Drive image copiers have saved the lunch, dinner and weekend of many system administrators by letting them easily install complex system software on PCs. What has been missing is a server drive-imaging product.
A few years ago, PowerQuest Corp. introduced ServerMagic, a server equivalent of its popular PartitionMagic. ServerMagic lets you change the size of server partitions, copy or move server partitions – even from one drive to another – and perform other tricks. ServerMagic was even shipped with NetWare and Windows NT versions in the same box. While it wasn’t a drive image copier, it was a step in the right direction.
Similar features could be found in Symantec Corp.’s Norton Ghost for NetWare. But when we approached Symantec about reviewing it, we were told the company was no longer actively marketing it.
The ServerMagic package includes the programs ServerMagic, ServerImage, Boot Disk Builder and Remote-Agent. The ServerMagic program lets you manipulate server partitions; ServerImage lets you create and deploy server images; Boot Disk Builder creates boot diskettes for RemoteAgent; and RemoteAgent lets you perform ServerMagic functions on other servers.
The ServerMagic program runs on NetWare 3.2, 4.X and 5.X servers. It installs like most NetWare server resident applications, through the menu of the NetWare Install NetWare Loadable Module. It installed in seconds; mounting the CD-ROM on our server took longer than the rest of the installation. Once installed, we could resize partitions, create and delete partitions, and merge adjacent volumes on the server. As with earlier versions of ServerMagic, the first thing it does is dismount all volumes on the server. While inconvenient, this is necessary to ensure data integrity. We wish PowerQuest would look into ways to avoid dismounting all volumes as soon as the programs are started. The use of an open file manager could all but eliminate the need to dismount the volumes.
The new features, those that will cause system managers to sit up and take notice, are the ability to connect to remote servers running Remote-Agent and control them the way ServerMagic can work with a local NetWare drive. Although some lower-level functions were missing, such as the ability to resize NetWare volumes, we were able to copy a NetWare volume from one server to another. This was faster than using XCOPY, NCOPY or NetCopy. However, it meant that two servers had to be offline during the operation. Still, this gives you the ability to quickly duplicate systems or partitions on a system. One of Remote-Agent’s primary uses is to allow quick system migrations to new hardware. Using RemoteAgent for any purpose other than upgrading, or migrating, a server from one computer to another requires another ServerMagic license.
Fun with ServerImage
Another new feature is the ServerImage program. It is similar to PowerQuest’s DriveImage Pro, except it recognizes NetWare partitions, their structures and free space. Because it installs and runs under DOS, as do all disk-imaging products, it is installed on the DOS partition of the server you want to image. As system manager, you will need to load any special drivers DOS needs to access your hard drives. Once installed and run from DOS, ServerImage can image any partition on your server to a drive in the server, or on any other server you can connect to from DOS.
We created an image of our DOS partition and the NetWare partition that contained the SYS volume. Because many system managers have very customized (and underdocumented) NetWare setups, they are concerned that in the event of a system failure, recreating the setup and getting to the point where their back-up systems can complete the job could take days. After we imaged our server, we felt a profound sense of relief. We could – and did – reinstall NetWare the way it was when we imaged our server, including our ready-to-use back-up system.
The other new program, Boot Disk Builder, lets you create boot disks to boot a system with RemoteAgent so a server running ServerMagic can control it. This is a very important feature, especially if you have system managers who’ve never had to create a DOS boot diskette. The program can boot the system and establish a TCP/IP connection to the server running ServerMagic. The program looks the same as the diskette boot builder PowerQuest includes with DriveImage Pro. It supports a number of network interface cards as delivered, and it is easy to add additional NICs to the boot diskette builder, which helps a system manager support newer devices. However, where the DriveImage Pro version of the program lets the diskette detect a large number of NICs and automatically loads the correct drivers, the ServerMagic version only handles one NIC per diskette. Because most system managers have a good idea of what NIC is in each of their servers, this isn’t a very serious issue, but it would still be nice if multi-NIC support were included in the RemoteAgent Boot Disk Builder.
There were some grammatical errors in the book, and in some places the documentation instructions were confusing. The errors were easy to sort out, but it would have been better to not have to.
Despite the errors in the manual, installation was straightforward. Each part of the package required a separate installation. This might seem somewhat tedious, but each component runs in a different software environment, so a fully integrated installation would be a bit much to ask.
PowerQuest’s ServerMagic is a powerful tool that will let you perform low-level maintenance on NetWare servers quickly, efficiently and safely.
Avery is the founder of Golden Triangle Network Consultants, specializing in network design, management and administration. He can be reached at [email protected]
Sidebar: How We Did It
We tested PowerQuest’s ServerMagic on two Novell IntraNetWare 4.11 file servers. One was a 350-MHz AMD K6-2 based system with a SCSI disk subsystem, the other a 450-MHz AMD K6-2 system using IDE drives. Both used standard Intel Pro 100 Server network interface cards. We looked at ease of use, features and data reliability. While we didn’t encounter any data corruption problems, we weren’t expecting any in this short a test. We installed ServerMagic on one server and used the ServerMagic Remote Agent on the other server to test cross-server functions. We also tested ServerImage on both machines, although we only restored images on the 450-MHz server.
Prices listed are in US currency.