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Toolbox: New Products for IT Professionals

Streamline your enterprise-wise backup and recovery operations and your command prompt dashboards with this month’s tools.

Greg Steen

CrashPlan PROe

Performing back-ups is never a simple task, and the complexities scale with the size of your environment. Choosing what you really need to back up, how often you need to back up and managing when you back up is no simple feat for even a relatively small organization. 

You have to do it, though. Doing it well can save you a lot of headaches, and perhaps even your job. CrashPlan PROe from Code 42 Software Inc. aims to simplify the complexities of implementing and managing site-wide backup and restore. CrashPlan PROe is a client/server backup system with a centralized management interface that lets you easily leverage your existing infrastructure to provide custom, reliable and easily managed backups across the enterprise. 

The CrashPlan PROe Server software is free and easy to install. You then purchase client licenses and install the CrashPlan PROe Client software on the machines you wish to back up. You can also do so remotely, pushing the client software to your endpoints. You can even automatically push updates to your clients as well. You can also purchase optimized hardware with the CrashPlan PROe software, ready to go directly from Code 42.

The server and client software runs on a variety of platforms, including various flavors of Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Solaris. Each client backs up its data to clustered storage that you define and administer via the administrative Web application. CrashPlan PROe software can automatically and dynamically back up your data across storage nodes to ensure a balanced and effective storage management plan.

CrashPlan PROe is designed for the enterprise, giving you fault tolerance, clustering and replication to ensure viable backups and restoration across virtual, physical and geographical destinations. The software also has built-in quality-of-service and bandwidth-throttling features to ensure you don’t saturate your network with simultaneous backups or restoration. 

You manage CrashPlan PROe primarily through the Web-based interface, which means you don’t necessarily need physical access to the machine on which the software is installed. The administration console has a dashboard showing you the number of nodes, the current inbound and outbound data flows, the number of backups and restores over various time periods, and even a location map. 

If you work in a larger organization where you have multiple layers of operators, you’ll appreciate the organization and user management that lets you permit various operations based on operator accounts. In terms of authorization and authentication, CrashPlan PROe integrates with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, Open Directory and Active Directory. Your users can back up and restore files using their standard username and passwords.

The software also has great reporting and auditing features. You can configure and receive automatic reports and alerts. You can also audit and enforce usage, activity, retention policies and alerts, all of which are easily configured through the Web interface. 

You license CrashPlan PROe on either an annual basis or a perpetual license. A CrashPlan PROe annual license runs $25 per device, per year that you want to back up. Perpetual licenses vary by the number of computers you want to back up, starting at $345 for a five-pack with discounts as you increase volume (for example, a 50-pack will run $3,000). A perpetual license includes one year of support, after which you’ll need to purchase support for each license to keep up with support and upgrades. Additional support and maintenance plans are available. You can evaluate CrashPlan PROe Server with a 30-day free trial.

CrashPlan PROe

ConEmu-Maximus5

The Windows command-line interface (CLI) or command prompt can be an invaluable tool to help speed up your day-to-day operations. However, it may seem lacking in a few options and features. One open source project that aims to make your command-line experience on Windows systems more fulfilling is ConEmu.

ConEmu is, as the name suggests, a console emulator for Windows. ConEmu doesn’t provide a particular shell (such as cmd.exe), but rather a smooth wrapper window around the shell of your choosing. ConEmu gives you a tabbed interface, which lets you quickly add, remove and switch between various console windows. Unlike a standard console, you can easily resize the console window the same way you would a “normal” GUI application. 

To create a new console, simply click the plus icon or right-click on the tab bar. The new console dialog will appear, and you can then pick the shell you wish to use, such as cmd.exe or FAR Manager. You can also add a startup directory, or run the console as the current user, an administrator or as any other user for which you have credentials. 

For even quicker access, you can set up default console settings with your favorite shell. You’ll have quick one-click access to new console tabs. Besides using the tabs to switch between consoles, you can also use the button to the left of the plus icon to create new consoles. This gives you a dropdown of all the currently active consoles, which is handy if you have many open at the same time. 

At the bottom of an active console, ConEmu provides a useful and customizable status bar, which gives you details about the currently active console. For example, you can see the active process name along with its PID; the visible console size; buffer size; the state of the Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock keys; and so on. To customize the notification bar, simply right-click and choose the options you wish to see or hide. 

ConEmu has built-in editing features so you can copy and paste text within console windows. There’s also a useful find-text feature, which is great for searching out data from a huge output buffer. The Settings panel is where ConEmu really shines, as it lets you tailor your experience to meet the needs of your day-to-day console activities. You can change the font along with its weight, width, cell spacing and anti-aliasing to make your consoles more readable. You can also change the character set (such as ANSI, OEM or Chinese Big 5). You can set the foreground text color, background text color or add a background image to your console. ConEmu even supports background transparency, so you can tie it in with your favorite Aero theme. 

Perhaps of more value is the ability to set the height and width of the console. You can dynamically resize the console window as well. There are also settings for text selection, mouse-button actions and buffer options. You can maximize your console window or even go full-screen. Within the settings, you can customize the look, feel, and functionality of the tabs and status bars. 

There are options for customizing how ConEmu integrates into the Explorer context menus as well. If you’re a fan of FAR Manager, there are a number of options for that, too. One of my favorite ConEmu features is the ability to add custom predefined tasks or command groups to the quick-access menus. These provide customized actions with all the parameters and options you need in one or two clicks. You can then add these tasks to the Windows taskbar (Jump Lists) for easy reuse. ConEmu will also store commands from your usage history if you so choose.

So if the standard Windows command prompt isn’t giving you all the features you need to effectively utilize the CLI, try out the free, open source and actively developed console emulator ConEmu.

ConEmu-Maximus5

Greg Steen
Greg Steen is a technology professional, entrepreneur and enthusiast. He’s always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA and development easier for the IT professional.

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