Category: Backup

New Backup Service

New Backup Service

We have been selling Carbonite subscriptions for many years and have many customers relying on Carbonite for their backup. In the last year or so, customers have been having quite a few problems with Carbonite. Sometimes it won’t update itself and stops backing up. But the worst problems have been when customers needed to restore data due to a hard drive failure, and Carbonite didn’t have all of their files. That is totally unacceptable. In addition to that, Carbonite prices have gone up twice in the last few years. It has gone from $60/year to $84/year. 

For all of those reasons, we went on a search to find a backup service that works better, has fewer problems, and cost less than Carbonite. After an extensive search, we have settled on a new backup service called Zoolz. Strange name, but good service. This service may not be for everyone. The one feature it does not have is the ability to download backed up files on the fly from their website. We have found, however, that only a couple of our customers need that feature. 

For those customers who purchased Carbonite from us, we will contact you when your Carbonite subscription will be ending and, if you are open to it, switch you to the new service. If not, we can still renew your Carbonite subscription.

For those of you who purchased Carbonite, or some other backup service, from someone else, if you are interested in our new service, let us know when your subscription will be ending and we can switch you over.

And for those of you who don’t have a Cloud backup service, we highly encourage you to get one, whether you get ours or someone else’s. Backups are a must have, these days. Your hard drive can crash. Your computer can become infected with RansomWare. The best things about cloud backup services are that they are automatic and even if your home or business burned down, your files are safe. Every computer that has any important files on it should have cloud backup.

If you have any questions or want to subscribe to our new backup service, please let us know!

Business Continuity Plan

Business Continuity Plan

You have probably heard the term, Disaster Recovery. A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is a plan for how you will recover if your business encounters some sort of disastrous event. In recent years, the term Disaster Recovery Plan has been replaced with the term Business Continuity Plan. This not just a plan for how your business will recover from a disaster, it’s more that than. It’s also a plan for how you can continue to conduct business in the wake of a disaster.

A disaster can be anything from a Fire, flood (natural or from busted pipes), burglary, earthquake, epidemic, hardware failure, software failure, power failure, internet outage, tornado/hurricane/cyclone, phone outage, security breach, employee error, damage by disgruntled employee, and many more. This list may contain some items you hadn’t thought about before.

A disaster like one of the ones listed above is hard enough to deal with on its own. If you have a BCP you don’t have to figure out how your business will continue. You know because the BCP tells you how. All you have to do is implement the appropriate portion of your BCP. Your business may not operate as effectively and efficiently as before, but at least it can operate thereby lessening the impact of the disaster on your business.

A BCP should be implemented by all business including home businesses and those who work from home. A BCP should list the possible disasters that could happen and then have procedures, forms, hardware, software, etc. all listed and ready to go for when a disaster strikes. A BCP doesn’t need to include scenarios that are very unlikely or not possible. Only those scenarios that could happen.

As an example, one scenario might be that a phone service is lost. Perhaps a construction crew accidentally cut the cable to your building. Why you lost phone service is not important. The important thing is how you are going to continue to conduct business. For this situation, your BCP might tell you to purchase (ahead of time) two magic jacks. Then when you lose phone service, you plug in the magic jacks. You forward your current phone line to one of the magic jacks and use that for incoming calls only and use the other magic jack for outgoing calls. Of course, this all assumes that your internet service is working. Another option might be to go out and purchase a few disposable cell phones and use those instead of the Magic Jacks.

A plan outlined for a particular scenario in a BCP may simply describe procedures to follows. It may outline paper forms to use as well. If it does, those forms should already be printed out and ready to go BEFORE the scenario happens.

Each business will have a different set of scenarios that makes sense for that business. One thing that every business should be doing is backing up. Backing up to an external hard drive is a popular and good way to back up. But if your building burns down and both your server and the backup is destroyed, the backup doesn’t help much. That’s why it’s very important to have an offsite backup of some sort in addition to onsite backups.

Your BCP should be something that is cost effective to implement. It would not be cost effective to have another building rented and ready to go stocked with computers and an exact copy of your server. While that type of preparedness would be great so all you and your employees have to do is go to the new building and everything is ready to go for you to conduct business. The problem is that would be too expensive to maintain. A BCP outlines how you can still operate your business in the wake of a disaster, but it should be viewed a temporary solution to be used until normal operations are restored.

A BCP should only include major scenarios that have a large impact on business. Lesser scenarios don’t need to be included. Let’s take the example of a dentist office with four exam rooms. Let’s say the computer in one exam room crashes. Losing one of four exam rooms is an inconvenience, but it’s not a disaster. In that case, the dentist would call Cyber Tek Computer Pros to fix the computer. In the meantime, the dentist would have to reschedule some patients.

If your business works closely with third-party suppliers, then you should work together with them to work out a plan for how you will work together through a disastrous scenario. It’s in your best interest to ensure that your suppliers have BCP’s for their business as well so that if they suffer a major outage of some sort you can lessen the impact it has on your business.

Another important point about BCP’s is that once you set them up, you need to periodically review and update it so that it reflects the changing needs of your business. It’s a good idea to test paper forms and procedures to make sure they actually work.

The bottom line is that we urge all businesses, home businesses, and people who work from home to create a BCP so that they are prepared for these types of situations. Cyber Tek Computer Pros can help with the creation of your BCP.

 

Recovery Disc(s)

Recovery Disc(s)

Did your system come with recovery discs?

Then you have two options. You can create the recovery discs yourself, or you can purchase them from the manufacturer. Of course, it’s a lot cheaper to make them yourself, and it’s easy. But if you wait until you need the recovery discs, it’s too late to make them. At that point, you have to purchase them from the manufacturer and wait until they arrive.

So, if you don’t have recovery discs for your computer, I urge you to create them. To create them, you will need CD-R or DVD-R discs. How many depends on your system. The process to create them is simply a matter of running the program to create them. That program will tell you what you need.

The hard part is finding the program that creates them. Different manufacturers put them in different places and call them different things. For HP computers, for example, you would click on start, all programs and then look for Hewlett-Packard and then HP PC Recovery CD Creator.

I have also seen the Recovery CD creator under All Programs, Accessories.

For Dell computers, you would run Dell DataSafe to create your recovery discs.

Backup Reminder

Backup Reminder

This week we got 2 reminders why it’s so important to back up your computer.

One of our customers had a hard drive failure. The vast majority of the time, we are able to recover data from failed hard drives, but sometimes we can’t. There is a good chance a data recovery specialist could recover the data in this case, but that generally costs anywhere from $500 on up to thousands of dollars depending on the size of the hard drive and what’s wrong with it. This particular customer did not want to pay that much. With no backups, all of his documents, pictures, and so forth were lost.

In this situation, we can put a new hard drive in, install Windows and return the computer in good working order back to the customer, but it won’t have any of the personal data (pictures, documents, music, videos, etc.) that it had before. It won’t have any of the customizations or specialized software either. It will be like it was when the computer was new.

With hard drives, it’s not a matter of whether or not they will fail, it’s a matter of when. That’s because hard drives are mechanical devices with moving parts and at some point, they will fail if you use the computer long enough. The thing is, you never know how long a hard drive will last. It could be 2 months. Or it could be 15 years. But the most likely scenario is that your hard drive will last 3-5 years. In this particular instance, the drive was about 5 years old. But trust me! A brand new hard drive can fail when it’s only a few months old. A brand new drive can be DOA as well. We recently ordered a batch of hard drives for our inventory and 75% of these brand new drives were defective and had to be returned. This is the second time this has happened to us in our 6 years of business.

Hard drive failures are not the only reason to back up. the other reminder I got this week was when I accidentally deleted a bunch of files. I didn’t just delete them, I permanently deleted them, so I couldn’t go to the recycle bin and get them back. But since I have a backup that runs every night, I just went to the backup that had run the night before and restored the files from backup. Crisis averted.

So now that you have been reminded of how important it is to back up, I urge you not to put it off. If you plan to backup tomorrow, something will happen today. The easiest way for residential customers to back up is to sign up for Carbonite. Carbonite backs up your important data over the internet. The great thing about this type of backup is that even if your house burns down, your data is safe. There are also lots of ways you can backup your data locally. You can backup to an external hard drive. If you don’t have a lot of data, you can back up to a flash drive or even a DVD or CD.

If you need help setting up a backup, please contact us. Whether you need our help with it or not, please do not put it off. Implement a backup strategy today!

 

If you ever want to see your data again, send $120 in unmarked bills…

If you ever want to see your data again, send $120 in unmarked bills…

In 2006 an infection called GpCode (AKA PGPCoder) was discovered. This infection would encrypt all of your files. It would then display a ransom note on your computer telling you that if you wanted your files back, you would have to ransom. This type of infection is often referred to as RansomWare. GpCode wasn’t the first infection of this type, but it is the most ruthless and widespread.

Luckily for us, when this infection encrypted your files, it made a copy of the file to create the encrypted file and then deleted the original file. That’s lucky because we could remove the infection and recover the original deleted files using data recovery techniques.

However, a new version of GpCode has been discovered. It still demands a $120 ransom for your data, but now it securely deletes files instead of using simple file deletion. That means we can’t use data recovery techniques to recover the original files. Researchers are working on a way to decrypt these files, but because it uses an RSA-1024 encryption key, it could take years. Until they break the encryption key, the only option to recover files on a computer hit by this infection is to restore from backup.

To help prevent this infection from getting on your computer, please make sure you have good, up-to-date, unexpired security software. It’s also very important to back up your important files. Email, Calendar, pictures, contacts, documents, music, and so forth should be backed up.

The easiest way to back up is to use an external hard drive which can be purchased at any store that carries computer related stuff.

Your External Hard Drive

Your External Hard Drive

With today’s hard drive prices so low, everyone should have an external hard drive connected to their computer so they can back up their data. Most external hard drives come with backup software or you can use the backup software that comes with Windows.

Before you use your external hard drive for the first time, there is a change recommend you make to it. But before I tell you what it is, let me back track and explain something about hard drives.

A hard drive is a place to store information. How that information is organized is called the file system. It’s basically the system of organization of a hard drive. The older versions of Windows like Windows 98 used a file system called FAT32. When Windows NT came out, it introduced a new file system called NTFS. When Windows 2000 came out, it favored NTFS, but also supported FAT32 for backward compatibility. Same is true for XP. Vista and Windows 7 still support FAT32, but you can’t install Vista or Windows 7 on a FAT32 file system. FAT32 support in Vista and Windows 7 is only for secondary drives, external hard drives, flash drives, and so forth.

You may be wondering why I am boring you with this technical explanation of NTFS and FAT32. The reason is that when you purchase an external hard drive, it will have the FAT32 file system on it, not NTFS.  Why? I guess they do it for backward compatibility, although from what I have seen, there are very few computers with Windows 98 or Windows ME around.

Here’s how to convert your drive to NTFS.

First, most external hard drives come with the backup software on the external hard drive instead of coming with a CD that you install. So avoid losing that software, you should copy that from the external hard drive to somewhere on your C drive. If there is any other information on your external hard drive that isn’t on your C drive, copy that as well. The next step will totally erase the external hard drive, so make sure you have copied any important information that was stored on the external hard drive to another drive.

Now, double-click on my computer. Find your external hard drive. Right-click on it and choose “Format” from the pop-up menu. Select NTFS for the file system. Be sure and select “Quick Format” if it’s not already selected. You can give your drive a name here if you want to. Then click start to format the drive with NTFS.

Now you can copy the information you saved from the external hard drive back to it. That’s it. Now you can back up.

Back It Up!

Back It Up!

Everyone intends to back up their important data, but few people actually follow through on it. We see it all the time. We’ve seen a couple of examples this week alone.

One of our customers had a hard drive crash and had not backed up anything. Although we have a good record of data recovery on failed hard drives, sometimes the data is just not recoverable. That was the case here. He lost everything.

Another of our customers is a real estate agent. They share a group of computers. She had a bunch of important documents stored on one of these computers. Someone else in the office, apparantly with a grudge of some sort, deleted all of her data and emptied the recycle bin. We weren’t called in until a couple of days later to try and recover the data. We were able to recover some of it, but most of it was lost. Had we been called immediately, we could have recovered more. And, of course, she had no back up at all.

Whether you use a shared computer or your own computer, you should have some sort of backup of your important data.

There are many different types of backups and many different ways to back up. Our favorite type of backup is the image backup. This type of backup takes a complete snapshot of your computer. If your hard drive crashes, this picture can be put on a new hard drive and installed on your computer. Then the computer will boot up as if nothing bad ever happened. You don’t have to reinstall Windows or all of your programs. This type of backup needs to be saved to a second or external hard drive because it is big.

The other type of backup is a file backup. This type of backup backs up important files. If you have a hard drive crash, you have to install the new hard drive, reinstall Windows, and reinstall all of your programs, but your important data is safe.

There are many ways to create a file backup, both manual and automatic and many different types of media you can back up to. Everyone should be doing a file backup at the very least. Important data to back up includes e-mail, contacts, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, financial data (Quicken, Quickbooks, Peachtree, etc), photos, music, and much more. Any piece of information that you don’t want to lose.

 
How you back up and what media you back up to depends on what you are backing up, how big it is, how important it is, and how often it changes. It also depends on how regimented you are on backing up.

This is a very large subject and I can’t visit every possibility in this article, but I wanted to mention a few important things.

The ultimate backup strategy is to have an image backup to a secondary drive (internal or external) coupled with a remote backup (back up over the internet). This is complete protection and provides the quickest way to get your computer back online when the hard drive dies. It is a total system backup locally, but still protects you with remote backup in case both your computer and the local backup are destroyed, in a house fire, for example.

 
You can just do remote backups if the amount of data you are backing up isn’t huge.
You can also back up to USB drives, also known as flash drives, jump drives, and thumb drives. The prices of these drives have come way down in the last couple of years. I bought a 2GB flash drive for $65 in 2006. Now you can buy a 4GB drive for $10. And you can get them as big as 64GB these days. Those, of course, cost more. Around $130.
 
The point is, a USB flash drive is cheap and can hold a lot of data. They are easy to use too. Much easier than burning to CD’s. And they hold a lot more data. a 4GB flash drive holds about five and a half times more data than a CD. And since they are so cheap, you can get several of them and back your data up to 2. Keep one at the house and one at the office. Or keep one in a saftey deposit box or at a friend or relative’s house. Just in case.
 
And did we mention you should back up your data?
Top 10 Technology Mistakes

Top 10 Technology Mistakes

The following is a list of the top 10 technology mistakes that people make. If you are just a casual home user, some of these may be less important. But in a business, all of these are important.

 

 
1. Rely on Weak Tech Support
Relying on weak tech support from computer and software manufacturers is a big mistake. When you call them, you get someone in a foreign country that you have a hard time understanding. They are often times poorly trained.

Instead, develop a relationship with a local information technology company (like Cyber Tek Computer Pros) that can resolve problems faster, minimize future problems, and more.

 

2. Old or Cheap Computers

The older a computer gets, the more likily it is to fail. Cheap computers are often made with low-quality parts and fail sooner and more frequently. If your computers are important to you, especially if you are running a business and downtime costs you money, then we recommend purchasing good quality computers and replacing them every 3-4 years.

 

3. Inadequate Power Protection
Every computer, monitor, printer, cable modem, router, and any other expensive or critical electrical device, should be plugged into a good surge protector. Most power strips offer poor protection against lightning. Make sure your surge protectors say they protect against lightning and they should come with a protection policy.
 
Every server or critical computer should be plugged into a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply). This protects against surges and lightning, but also protects your computer from power outtages. If the power goes out, you can run the computer for a little bit, but then it will automatically shut down the computer to prevent data loss.
 
Any computer, fax machine, or printer hooked up to a phone line should have a surge protector on that phone line as well.
 

By the way, all surge protectors and UPS’s should be replaced every 3-4 years as their circuits wear out over time.

 

4. Illegal Software
Many software companies, like Microsoft, are very aggressive about suing companies who steal their software. Many of today’s software report back to the software maker so they pretty much know who’s stealing from them.
 

Purchase software only from reputable vendors. Keep product keys, certificates, licenses, etc in a safe place. Why risk getting sued?

 

5. Inadequate Training
Statistics show that most employees use software in inefficient ways. They get the job done, but there are often better, quicker ways to do what they need to do.
 

Make sure you and your employees are well trained on how to use your software.

 

6. Weak Security
The biggest threat to your computer and your business is lack of security. Protecting your computers means keeping out the bad guys. Competitors and criminals could try to break into your computers. And the even bigger threat of viruses and spyware which we will talk about later in this list.
 

Use strong, secret passwords on every computer. Critical data should be password protected as well. Your network should also be protected by a firewall.

 

7. Insufficient Backups
The vast majority of home users have no backup. Many companies have no backups. Those who have backups often have insufficient or very old backups. Statistics show that if a business suffers a lose of critical data, there is a 90% chance that business will go out of business within 2 years.
 

Make sure you are backing up your critical data. There are many different types of backups and backup methods. We recommend local image backups on critical systems and remote file backups for critical data. With this system in place, even if a hurricane swept through the city and destroyed your home and business and every computer you had, you won’t loose your critical data.

 

8. Viruses
Viruses can slow your computers down, cause data loss, corrupt windows and render a computer unusable. They can cause network outtages, cause your internet service provider to turn off your internet access, and can turn your computers into zombies.
 

To avoid this, make sure you have a good, up-to-date anti-virus package. Scan computers daily. Avoid free security programs. Prohibit the use of file-sharing programs. Filter out harmful websites.

 

9. Spyware
These days, spyware is just as bad, if not worse, than viruses. The only difference is that spyware generally doesn’t harm your computer other than slowing it down. It can be dangerous, though, because it aims to steal information.
 

To help avoid spyware, make sure you have a good, up-to-date anti-spyware package. Scan computers daily. Avoid free security programs. Prohibit the use of file-sharing programs. Filter out harmful websites.

 

10. Spam
Most home users and every business should have some sort of spam protection. Spam not only slows down computers, e-mail servers, and wastes vauable network bandwidth, but a lot of malicious software (viruses, spyware, etc) are spread via spam.
 
If your buisness has it’s own e-mail server, install an anti-spam package there. If not, either take advantage of your e-mail providers anti-spam functionality, or install anti-spam software on all of your computers.
 
If you read your e-mail on the web, then you pretty much have to rely on your e-mail providers anti-spam (bulk mail) protection. If you use an e-mail client like Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Windows Mail, or Windows Live Mail, you should know that Outlook, Thunderbird, Windows Mail (Vista only), and Windows Live Mail have junk mail features built-in. Outlook Express doesn’t have any junk mail features.
 
While we are on the subject of e-mail clients, if you are using Outlook Express or Windows Mail, we recommend you download and install either Windows Live Mail or Thunderbird and use one of these instead. They are both free. They are more stable, have fewer problems, and have junk mail features.
 
You can get Windows Live Mail by going to http://get.live.com/wlmail/overview and you can get Thunderbird by going to http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/thunderbird/.
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