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TMC Labs
March 2002


Connected TLM v. 6.1

Connected Corporation
Framingham, MA, 01701
Ph: 508-808-7300; Fx: 508-879-5794
Web: www.connected.com

Price: The TLM Service ranges from $160 to $225 per seat, per year, based upon functionality. The TLM Product ranges from $100 to $140 per seat depending upon functionality. The TLM Data Center server (disk-only) is $6,000. Volume discounts apply.

RATINGS (0'5)
Installation: 5.0
Documentation: 4.5
Features: 4.25
GUI: 4.5
Overall: A-


Connected TLM is a data protection solution that can be purchased as a service or an in-house product. TMC Labs opted to test the TLM service as opposed to the product. The service hosts the Data Center software and hardware requirements including the iRoam Web server.

Installation
If we were going to install Connected's Data Center locally, we would have needed a dual Pentium II or III running at 500 MHz, 512 to 1GB of RAM, and a recommended 100Megabit/sec Ethernet network interface. Also recommended are a 4GB system disk, preferably mirrored, and a tape backup device with at least 35GB (uncompressed) capacity, for database backups (DLT 7000 or DLT 8000 or 35GB AIT or 50GB AIT2). Server software requirements include: Microsoft Windows NT Server 2000, Microsoft SQL Server 2000, Microsoft SQL Server Internet Connecter license, one per processor, and Microsoft IIS 4.

The Data Center servers also provide the functionality for the registration server and a backup server. The Support Center and iRoam servers are Web-based applications, Connected recommends a separate Web server.

Using Connected's data-hosting paradigm, it was necessary for us to install their small, executable setup file to connect with their back-end services. Hardware requirements for the application include 16MB of RAM for Windows 95 and 98, 32 MB for Windows NT, and 64MB for Windows 2000. The application also requires one percent of the client's hard drive space. Upon unzipping and installing the program, we were prompted to begin the registration process, which involved inputting location and password sorts of information. The only issue that may require IT attention during installation may be the firewall prompts. Fashioned to operate through a SOCKS or Proxy firewall, Connected's installation GUI prompts installers for input on what type of firewall their network uses and its IP address. If using the CPE-based software solution, you may additionally have firewalls installed for the data servers; these IPs will also need to be disseminated if users are installing the client on their own.

Features
Connected's product has interchangeable features, or Modules, which Connected touts as their flexible customization model. A prospective buyer of the Connected Services or product can choose which features best suit their back-up and help desk solution.

The Backup/Retrieve module captures and compresses all user data, transferring over the network using Delta Block Technology, which transmits only portions of a file that have actually changed to the Data Center. All data is encrypted using Triple-DES data encryption. iRoam is also included within this module, which provides users with Web access to their back-up files and additionally requires a Web server (if the product is purchased as opposed to the service). The TLM Service provided this functionality for us.

The Heal feature is capable of restoring an entire system configuration, including application, Windows' registry settings, preferences and user data. Heal can also be administered via a CD containing the backed-up data. Backing up data can also be done through the Remote Assist feature (if it's enabled by the Administrator). Remote Assist allows a technician to take control of a user's PC via the Support Center and a TCP/IP connection.

Support Center is a Web-based administrative interface that offers information about user accounts, user statistics, user assets, as well as remote control functionality (if licensed). New accounts, users, technicians, as well as reports and report results are also generated from this interface. Asset Survey is a component of Support Center and is used to collect detailed hardware and software asset inventory information for each backed-up PC and stores it at the Data Center. PC Migration transfers data, operating system preferences, configuration settings preferences and other personalized information typically accumulated over time by PC users.

Other Features Include:

  • CD Maker utility interacts with the Data Center to gather all files for the selected account and assembles them into a compressed archive that can be burned to a CD;
  • Scalable up to 10,000 users or more per pair of Data Center servers;
  • User reports;
  • Technician's knowledge base;
  • Send Once ' parses only new data for transmission to the Data Center, reducing back-up and transmission times.

Operational Testing
The user's interface can be deployed across the network by creating a self-executable file using the Configuration Tool if the CPE-based software solution is purchased. Since TMC Labs was reviewing the service, our client executable was prepackaged by Connected.

Some preferences should be selected before the first back-up begins, if not done at the time of installation. The TLM client initiates back-ups, so ideal days and times should be specified as to not interrupt a user's work schedule. As a failsafe, the software allows a user to specify a local archive to use should an Internet connection not be available to hail the Data Center databases.

The first full-system back-up is the most time consuming. A machine with 3.5 Gigs of data and over 28,000 files needed to be compressed and sent to Connected's databases via the Web. Total runtime for the initial back-up lasted several hours. A Windows 98 machine with almost 1,008,644KB of data on the C drive took only 35 minutes to back-up. The relevant data was compressed to116,522KB and sent to the Data Center within this time period. After the initial back-up we had access to the Connected TLM client, which provided us with a log of activity, statistics and different views for data retrieval.

Heal Wizard
One of the product staples, the Wizard, ranks high among simple data restoration solutions. The Heal Wizard allows users to restore the entire state of a system with several clicks of the mouse. The feature works by comparing the current state of a system against an earlier, functional version, saved at the time of previous back-up. Depending upon preferences selected, the Heal Wizard is capable of restoring OS files, applications, DLLs, .ini files., device drivers, templates and data files.

We deleted several different file types, including a small program and a template, then backed-up our PC manually. In addition, we made changes to certain data files. Last (and unplanned), we had installed a new program on the machine earlier that day. Before being allowed to restore, the user is presented with two choices: roll back OS, application and configurations files, leaving data alone; or rollback all files, including data. We chose to leave the data files alone and kept our fingers crossed. TLM looks for data in application directories that also contain an executable file.

Restoration took about three minutes and upon completion a reboot was necessary. The deleted application was restored, and the application installed after back-up (as expected) was wiped clean upon reboot. All the data files we noted remained intact.

Asset Survey
The Asset Survey software harvests system information from a user's local PC and transmits it to the Data Center for storage with all other account-specific information. Although the clients running on our in- house PCs didn't come stocked with this feature, working with Connected Support we loaded the technician-side software called Asset Viewer. Running on a 98 machine, the Asset Viewer allowed us to take a look at the contents of a machine at Connected's headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts. The results were quite informative. The Viewer gives a technician or administrator a surplus of statistics about a user's machine, including: all applications installed, stored files and hardware; and a Software tab that in a Windows-Explorer format displays the C drive file hierarchy granting access to all files on that drive. Also worth mention is the Hardware tab, hosting additional TCP/IP information, including network addresses of servers, BIOS information, drives, CPU/Bus information, memory and more.

iRoam
iRoam requires a Web server if Connected's CPE-based software solution is purchased, however, since TMC Labs tested a service account, the Web interface was hosted for us by Connected. The Web pages interface with the Data Center, allowing users to access their backed-up data without having to install the client on the remote PC. Logging into the Web site using an e-mail address, iRoam provides access to files from any PC with an Internet connection. Upon log in, users are greeted with a Windows Explorer-style GUI, allowing them to choose which files to retrieve. We tried various file types with success: Word, text files and Excel documents. We thought this feature could prove to be very effective for a company's field force to access documents.

Room For Improvement
iRoam proved to be both a valuable and practical feature, however, we thought it could have been presented in a slightly more intuitive manner. After you've selected a file from the appropriate folder for download, instructions tell a user to click on the 'here' link provided to download the file. After the document loads, it's displayed inside the browser window. To actually retrieve the document and save it to your hard drive requires navigating back to the here link and right clicking to save the target to your hard disk. We would have much preferred having the option to download the file or simply view it from the get-go.

TLM requires a functional operating system to restore files. Generally speaking, this isn't a problem since the demand for restoration of data files and even single documents should be much greater than the re-establishment of an entire PC's hard drive, however, as we all know, there are instances when a PC or its data become so corrupt that it will not boot. In this situation, it would have been a welcome addition if TLM provisioned to create a system recovery disk to boot a PC, thereby enabling the process of data restoration to begin.

We've got to give credit to TLM's log files. Early in the testing phase they were targeted as an area for possible improvement by TMC Labs, however, we were forced to retract our initial observation. Our first thought when rolling back a PC was to have a separate log file to keep track of deleted files, applications, etc.'thereby making it easier for a user to restore this data if necessary. A double-click on a log file from the client GUI (log details) revealed that TLM does indeed keep track of these events.

Conclusion
TLM is available as either an internal infrastructure technology or as a hosted service from Connected. Opting to use the hosted service for our tests provided us with housing of our data; and iRoam enabled access to that data via the Web without the need for the software client. Using the Backup and Self-Healing features seemed to provide a feasible means (in our opinion) for the average PC user to restore data or system files. Similarly, retrieving files using the Explorer-like functionality is also a task easily handled by the typical nine-to-fiver. The Audit feature (Asset Survey), on the other hand, is an impressive tool designed for administrators to capture system and a variety of other information about PCs on their network from the GUI.

Connected's worry-free, low-maintenance ASP product provided TMC Labs with a competent, user-friendly solution designed to simplify the life of an administrator as well as an end user. In our experience, back-ups and restores were fast and without complication. This reviewer had grown accustomed to arriving each morning knowing that if the [email protected] worm happened to use my hard drive as a burrow for several days of revelry, I could always roll back to the pre-party and forget anything else ever happened ' they're always much more fun anyway.

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