Why Is Disaster Recovery So Difficult?

In the past 10 years many businesses have switched from tape-based backup systems to diskbased backup. Tape systems tend to be difficult to manage and much slower than disk-based systems not only for creating backup, but for restoring them as well. In addition, the cost of disk-based storage continues to drop every year. It’s now extremely affordable to purchase multi-TB disks, so disk space is much less of an issue than it used to be.

Even businesses that are required to have tape backup for compliancy and archival purposes have moved to hybrid systems because of the time factor involved in recovery. The fastest tape backup cannot compete with the slowest disk-based system for recovery times. When you need rapid disaster recovery, when your RTO is hours, not days, you must have disk-based disaster recovery.

The problem is that disks, while becoming more affordable, have not become any more reliable. Most industry estimates place the average disk lifespan around five years. The truth is that hard disk drives fail. So wise administrators prepare for that eventuality and anticipate how they will recover when that drive failure occurs. When, not if.

Another issue is that even with the increased recovery speeds that disk-based storage offers, restoring a server is still a time-consuming process. Traditionally, when a disk drive fails, IT administrators must repair the server, if possible, re-install the operating system, re-install applications, and then add data file backups, if they are available. This process of rebuilding a server can take days – time your business can ill-afford to lose.

In addition, migrating to a new server is an equally painful process, requiring weeks of planning and days to execute – if all goes well. As a result of these limitations, many SMBs choose to avoid the issue altogether, deciding that a server disaster recovery plan is too painful a process to contemplate. Or they continue with a backup solution that is too complicated or does not meet the needs of a growing business. Day-to-day server problems are ignored or placed on the backburner. This is not a safe and secure way to assure business continuity or data availability.

If disaster recovery is too complicated or painful to contemplate contact The Vault Corporation team, to remove the pain before, not if, a disaster hits…

Do You Sleep Well At Night?

Recently I demonstrated our Recovery solution to an Insurance Broker who had just upgraded their Tape Backup system.

My question to them was

“When was the last time you tested your backups to see if you can recover your system and data?”

 His answer:

“I worry so much about the backups that I don’t get any sleep at nights!”

 That was until he saw how quickly I recovered their server into my laptop in a Virtualised environment.

Who do you know who doesn’t sleep at nights worrying about their systems and data?


6 Things To Get Right In Your Online Backup System

Are you considering setting up an online backup system for your business? With the rapid evolution of cloud computing it is now much more efficient to do your backups on line.

Online backup is now becoming the best value solution, with easy to use backup software and much cheaper storage costs. The new backup software also provides the added advantages of providing much faster data recovery with much less data loss because the backup is running continuously.

We all know that there are lots of risks from storing your backups at your office or business premises. No one should risk having their backup in the same place as the source data.  The usual practice is to take a daily backup to a different location. This system works but if you lose your data (from human error, natural disasters, or cyber-attacks) you will have lost a day’s worth of work or transaction records.

If you are thinking about online backup here are six things that The Vault Corporation recommends you get the following things right:

1. The Right Capacity and Grade Hard Drive

Make sure your hard drive is well maintained and has the right capacity and grade for it’s use for your needs. Storage capacity is becoming cheaper so there is no reason not to upgrade.

2. The Right Backup Software

Install backup software that is safe, secure and easy to use to run your backup process. After considerable research and trials we currently recommend ShadowProtect.

3. A Recovery Environment

Have a recovery environment in place to host the backup. If your primary environment is damaged, lost or compromised you will need separate hardware and software to run the backup.

4. Get Regular Status Reports

Make sure you get regular status reports on the backup process. You should regularly check that there are no problems or gaps in the backup process.

5. Quality Technical Support

Make sure you are getting the right technical support so that you have a trouble-free and quality backup process in place. Good technical support soon pays for itself.

6. Good Management Support

Taking shortcuts in setting up your system can result in a failed process. Make sure you are getting the right advice about managing your data and information backup processes from IT professionals that specialise in online backup technology.

For more information about online backup software and systems contact us.

Not A Storm In A Teacup – How Mini Disasters Can Affect Your Business

When we think about the natural disasters that can affect our businesses we immediately think of bushfires, floods, earthquakes, blackouts, storms and lightning strikes, or strong winds. These can affect your business operations, computers and your information and data.

But it is not the large-scale disaster, that is most likely to affect your business, instead it will be the local catastrophe, a plumbing disaster, an equipment failure or a power outage.

Problems with humidity

Excess humidity in the air will cause oxidation of electronic circuits, conductors and connectors, and circuits will perform unpredictably. Lack of humidity increases the potential for sparking from static-electricity.

Water and electricity don’t mix

Water damage is a major cause of local computer catastrophes. Water and electricity don’t mix well and short-circuiting and damage occurs. Water ingress is commonly caused by ruptured water pipes. Other causes include:

»  excess vapour condensation within air-conditioners, and

»  sprinkler systems using water rather than Halon (often activated by over-heating, see below)

Overheating is a common failure

Overheating of the computer facility is the most commonly reported cause of computer failure. It can be caused by several events that often do not get noticed by personnel until there is a computer failure.

»  failure of room air-conditioning

»   failure of cooling fans in the computer chassis

»  blockage of air ducts

Excessive heat may damage recording media; it may cause immediate failure of computer electronics; and make some components fail.

Smoke and fire damage memory

Fire in an installation can destroy computer equipment and make the data unrecoverable. Smoke particles are particularly damaging to disk and tape surfaces where data is stored.

Interruption of a disk or tape-write cycle can destroy the contents of open files. Computer operators need to evacuate immediately and often computers are left active during emergencies.

Power spikes and interruptions

Electricity from the public distribution system fluctuates in voltage as well as suffering from unpredictable spikes and contamination from high-frequency noise. Power interruptions are not as dangerous as irregular power spikes that cause heat fluctuations rise and circuit degradation.

Uninterruptable power supplies not full answer

Most computer facilities have installed UPS, Uninterruptable Power Supplies. But it should be noted that valuable data records may be damaged in the switch-over from AC power to DC battery back-up if the files are not closed down properly.

Heat may become a problem if the computers are still operating but the air-conditioning is not.

So don’t overlook the risk of small disasters

You mustn’t overlook the local risks to your information and data. Don’t treat everyday problems as if they are a storm in your teacup. They will have the biggest impact on your business. Make sure you have backup for your information and data and disaster recovery plans in place. Even if you think you will not be affected by big disasters the small disasters will still affect your business.

Are You Still Using Tape Backups?

Still listening to the Bee Gees?

Tape technology, although it offers advantages, is becoming as out-of-date for backing-up up data as reel-to-reel, cassette players and videotapes are for entertainment. No one listens to the Bee Gees on their walkmans anymore. Many small and medium businesses are now moving away from tape technology to disk or to cloud technology.

Jokes aside, tapes do offer resilience, dependability, and durability. Tapes last for decades and have a much longer shelf life than other media. They are not prone to power surges,

What about disk-based archiving?

A better alternative than tape is disk-based archiving and backup. A fast tape backup cannot even compete with a slow disk-based system for recovery times. However, disks are now a lot more affordable and more versatile than tapes, they are not more reliable. The average disk lifespan is around five years so businesses must be ready for their failure.

Time to move to the cloud?

If you are wondering whether it is time to move to cloud backups you are probably well over the Bee Gees and thinking about what is next. Experts are suggesting that the majority of businesses will be using cloud-based data archiving services within three years. More than 50 percent of businesses have already stopped using tape.

What is best for disaster recovery?

With disk backups you can restore files in minutes, which you can’t do with a tape backup. Tapes may be good for archiving but they are not good for restoring a business after disaster. Tape backups are also difficult for organisations generating a large amount of data on a hourly basis.

As the cloud is becoming more established as a backup and archival medium companies can outsource their archiving, backups and recovery management to specialised providers. Paying a monthly fee to a third-party to provide data storage and backups is far preferable than having to manage your storage and backups onsite manually.

Ten Ways To Give Your Cloud Backup A Silver Lining

Online backup systems are becoming the best way to protect your business’ data and information. They usually provide a full backup not only on a daily basis but even every 15 mins with programs that collect, encrypt and transfer data over the Internet to a remote backup server. Even though this is a great step forward there are ways to make cloud backups even better. Here are ten things you can do to make sure your online cloud backup has a silver lining.


1.          Understand your backup process

Make sure you understand the backup procedures and programs that you are using. Talk to your providers and read the product descriptions. You don’t want to make mistakes and have material that is not being backed up properly. Ensure that you are using a backup process that backups up everything including programs.

2.          Test your backup often

Test your backup and recovery processes regularly, monthly if possible but at least every 6-9 months to be sure they work as you expect them to. Often people and businesses believe they have a full backup system in place but it doesn’t work when they need to restore and recover your information.

3.          Keep records

If you have set up a backup system and software make sure you keep written, hardcopy records of security keys, supplier contact details, passwords and any other information that might be important if you need to get third party help with a system failure. You should also keep this information with your backups including any other recovery software that maybe required.

4.          Reduce the amount of data

A lot of data that a business generates is copied into several locations or is repeated, therefore there is a lot of information that contains redundancy. Data deduplication can reduce the amount of data needing to be backed up by up to 80%.  Also relocate unnecassary installation programs or temporary files onto a drive or volume that is not backed up. This reduces the costs and speed of cloud storage.

5.          Simplify the first backup

A lot of businesses are still using ADSL, which can only handle small amounts of data, so the initial backup of a lot of data could take weeks. A solution is to backup to a physical storage device and ship the device to the cloud provider. The provider can also provide you with a hardcopy backup if you need a full backup restore.

6.          Use incremental backups

The amount of data being transmitted in each backup needs to be controlled for cost and time reasons. The solution is to use incremental backups. These only transfer the information that has changed from the last backup.

7.          Make sure your data security is high

Make sure that the cloud provider has security and encryption procedures in place that are at least as good as your own. The cloud backup should not be the weak link in your data security processes.

8.          Use granular backup

Granularity refers to backups that can be accessed as either a full backup or a partial (or granular) backup. This means that if, for instance, you only need to recover one file, you don’t have to wait for a full restore to get the information.

9.          Have a Plan B

To reduce risks make sure that you have at least two copies of backups , one on-site and one off-site. Make sure that your provider is not at risk of losing your data at the same moment that you do.

10.      Choose a reputable cloud backup provider

When you choose a cloud provider make sure that they will give you the best solution to protect your business from the risk of data and information loss.

Learning Lessons About Firewalls And Backups

Virus Hacker

Virus protection and firewalls are a necessary part of network security. But you cannot rely on them as the only way to protect your business information from attack. You must make sure that you are also backing up your data. George learnt this lesson “the hard way”.

A few weeks ago, [George], [the Manager] of a [computer peripheral  supply] business contacted me urgently to ask for help with a virus infection in one of their workstations.

Learning the lessons about firewalls and virus protection

George told me that they had a strong firewall and virus protection in place and that they undertook regular manual backups. As I investigated I discovered that the virus had got through their firewall and already spread to three workstations.

I started the virus scanning and system updating. As this was occurring the virus scanner started quarantining windows system files because [FOR SOME REASON] users had full admin rights on their workstations [INSTEAD OF USER PERMISSIONS].

User permissions would have restricted the virus from infecting only the logged in user and NOT the whole PC. Then simply deleting and recreating user would have cleaned the virus.

When I had completed the scans and performed a reboot the three workstations completely crashed requiring major repairs to Windows. We finally finished the cleanup three days later. The simple virus clean job taking a couple of hours ended up as a scan, clean and repair of the operating system.

Learning the lessons about backups

A few weeks later George called me again. This time he asked me for help with his server which was continually crashing. I soon found that one of the previous virus-infected users had domain admin rights. After a quick remote login I found the virus had spread itself to the server and had infected the mail server. I recommended to George that he restore the server from his backups, as any attempt to clean the virus would corrupt Windows.

At this stage George realised that the manual backups he had been doing had not been working.

George’s business now had to undertake a major system recovery exercise to restore his operating system, data and mail server. It caused major disruptions and cost him a lot of time and money.

Lessons learnt-virus protection and backup

Too many organisations think that their virus protection will offer them security and protect them from attack. Firewalls and virus protection are necessary and important but they cannot guarantee protection from all viruses and other attacks. To fully protect your businesses information you must ensure that you not only install a firewall with virus protection but also have a fully operational backup system in place. George has learnt his lesson the hard way—we would do well to learn from him and not repeat his mistakes.

For more information about safe and secure backup software and systems contact us.

What Is Your Recovery Time Objective (RTO)?

What is your recovery time objective?Do you know your business’ RTOs?

I have been talking to clients about their computing needs for many years and I have found that most businesses don’t pay enough attention to the simple question:

“How long can our business operate without our Computer Systems?”

As your business grows and relies more and more on electronic information, you must have a recovery time objective (RTO) in place. If you don’t know what I am talking about you really should pay particular attention to this post. I have come across too many businesses that find out about RTOs after a disaster.

What is the definition of RTO?

The RTO is the maximum length of time that a computer, system, network, or application can be unavailable after a failure that is acceptable to the business. The IT department will have the RTOs in their disaster recovery (DR) plan but they must be formulated and agreed by management in the business continuity (BC) plan.

Why do you need to know your RTO?

The different components of a business system and network will have different RTOs, for instance, the servers will have a short RTO because most of the other processes rely on their successful functioning. Specific applications will have RTOs that relate to their operational purpose. For instance the RTO for payroll may be two weeks compared to sales where the RTO may be two days. Applications that manage commodities or exchange rates may have RTO of only seconds!

Different functions within the same business will have different recovery time objectives so it is important to base your overall RTO on the most “mission critical” functions.

How do you work out your RTO?

The RTO can only be determined as a function of the business operations. If an interruption disrupts normal operations it will have a business and cost impact. The impact of the interruption (or disaster) may be estimated as the maximum amount of revenue that can be lost without affecting the short and medium term viability of the business. However, the real cost to the business will be determined by long-term and intangible effects (such as reputational damage) as well as on immediate, short-term, or tangible factors.

In business continuity planning the RTO is established during the Business Impact Analysis (BIA) stage by the manager or owner of the operational process. They are then presented to management for approval.

What does your RTO mean for you?

Once the RTO for an computer, system, network, or application has been defined, your system administrators will decide the best disaster recovery technologies to use. If you need more information about determining your RTO and in the current best solutions for safe and reliable backup systems or rapid disaster recovery please contact us.

Six Reasons Why Backups Fail

Tangled Tape

Are you sure that your backup system is working effectively to protect your business from disaster?

How many people do you know who thought they had an effective backup system in place and when their system crashed they found that they had lost important information?

Sadly I know quite a few people who have lost a lot of information.

There are six common reasons why backups fail.

1. Overly-complex backup solutions

One of the major challenges for IT professionals is making sure that the whole set of business applications they use can interface with each other. If your organisation is using a mix of non-standardised products from different providers there is a strong likelihood that the software integration put in place to make the packages “talk” to each other may not work. If the packages can’t talk to each other the backups may not be working or may be incomplete. Some figures suggest that only about 20% of backups fully succeed.

2. Partial backups lose important information

One of the common backup problems is that some organisations only back up part of their dataset. One published survey of businesses found that 31 percent don’t back up email, 21 percent don’t back up application data, and 17 percent don’t back up customer data (including invoices, amounts owing, contacts, etc.). Some large organisations only back up their network files and not their local files assuming that employees only use the network.

3. Remote locations have forgotten backups

Some organisations with multiple or regional offices have good infrastructure and data management in their head office (often where the IT department are based) but often overlook the backup and data management of remote offices or of field staff. Your IT staff may not be overseeing the data management processes at remote or regional sites as closely as they oversee your corporate office even though the data may be subject to the same compliance regulations.

4. Low frequency backups increases data loss risk

Most companies do a daily backup although there are others still doing weekly backups. If you have a lot of people working on a project there is a risk that if your backup frequency is too low, weeks of accumulated work could be lost only a few hours out from a deadline. Historic information can be archived and will not change very much over time but current project work is being updated in real time in response to demands on your business.

5. Memory device failures

Backup data and information are commonly stored using tape and disk storage devices. Tape and disk storage solutions rely on high quality media. However, if the media is not maintained, not stored properly and not replaced before the end of its effective life there is a strong risk that it will fail at a critical time.

6. Poor software backup processes

It is important to have strong IT management practices in place, for instance, to store information and data in the correct software version compatible with your current operating system. If a legacy system crashes there is a risk that the software environment cannot be recreated and the data is unrecoverable. Your backup processes need to be changed to match changes to the system infrastructure.

For more information about safe and secure backup software and systems contact us.

Safe computing is like safe sex?

I think we know more about safe sex than we do about safe computing. Over the last few decades public education has made us aware of the need for safe sex. I think there are lots of lessons for us to learn from the safe sex campaigns as computer users.

What is safe sex?

Protecting your computer from danger

Safe sex is sexual activity undertaken by people using a range of precautions to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to avoid pregnancy. It can also be referred to as safer sex to more precisely reflect the fact that these practices reduce, but do not completely eliminate, the risk of disease transmission.

There are many forms of safe sex ranging from abstinence, cybersex, to barrier protection.

How to practice safe computing

Abstinence from computing is not an option in the modern workplace. We cannot avoid using our computers so we have to practice safe computing. However, there are lots of things we can do to minimise risks. Here are a few tips from The Vault Corporation on practicing safe computing:

Barrier protection

  • Keep your servers in a locked and secure location.
  • Make sure you have good firewall protection to protect your network from virus and other malware.

Avoid contamination

  • Keep your servers and computers in a food and drink free environment to avoid physical damage.
  • Make sure you are using good computing practices to avoid virus and malware contamination.

Regular checkups

  • Make sure you run regular checks of your anti-virus software to make sure it is functioning properly.
  • Make sure your security software is current and updated to the latest versions.

Backup solutions

Don’t rely on your safe computing practices because no system can be 100% effective against security and safety breaches.

  • Make sure you have all your files and systems backed up in case of disaster or emergency.
  • Perform automated backups with multiple copies, and tested regularly.

Safe computing is like safe sex, you cannot eliminate all danger but you can reduce the risks to the point where you have peace of mind.

For more information about safe computing contact The Vault Corporation.