Review: Aelita ERDisk for Active Directory
By Peter A. Bromberg, Ph.D.
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Peter Bromberg


Businesses today depend greatly on the availability of the computing environment. As many of us have found out , especially over the last two years or so, computer systems are vulnerable, and one cannot count on everything always going right. Far-sighted managers never lets things drift; they strategize about adequate proactive measures.

That's where products like Aelita ERDisk and ERDisk for Active Directory come in. Microsoft provides fairly substantial backup options in WIndows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003. However, they leave a lot of features to be desired and can be cumbersome to use.

Aelita ERDisk enables you to perform the following:

  • Centralized management of ERD creation
  • Fast recovery, typically within a few minutes
  • Remote, unattended recovery of failed systems
  • Recovery of unbootable systems

ERDisk provides for 10-minute system recovery for Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows 2003. It simplifies and automates the process of preparing for and recovering from a disaster, such as the corruption of system configuration data:

  • Backup data centralization. From a central console, you can store, update and manage the backup data from all network computers in a centralized, secure storage location.
  • Remote restore. In most cases, you will be able to restore and reboot the failed systems remotely.
  • Unconstrained recovery data. You can use as many floppy disks as you want. Alternatively, ERDisk can automatically create a bootable recovery CD for you.
When you work with remote computers, ERDisk uses agents to speed up processing, making it possible to backup virtually every server in the enterprise from a single MMC snap-in interface.

The agent compresses the local system configuration data and sends the compressed data to the administrative computer, which places it into the Central Storage Location. This decreases the network load, enhances scalability, and provides the flexibility to create backups on multiple machines concurrently.

Active Directory contains large volumes of business-critical data and performs essential functions for network security, authentication, administration and management. The reliable operation of the entire network depends on Active Directory. A network administrator's two biggest concerns are making reliable backups, and protecting the hard work she's done configuring the Active Directory store.

In a large, distributed environment a great number of people, including network managers, administrators and help desk personnel, have administrative access to Active Directory. Active Directory is frequently modified, and these changes propagate rapidly to all domain controllers. The quick backup and recovery of Active Directory becomes a business critical matter.

Aelita ERDisk for Active Directory provides for the easy, wizard - driven backup of these mission-critical systems. Backups of AD, just like the backups of System State, COM+, Registry and system files, can be easily scheduled to run automatically and unattended at the specfied times and on the specified machines.

I found ERDisk very easy to install, and the user interface is intuitive and useful:

As can be seen from the screen shot above, there are wizards for the most important operations, and users also have the option to set fine-grained configuration options manually. Intelligent Backup Resources is a particularly useful feature that allows for the custom integration of service packs and hotfixes into the backup scheme.

One of the most useful features is the ability to create a bootable ISO image that will boot into the Emergency Repair Console on a non-bootable box that has blown up. This is one of the first things I did with the product, and it was a breeze.

Another useful feature for Active Directory users is the ability to do a compare of your live AD with a recent backup, and get a complete report of all the objects that have changed. With ERDisk for Active Directory, you can recover Windows Server 2003 Active Directory objects—even individual object attributes—online, without rebooting domain controllers. ERDisk for Active Directory is certified for Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Windows 2000 server, and is HP OpenView Certified.

ERDisk for Active Directory is priced by the number of users on the network. Pricing starts at $6 per protected user account, with discounts at higher volumes. All pricing includes the first year of support and maintenance. I can't comment on specific pricing because it is based on the number of user accounts; however, you can go to the site, read up on more about this product, and request a quote for your particular enterprise configuration.

My analysis? There will be network administrators who get ER Disk, and those who do not. The ones who have it will be blessed with lower blood pressure and more secure jobs, among other nice benefits. Recommended.


Peter Bromberg is a C# MVP, MCP, and .NET consultant who has worked in the banking and financial industry for 20 years. He has architected and developed web - based corporate distributed application solutions since 1995, and focuses exclusively on the .NET Platform.