Strengths: Restorepoint is extremely easy to install and use, with automated device backups, easy restore functions and good device support
Weaknesses: Nothing of any note
Verdict: Device configuration management doesn't get any easier as TadaSoft's Restorepoint provides a good value solution that's incredibly simple to deploy and use
With downtime a dirty word in today's enterprise networks, administrators have to tread carefully when it comes to making configuration changes to critical network devices. Businesses that don't have any laid-down codes of practice or change-management systems can get into a real mess if they're modifying key switches and routers and the aftershocks can be far reaching - not least with regulatory compliance.
UK-based Tadasoft claims to have the answer with its Restorepoint appliances. These are designed to provide a central point of management for multiple network devices, which securely stores their configurations, backs them up at regular intervals and provides swift restoration facilities.
The RSP-500 solution on review looks good value, as it can handle up to 500 network devices and the price includes the appliance plus a three-year maintenance contract. The appliance itself is a simple, Intel-based, 1U rack unit with a reasonable specification, although the cooling system whistles and wheezes, making it a candidate for the server room. Tadasoft advised us that it is replacing this model soon with a much quieter and more power-efficient system.
A key feature is ease of deployment: we had the appliance up and running in the lab in a matter of minutes. You start with a local connection using a monitor and keyboard where you enter basic network parameters for the management port and then move over to the intuitive web interface. Next is a wizard-based routine where you add your company details and secure the appliance with an encryption password.
Whenever the appliance boots up, it starts in lockdown mode and will not carry out any functions until the encryption password has been entered at the web console. Furthermore, it only allows users with admin status to log in to the appliance at this stage. Three user levels are supported and, along with admin access, you can create accounts that are allowed to back up and restore device configurations or only view the appliance and backup status.
Now you can start adding your network devices and Restorepoint supports an impressive range. It uses plug-ins for each access method and those purchased are automatically downloaded as part of the normal update process. Cisco is naturally on the list, coming with seven different modes. Other choices include Alcatel, Barracuda Networks, Check Point, Extreme Networks, Juniper Networks, WatchGuard.
For testing we introduced Restorepoint to the lab's Cisco Catalyst and HP ProCurve switches. Secure communications between the appliance and device are only possible if the vendor supports this. For our ProCurve switches, a plug-in was available for simple Telnet connections.
You provide the address and appropriate credentials for the device and decide on a backup schedule. Decide how many backups should be kept for the device and, if supported, provide an email address where notifications of configuration changes are to be sent.
We initially came across a minor problem, as one of our ProCurve switches wasn't being accepted - but after a brief investigation it turned out that its firmware just needed upgrading to the latest version. As soon as the devices have been accepted, you can initiate an immediate manual backup of their configuration.
Restoration is simple: selecting the last backup date from the device list shows all the stored backups for it, along with the dates they were taken. Tick the one you want, select the manual restoration button and that's all there is to it. Alternatively, you can schedule a restore job for a specific time and date.
Provided the device uses a text file or a Unix tar archive of text files to store its configuration, you can pick one and view its contents. Even better is the option to select two files and compare contents: Restorepoint will just show the differences between them.
Centralising all your device configurations clearly has big advantages but the appliance does now represent a single point of failure. True, it won't affect your devices if it goes belly up but all backups will cease and you won't be able to access the stored configurations. Tadasoft has this covered as you can archive the appliance's contents to a remote server for disaster recovery.
It's a simple solution that uses CIFS or FTP to copy the appliance's configuration and database files and the archive job can be scheduled to run regularly. There's no need to worry about securing transmissions as the data on the appliance is already encrypted. The same screen also provides an option to restore an archive from the remote location back to the appliance.
There's not much else to see on the web interface with a status screen showing how much storage on the internal hard disk is available, along with the latest critical events and a list of user logins. The appliance's log file can be viewed and filters applied to weed out extraneous information, but this can't be exported into other formats for reporting.
The simplest solutions are often the best and Restorepoint is a prime example as it makes light work of device configuration management. Installation takes a few minutes and the use of plug-ins allows it to support a wide range of critical network devices.