it stands above many other competing titles.

Cons: If you're looking for a beginner's tome or even an intermediate introduction to the subject of multi-OS backup and recovery, look elsewhere. This one is primarily for system administrators only. Preston is a bona fide expert in several technical fields and absolutely emphasizes through his extensive and highly accurate use of technical language that Backup & Recovery is not for the newbie, timid or faint of heart. Throughout the book, Preston keeps any mention of or suggestions about commercial backup software products or backup appliances to a minimum. While such a strong emphasis on open source and relatively low cost options is laudable, it doesn't really provide any high-end commercial starting point for legitimate IS managers and system administrators who are pressed for time and need some recommendations.

Pros: It's probably safe to ignore the admittedly minor 'Cons' above because Backup & Recovery really is the book to buy and our current favorite on the subject. Backup & Recovery includes fourteen chapters and sections contributed by twenty different experts, in addition to all of Preston's work. Preston's writing and editing style is fresh and positive and remains one of the reasons this excellent title is easier to read and understand than several of its competitors. At the beginning of each chapter and section, Preston describes exactly what's coming, the point he's going to make or the problem he's going to deal with, and then proceeds to efficiently do exactly what he described. There's little or no information duplication from chapter to chapter. Backup & Recovery contains dozens of well-designed charts and graphical descriptions of various systems, networks, problems and solutions. Excellent support on Preston's web site <>. The book provides broad general knowledge and a wealth of accompanying and directly relevant technical information of tremendous value to IS/KIT managers and system administrators in a wide range of circumstances. Backup & Recovery should be a part of every small, medium and large business technical library. The large number of technical specialists who have contributed specific sections of the book, help make Backup & Recovery a truly expert and comprehensive publication. Highly recommended.

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