Friday, 14 December 2012

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Most people Say “YES” when asked if computer backups are important.

Often the answer is “NO” when asked if they have up to date backups in more than one place.

3 simple questions

  1. Do you have a good backup process with have up to date backups?  “Yes”, award yourself 3 stars.
  2. Do you copy your backups to a second location or take a copy off site? “Yes” award yourself 2 stars.
  3. Do you practise restore and test your backup periodically? “Yes” award yourself 1 star.

Add up your stars

“3 stars”, the likelihood is you have all your eggs in one basket.  If there is a fire or someone steals your computers you may have nothing to go back to.

“5 stars”, you are on the way to being a bit of a star yourself.

“6 stars”, you are a star (but don’t become complacent).

What next

Less than “3 stars”, it is time to think seriously about your backup position.

“3 stars” is good, but you could do better.  Think about having a second copy of your backup in a different location.

“5 stars” is almost perfect.  You only need to practise and prove that all is OK.

“6 stars” is practically perfect.  Don't be smug, are you the only one?  What happens when you are away?

What would it take to make you a star?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Don’t slip up, backup!

I like this slogan that my colleague Emma came up with, it is only too easy to slip up and ignore your backups.  The best way is to have some form of automated backup process that works in the background and only alerts you if it has not worked, but it is always good to check occasionally.

There are several ways to look after your data and each one has its merits and drawbacks.  The simplest and often easiest is to copy your files to another drive or the cloud.  This can be very simple and works well for simple file data, but as you move to database and shared applications this approach may not be adequate.  If you lose your computer, or if it fails, you will have to rebuild a new one with all your applications before putting the files back.  This can be a time consuming and painful process.
We have found from bitter experience that “image” based backups work best, they allow you to restore the complete computer, operating system, applications and data.  The backup image can be put onto different hardware and you can be up and running in a short time with a minimum of fuss. 
We think image based backups are a “no brainer” for server and shared computers as you can also use the same process to transfer your server to updated or new hardware, almost without interrupting people using the server.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Disaster does strike

Although you plan to avoid disasters they will always happen, usually from a combination of circumstances that you have not anticipated or thought extremely unlikely.  What is more there may be some additional twist that will make sure recovery is not straight forward.

A week ago one of our customers lost several key servers that needed to be restored so that the business could get back to normal operation.  I am pleased to report that ShadowProtect from StorageCraft did the job and we were able to bring the servers back on different hardware, but it was not an easy ride and the experience reinforced several points.
1 Test your disaster recovery process so that you know
  • How long it will take
  • The equipment you will need
  • There will be no critical decisions to make
  • You can be confident because you have done it at least once
2 Restoring large quantities of data can take a long time.  Business data is continually growing; do you really need to restore 1.5TB of data for the system to work? Will it be 3TB next year?

3 If you lose your servers you will need alternatives to restore to. In this case there was almost sufficient capacity available; only one new server had to be provided.
4 There is nothing worse than going through an 18 hour restore process for it to fail because of some equipment incompatibility and you have to start again.  On this occasion we hit a 2TB to 3TB disk compatibility issue; we had to do some fast thinking and start again.

5 The benefit of practice and following a documented process cannot be underestimated when the pressure is on and people want to know when they can get back to work.
Everyone will agree that practising the DR process is a good idea, but they do not always want to pay or make time for it.  If you are responsible for this do not be put off, you need to do everything you can to reduce stress and ensure success in the event of disaster.

There are many things that I will look at in more detail over the coming weeks.