• Greg Baker

When Disaster Strikes

Are you prepared?

No, I’m not talking about the upcoming zombie apocalypse or a [insert candidate’s name here] presidency.  While these are important considerations, let’s keep the conversation technical.  Let’s talk about your data.

First question, do you have any critical data?  If I were to say that all of the information on your computer was going to be irrevocably erased in 1 hour, does a streak of pain shoot through your body?  Does the mental image of a photo album or Quicken file instantly appear in your head?  If so, this is a sign you might have a problem.

As with most things, the first step to recovery is simply realizing the problem.  But what do you do next?  Several different approaches, and a multitude of software, exist to backup data.  As you explore options to protect your data, a couple of items become clear.

First, data backup is not fire-and-forget.  If you are expecting to install a software package and never follow-up, please just go ahead and throw your hard drive in a shredder.  It’ll save you time.

Secondly, good disaster recovery plans don’t happen by accident.  Developing a DR plan requires several, intentional steps.  Identifying data locations, understanding application impacts, creating a strategy to minimize downtime – all these items must be addressed.  Bottom line…if you don’t think about recovery ahead of time, don’t whine about losing your kid’s baby pictures after you get hit by crypto.

The number of different backup systems on the market is almost innumerable.  Many of them are OK; some of them are quite bad.  If your job depends on knowing acronyms such as RTO and RPO, your best action is to enlist the help of an experienced IT team.  You’ve got a few great choices in town.  Obviously, we’d love to help you at CMA, but (borrowing from the old Charter slogan), if you can’t get help from us, please get help somewhere!

If you’re more concerned about your home computer, architecture can play a big role.  If you’re on a Mac, Time Machine is probably the solution of choice.  Time Machine will automatically backup to an external drive, and the software provides a reasonable interface to restore files back to the system.  Just remember to keep the hard drive to Grandma’s or some other location different from where you keep your computer.

If you are using a PC, the cloud is your friend.  Several reputable cloud backup solutions exist that store backup copies of your file in the cloud.  I would suggest Carbonite.  These systems are automated and easy to use.  The major downside to the consumer cloud services is restore.  If you have to restore directly from the cloud, it may take a while.

Finally, don’t forget to periodically test your backup.  Nothing is more frustrating than opening your backup only to discover that it’s corrupted, unrecoverable or otherwise hosed.  Again, think of those baby pictures.  Isn’t worth a check every few months to make sure you’re not left with only memories?

Teknique – Robocopy is an extremely powerful tool for transferring and backing up files in the Windows environment.  If you often run into situations that require a mass transfer of files, I’ve posted some ways to use Robocopy to make your life easier.  Read about it at http://blog.cmaaugusta.com.


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