Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

4/4/2013

Backups and Data Recovery – Home Edition – Part 1

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Fun Work,Geek Work,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“Two is one and one is none”.

I’ve quoted that a lot over the years.  I’ve reminded people over and over again that just moving your data to an external drive is NOT a backup.  If you can’t afford to destroy it, then it’s not backed up.  I’ve said all those things.
And, yet, on Tuesday, I lost data because it wasn’t backed up.

As many long-time readers know, I’m an amateur photographer.  In the past five years, I have taken over 18,000 photographs.
On Tuesday evening, the network attached storage device, an [amazon_link id=”B004I3ZTU6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]IOMega two terabyte personal cloud edition NAS[/amazon_link], to be exact, died.  Or, more specifically, the drive inside it died.  The sad thing was that I was preparing to copy it all to another device when it bit the dust.  Oh, sure, I still have a little over 4,000 of the best shots uploaded to my Flickr photostream, but, it’s not the same.  (I talked a little bit more about the backup portion and the loss over at my other site, JKHoffman.com)
So, here’s what I’ll be doing; First, I’m investigating the data recovery services of DataRetrieval.com and Second, I’ll be ordering two more large drives for my Pogoplug to store and backup my photos from here forward.

Let’s take these in reverse order.
I plan on adding a new feature to this blog called “Tools for Tuesday” which irregularly reviews various tools, software and hardware and even non-computer, that I’ve used and enjoyed over the years.  One of those early reviews will be of the fantastic Pogoplug.  In a nutshell, for those who aren’t familiar, this little beauty lets me attach up to four USB-based drives at a time to my network.  They can be any kind of USB drives I happen to have available.  Right now, I have two one-terabyte drives in generic enclosures hooked up to it.  They are set up as a master and a mirror drive.  In other words, one drive is where I put all my “stuff” and the Pogoplug automagically mirrors it to the second drive.
It’s really, really nice and when I have the right software installed on my various machines, I can map a drive to that device via the internet and upload to my own personal cloud in my server closet at home.  It’s very nice, albeit a little slow sometimes when I’m away from home.  Still, it’s private and reasonably secure and automatically backing itself up.  I’ve confirmed that two of these devices in separate locations can be used the same way, make a truly redundant mirror, if you really want to do that.  (I do, but I haven’t gotten around to getting the second Pogoplug and setting it up on another network somewhere.)
I really cannot convey how happy I have been with this setup.  I’m super, super impressed with this as a low-rent solution for the small or home business person, or, like me, the hardcore hobbyist.
So, by the time you all are reading this post, I’ll have ordered two three-terabyte USB drives of some kind.  And, clearly, I’ll be setting them up in a similar configuration as the ones I already have, so that one backs up the other.

I’m also sending my drive off to DataRetrieval.com to get an estimate on restoring the data.
I chose them because they had an office in Houston, and I like using local businesses.  Also, they sent me a free shipping label to send the drive to them to get an estimate, which I like.  And, yes, I did try several things to get the data back myself, including the ultimate hard drive “Hail Mary”; the “frozen drive” trick.  I only got as far as seeing the drive, but not being able to access any of the partitions.  And, based on the horrible clicking noise it was making, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take getting the platters out and mounted in their special recovery equipment to get the data off.
I’m choosing slow over expensive, so it may be a couple weeks before I hear back from them with an estimate.  And, depending on how pricey it gets, I may not even decide to follow through and have them recover it.  But, I have to admit, it really hurt to lose five years worth of my photography, even if I don’t really go back to the old stuff all that often.  Now, if I were a professional photographer, or a business owner, I’d pay through the nose to get that data back, but for me, it’s really not hugely important.  Still, I’ll be interested to see, and share, what the quote is and how it’s handled by the service techs at DataRetrieval.com

So, stay tuned!  I don’t know how long it will take, but I promise to do a Part 2 when I get the data recovery quote!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
   --Proverbs 27:22 (KJV)

12/8/2010

Backup Plan Review

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

It’s almost the end of the year and most people are wrapping up projects and thinking about how they’re going to squeeze in their last vacation days.

But, not if you’re in IT.
No, if you’re one of the over-worked, under-paid technology “elite” in the corporate world, you’re working harder than ever right now.  While everyone else is taking time off, you, like me, are trying to get all the system maintenance done that requires everyone else to be off your systems.   Well, while you’re waiting for them to get out of the office so you can start your work, here are some things to think about.

When was the last time you had to restore a backup?  Have you ever even tried to restore any files from those backups that you worked so hard to get running right when you setup your servers?  Well, now is the time to try it.  Trust me on this, but you don’t know how good your backup is until you try to restore.  Now, you may not be able to do a full server restore on fresh hardware, but, if you can, do it.  That’s the only true test of your disaster recovery plan.  Barring that, though, at least try to restore some files from random places on the server, just as a check to make sure it works.

And, while we’re talking about backups, how is your off-site rotation working?  If you’re in a large company, you probably have a long-standing system for rotating backups off-site in case of a massive disaster, but many smaller companies don’t.  Generally, what I suggest to people is that there should be one full backup off-site, one coming back or leaving, and one on-site.  The most current, usually, should rotate off-site just after completion and be off-site for two weeks, or, really, off-site for one week and coming back on the second.  There are plenty of  services to do this, but even just taking them to the network manager’s house is better than nothing.  Just somewhere relatively secure that’s not the same as the site you’re backing up, just in case the entire building catches fire or is demolished in a hurricane.  You get the idea.

Now, something else to consider, if you run Windows Server is Active Directory.
Mostly, your backup program should be taking care of this, but sometimes funky change creeps in when you don’t expect it.  Back in the days when I was more than an IT department of one, I was a big believer in getting baselines.  Every once in a while, it’s nice to take a snapshot of what’s working so that when it inevitably breaks, you can see what might have changed to break it.  This is especially true of things like Active Directory.  Every year, AD gets more and more complicated and, as your network grows, your individual AD tree will get more complicated, too.  Now, assuming that things are running well, is a great time to take a snapshot of your AD tree for a baseline to use in the coming year.
Tech Republic has a good article on how to use a free tool from Sysinternals to do just that.  Check it out.

And, for those of you who don’t have an IT department, or are a sole-proprietor, don’t think you can just slide, either.
Chances are your clients are taking more time off and you’ll have some down-time, too, so now is the perfect time to review your backup plans.  Many of you may not have much of a plan, or much of a budget to get something working for you.  Well, don’t worry, Tech Republic has some creative suggestions for backups to fit most situations. Do yourself a favor and go check them out now.  Then actually implement one before the start of the new year.  Do it now, before you need to restore data from a crash.

Trust me.  Make sure your backups are running before you need them.  You’ll thank me later.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are."
   --Clive James


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