The Windows NT backup utilities suffer from serious deficiencies in their tape drive support, scheduling capabilities, and other features. However, Windows 2000 has a backup program that provides all of the essential functions required by a network backup program and a few extras as well. (Of course, there's always room for improvement.)
One of the shortcomings of the Windows 2000 Backup program is that because the backup set catalogs are stored on the backup media themselves, you can't tell whether a particular file is on a tape without loading it so that the program can read the catalog. Some third-party backup products store the catalog information in a database on the local drive, enabling you to search for particular files (and even particular versions of files) to discover which tape you must use to restore them. This procedure can require a lot of extra disk space, but if you perform frequent restores, the sacrifice can be worthwhile.
Although Windows 2000 Backup supports backing up to CD-RW media (if you have packet-writing software such as Roxio's DirectCD installed), it doesn't support disk spanning (the ability to save the backup to multiple disks). This, combined with the lack of CD-R support (CD-R disks are much cheaper than CD-RW disks), makes the Windows 2000 Backup program less than useful when paired with CD burners. Fortunately, most third-party backup programs support both CD-R media and disk spanning, allowing you to back up to multiple CD media (although your patience might be taxed if backing up more than a couple of gigabytes).
Most third-party programs also simplify the process of creating a media rotation scheme by enabling you to specify the types of jobs you want to run each day and indicating when to run them. The program takes charge of the tape labeling by telling you which tape to insert each day and assigning it a new name. After overwriting each tape a specified number of times, the program advises you to retire it and add a new tape to the rotation. This also makes restoring to a specified file easier because the program can tell you by name exactly which tape you need to restore from.
Some network backup solutions also provide additional capabilities such as modules that enable you to back up certain types of files while they're in use or that allow you to back up workstations running non-Windows operating systems. Although third-party network backup solutions are no longer necessary, they can provide simplified backup administration and expanded capabilities.