Archive for the ‘Computer Backup’ Category

Hard Drive Prices Skyrocket

December 8, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]By now you have heard that hard disk drive (HDD) prices are increasing rapidly because of widespread flooding in Thailand. The monsoons of 2011 brought factory production to a standstill. The human toll has been devastating as hundreds have perished and millions have been displaced. The World Bank estimates the financial loss at 45 billion dollars making this the fourth most costly disaster in history. Thailand is the second largest exporter of HDD producing about 40% of the world’s HDD.  It is surpassed only by Singapore.

Supply and demand economics govern computer electronics and the inelasticity is apparent in much higher prices at least for the short term.  Not surprisingly, prices have doubled and tripled for HDD in the recent weeks. There are several price watch sites to compare prices online. For now, the estimates of when full production will return in Thailand are pessimistic.  The supply will return as Thailand plants resume production and competing manufacturers ramp up, but prices may be inflated for an extended period depending upon how the global market responds.

So what should you do without jeopardizing your system or data integrity?

Don’t want to pay more – If you are price inelastic, meaning you don’t want to pay even a small increase for a server, PC or HDD, wait to make a purchase and monitor prices.  Only choose this option if you can safely delay making an IT purchase without losing productivity or data integrity. Remember that a few hours of being “down” can cost considerably more than the price of new hardware.

Have to purchase now – If you have to make a purchase, spend time comparing prices to get the best deal.  You can explore the refurbished market for cost savings, but even those markets have sharply increased.

Buying refurbished electronics – If you buy a refurbished HDD, be sure that it has a warranty and that you have a spare.  Think about your backup and redundancy needs and be sure that you are covered in case of unexpected failure.

Compromise and choose less capacity – You may be able to choose a smaller hard drive for a price you are comfortable with and look to upgrade later.   Only choose this option if less capacity works for you without lots of extra work.  You can easily spend the cost of the HDD in administration costs to move and verify data.

As always, make sure that you have a good backup, just in case.

Living on the Edge with Your Data Backup and Recovery Strategy?

January 5, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]One of the biggest risks you can take is not backing up your data.  Sure, you may never experience a disk failure, but if you do it will be a disaster.  Ask anyone who has suffered a data loss and they will tell you about the distress and panic when they realized that the data was gone forever.  Data loss can devastate your operations and cripple your organization.  But for a problem with such disastrous results, it has an easy fix. 

Backing up data is relatively easy and economical on the front side and provides an easy recovery method in case of a disk loss or failure.  Backup costs are a fraction of recovery costs and sometimes no amount of money or effort can recover data from a severely damaged disk.  

Today’s technology provides many cost-effective ways to protect your data.  For a business system, start with a strategy that uses the concept of redundancy to duplicate data, employs a serious backup method and includes disaster recovery.  Your data backup strategy should be proportional to the value of your data.  Don’t cut corners, be sure to include any data that is essential to your business or would be difficult to reconstruct.

So why doesn’t every business have a good backup plan that works?   Either it’s too expensive or too complicated.  Backup doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be executed and verified on a regular schedule.  If you manage and verify your backup daily then you can choose less expensive technology.

Backup doesn’t have to be complicated, but automated solutions cost more. If you want a solution that takes most of the guess-work out of backups and gives disaster recovery protection, they are available but will cost considerably more. 

It is important to choose the technology and strategy that works for you.  Always be diligent in performing and storing your backups. Below we discuss some of the most used concepts and technologies.  

Disk Redundancy – Writing to two or more disks at the same time, provides data protection in case of a disk failure.  A redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID) will divide and replicate data so that a single or minority of disk failure does not cause data loss.  RAID technology is mostly employed on servers and data storage devices.  It can be hardware or software configured.  Although RAID does give a level of protection against data loss, it does not replace backing up your data.

Primary Data Backup – The data storage or repository can be tape, disk-to-disk and/or virtual tape using an external drive (SAN, NAS or USB) used to store the backup. The backup scheme can be full, incremental, differential or continuous.  Each scheme has individual requirements that may include software to create the storage archive. 

Secondary Data Backup – This is usually an offsite disk-to-disk or online backup plan, but can be another method that gives a second copy of the repository. Online backup services are very affordable and keep a near real-time copy of files.  A limitation of online backup is bandwidth.  For large stores of data, the initial upload can take considerable time.  Some services allow you to send a disk with the base files then only changes are uploaded. 

Disaster Recovery – This allows you to build your system from the ground up.  Often a disaster recovery plan includes an image (complete and exact copy of the disk(s) on your system) and a current backup.  Images include the operating system, configuration, licenses, applications and data.  Images are often called a “bare metal” restore because they allow you to overlay the image onto a new system without any prior installation of an operating system or software. 

Protecting User Data – Users should save data to a shared network drive and be included in the backup.  If there are files that are only on a laptop or desktop, they should be backed up individually. This can be done easily with an external drive or online file backup.

 A common data backup and recovery configuration for a server:

  1. Data Redundancy as RAID 10 – Mirrored and striped sets in a 2 disk array.
  2. Primary Data Backup – Network Attached Storage (NAS) using Windows Server 2008 Backup.
  3. Secondary Data Backup – Online backup service backing up all critical files.
  4. Disaster Recovery – Full image stored offsite. 

This is not an exhaustive list of available backup methods.  Data backup has many parts, facets and options.  For a good data backup strategy, start with an overview of your system and decide your level of involvement.  From there, you can build a backup strategy and disaster recovery plan so that in the event of a data loss, you are protected. 

If you have comments or need help formulating a plan, contact me at mary@lansystems.com.

For more technical notes and information go to: www.lansystems.com/technotes.html

Hard drive basics: Data in motion

July 29, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]Today’s electronics go with us everywhere and keep us connected.  We are accustomed to using our electronics while moving, but not all devices are designed to be used on the go. Hard drives have moving parts and that is an important point to remember.

As a refresher, let’s simply look at how a hard drive (sometimes called a hard disc) works.  The drive includes a platter to hold the data, a head to read the data and electronics to control the process.  The platter is mirror smooth and stores the magnetized data. If you have never seen the inside of a hard drive, the surface looks like a mirror.  The head is attached to an arm that rides just above the platter surface.  If the head touches the platter, damage and data lose almost always occurs.  The electronics control the storage and retrieval of data.

Servers, workstations and desktops are stationary units.  You should never move them while the unit is on. When the unit is off, the head is “parked” so that it will not accidently touch the platter.  Vibrations can also cause the head to impact the platter, so it is important not to install computers in areas that can shake them.  For instance, don’t locate computers near air conditioner compressors or other motorized equipment.  If you can’t eliminate the vibrations, consider installing a vibration pad.

Notebooks, laptops and netbooks are often used as mobile devices, but are still susceptible to hard drive damage.  Many high-end or hardened mobile computers have motion sensing protection.  This protection will temporarily stop or park the head to prevent damage.  Sophisticated motion protection is available but adds cost. Vibration pads are a lower cost option.  In general, your mobile computer should be used on a stationary surface.

Camcorders and other mobile devices with hard drives have a suspension system and sensors that protect the hard drive in case of sudden acceleration.  This safeguards the data by keeping the head from touching the platter even if the unit is dropped.  This often works very well, but is not an absolute guarantee that the hard drive will not be damaged.

To protect your data, always use care when operating and make sure you have a good backup!

For more technical notes and information go to: www.lansystems.com/technotes.html

If you have any questions or comments, email me at: mary@lansystems.com.