Category: Disaster Recovery

How Should I Back Up My Computer?

How Should I Back Up My Computer?

95% of computer users store information on their computer that they don’t want to lose. If you are one of these, then you should be backing up your computer. If you don’t, you run the very real risk of losing the information stored on your computer. If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. We’ve seen it a thousand times.

There are two basic types of backups. Local backups and remote backups. A local backup is when you back up the information that is stored on a computer to some sort of media that is in the same room as the computer. Examples of local backups include backing up to CD/DVD, flash drives, external hard drives, and similar. A remote backup backs up your information over the internet to another computer that is somewhere else. This is done by subscribing to a remote backup service.

Each type of backup has it’s advantages and it’s disadvantages.

Local backups are faster and can handle more information. They do not tie up your internet bandwidth and they are generally cheaper than remote backups. Not all types of local backups can be automated. That is why, for local backups, we recommend backing up to an external hard drive that you keep connected to your computer. You can set up your backup software to automatically backup to the external hard drive. Local backups protect you against hard drive failure or accidentally deleting something. But if the building where your computer is located burns down or is broken into, then both the computer and the local backup can be destroyed or stolen and you are left without your data.

Remote backups have the advantage that they are automatic. You just set them and forget them. But the biggest advantage to remote backups is that even if the building where your computer is located is destroyed, your data is safe on a server somewhere else. The disadvantages to remote backup are that it uses your internet bandwidth, costs more than local backup, and they cannot handle huge files that change every day.

For the vast majority of situations, we recommend using a remote backup solution. Many people use both solutions. They have a local backup and a remote backup. The local backup can be used to more quickly restore data in case of hard drive failure or accidental deletion. And for critical data, it’s a good idea to have two backup solutions, just to make sure, because a backup solution can actually fail.

To summarize:

  • Your average residential user should just use remote backup.
  • Home businesses or residential users who have critical data and want to minimize downtime should have both a local backup to external hard drive and remote backup.
  • Businesses are a bit more complicated but, in general, should have both a local and remote backup solution.

For remote backup, we recommend Carbonite for home users, home business, and small businesses that do not have a Windows Server. Click here for more information on Carbonite or to purchase it.

For businesses with a Windows Server, we recommend CrashPlanPro. Click here for more information or to purchase CrashPlanPro.

For local backups, we recommend purchasing a Western Digital external hard drive. We don’t recommend using the backup software built-in to Windows. Instead, we recommend you use the free version of Backupper. Backupper does a complete image backup of your computer. If you prefer only to back up critical files, then we recommend using EaseUS Todo Backup.

Whether you use Backupper or Todo Backup, make sure you set it up to automatically back up every day.

Laptop COA and Recovery Discs

Laptop COA and Recovery Discs

About a year ago in July of 2011, our newsletter included an article entitled, “COA’s and Laptops” (http://www.ct-cp.com/?p=1040).  That article talked about how the Certificate Of Authenticy sticker on laptops often gets rubbed off making it difficult to reinstall Windows in the event of a hard drive failure.

In August of 2011 our newsletter included an article entitled, “Recovery Discs” (http://www.ct-cp.com/?p=1054). That article talked about how some computers come with Recovery Discs, but many do not anymore and you have to make them yourselves.

We were reminded of both of those articles this week when a laptop came in with a hard drive failure. The COA sticker was rubbed off and the customer did not have any recovery discs. Two options remained. Either purchase a new copy of Windows 7, or purchase recovery discs from the manufacturer. Recovery discs are much cheaper, so that’s the way we went. Not only does this add expense, but it delays in the repair of your computer.

So we just wanted to remind everyone that if you have a laptop with a Windows sticker on the bottom, put some clear tape over it. You can also write down the license key and/or take a picture of it.

In addition, if your computer did not come with recovery discs, then you should create them ASAP. The process for creating recovery discs varies by manufacturer. If your computer is an HP, for example, you would click on Start and then click on All Programs and then click on HP and look for something like Recovery CD creator. For Dell Computers, you generally use Dell Datasafe to create recovery discs. You’ll want to use blank DVD-R discs to create them and it could take up to 3 discs.

One other note. Some computers come with a disc for reinstalling Windows. This is not the same as a recovery discs. The disc for installing Windows requires the COA license key from the sticker.

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.

 

Mirror Your Hard Drive

Mirror Your Hard Drive

When you hear the word RAID, you probably think of the bug spray. Us techno-geeks, however, think of Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. Originally, RAID was invented so that you could put together several small, less expensive disks and make them work as one larger disk which would cost more than the cost of all of the smaller disks combined. Later, RAID was expanded to include other uses. One of those uses is Mirroring.

To perform RAID mirroring, you need to identical hard drives. You set one up to the primary, and one to be the mirror. Everything that gets written to or changed on the primary also gets done to the mirror. The big advantage to mirroring is that if the primary hard drive fails, you can simply boot off the mirror and work like nothing bad every happened. Then  you come back later and replace the failed hard drive and put the mirroring back in place.

Many consider mirroring to be the best type of backup because it automatic and always up to date. However, RAID mirroring isn’t without its problems. For one, it slows down writes to your hard drive a little since it now has to write it to two hard drives instead of one. In addition, some implementations of RAID are buggy. Another problem with RAID is that many computers do not support RAID. Sure you can purchase a RAID controller to install in your computer, but they aren’t cheap.

Luckily, there is an alternative. Bounceback is a software product that kind of does the same thing as RAID mirroring, but without using RAID. With BounceBack, you still have to have a second hard drive, but that hard drive doesn’t have to be identical to your primary hard drive. In fact, it can even be an external hard drive which anyone can install.

BounceBack will create a mirrored copy of your primary hard drive on a secondary hard drive. You can set it to check every few minutes, or every hour, so it’s not always updating. That’s better for performance.  Just like RAID, if your primary hard drive fails, you can boot off of your secondary drive, and continue to work.

BounceBack comes in several different editions including BounceBack Essential and BounceBack Ultimate.  If you just want to mirror your hard drive, the cheaper BounceBack Essential will do the trick. If you want to do more fancy things like synchronize folders between computers, you’ll want to get BounceBack Ultimate.

If you are interested in BounceBack, click on the link below:

http://www.cmsproducts.com/products/backup_software/bounceback/default.html

One important note about all of this. When you backup to another hard drive, or any media, that stays in the same building as your computer, you are protecting yourself against hard drive crashes, but you aren’t protecting yourself against disasters. If your computer and your backup are in the same building and that building burns down, you’ve lost your data. Hurricanes, tornados, floods, war, or burglary can also rid you of your data along with their backups. This is why we recommend that you have a remote backup in addition to having a local backup. For more information about that, see our website at www.ct-cp.com.

By the way, Cyber Tek Computer Pros is not affiliated with BounceBack or CMS products in any way. We just like their product!

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