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the years I have had the opportunity to speak with a variety of I.T. Professionals from different industries and sectors of government about infrastructure setup and design. As a systems analyst, I have had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of businesses and individuals on ‘how-to’ optimize their technology setup. And, throughout these occasions, I have developed multiple standards by which I continue to stand, including reliable back-up solutions. Whether dealing with individuals, home businesses, families, small to medium businesses, enterprises or others, I have always considered an internal (in-house), back-up solution as the only viable, final solution to ensure reliability and security of data. Of course, this has not been well received, especially in the ‘cloud-computing’ era. Having come from a time when computers were barely making their way into our homes and everyday lives, I have been witness to some of the most unreliable technology to ever reach the market. Whether it has involved witnessing companies having to return hundreds of flawed machines that failed and cost thousands of hundreds of dollars in lost productivity, or networking solutions that were reliant on low-grade line connections that went down and lost make-or-break deals and cost businesses their very existence, technology has proven one thing: it is not perfect. Yet, even with the proven track record of fallibility inherent in the system, coupled with the overwhelming inclusion of technology into our everyday lives, people still choose to ignore the risk of data loss. Why do people, businesses and even government agencies ignore the facts? There are a multitude of reasons ranging from financial decisions, control issues, policies and sometimes sheer stubborn will. I’ve actually been told by a business owner, whose entire company was a mix of in-house and online computing, and was 100% reliant on the functionality of their computers and consistency of their data that, “Well, my father didn’t need these things [computers], so I’m not about to waste an extra dime on paperweights!” Did he really just call the technology that his business was built upon, paperweights? I’ve walked into businesses, performing infrastructure evaluations, and at the end of my tour I turned to the C.E.O. and asked, “So, what’s your back-up solution?” His answer: “What back-up solution?” To see businesses that have been built upon computing technology putting their entire accounting databases, customer contact lists, banking information, and other invaluable and irreplaceable data on computers with no back-up solution at all is almost sickening. And, I’m not talking about “mom and pop” operations, I’m including billion dollar, NASDAQ listed banking institutions, multi-billion dollar high-end companies, government agencies, hospitals and more. Even in today’s technologically advanced world, the lack of understanding over the fragile nature of technology reliance and need for redundancy is astounding; and there seems to be very little reason why. One valuable lesson that both hurts (hopefully without destroying) and helps is the loss of vital information due to a failure in equipment. Although it is always devastating, it can also help teach the lesson of making the right decision to have reliable back-up and redundancy solutions (proactive solutions). But, I would have to say that in my communications with hundreds of other I.T. Professionals, this is only true 50 – 60% of the time. On occasion, I’ll be brought into a situation where I’m asked to
what is most alarming to me is the continued dependency on unreliable systems. with all that has happened.’ (following an unexpected disaster) and my only solutions include sending off crashed hard disks to specialized agencies for tens of thousands of dollars. and earthquakes. people have opted for the cheap and easy solution. . that’s why we call them disasters or accidents. Please Help’: ‘You should regularly backup the content that you store on the services. I have and will always continue to tell my customers. such as the countless responses to the Microsoft Outlook. Disasters and accidents don’t happen every day. But.’ This means acquiring an external hard drive with a fire and water proof solution. free online email provider! I guess the point of the Microsoft Moderator recommending a personal. including Microsoft’s own forums.’ The emails and their attachments are lost. and ‘free’ online storage (forgetting the old adage that: ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’). cloud computing. GoDaddy had a 6-hour outage recently that. It means having a nearby backup server that’s not on premises. Some speculation exists as to this being a first step in the ‘supposed’ upcoming loss of Windows Live®. a Microsoft moderator responded to a user asking Microsoft to ‘Please. while the ‘cloud’ computing concept has existed for quite some time (previously labeled as free ‘ftp’ web and storage sites. with the advancements of data centers. they were unprecedented. back-up solution (in recognition of the continued potential hazard for lost information kept online). and worse. this too. or shrugging my shoulders and letting the customer know that there is no [retroactive] solution. floods. Look at the recent floods in New York that were more than unexpected. was missed. while Microsoft continues to state that it is their response to the end user’s request for improvements. it’s never happened to me…” When I hear this response. Having a regular backup plan and following it can help you prevent loss of your content. the problems with permanently lost emails that had been in place for years. every other major upgrade or advancement thrust into the marketplace these days.com[tm] as their newest interface for free. Recently. Sadly.com email losses by users saying that their resolve was to simply switch to a different. ‘You need an in-house solution that you have control over. according to CEO Scott Wagner. Microsoft® introduced Outlook. the push to use online data back-up services continues to remain a risky decision at best. was a by a corruption in router data tables. Sadly.provide some level of ‘recovery. has had its consequences. about the problems with functionality. Yet. I shudder.]. or taking it out of the home or business between back-ups. However. oh my!: “Well. well. etc. Microsoft’s efforts to upgrade their systems have proven to be as problematic as. I for one do not feel very confident depending on the potential unreliability of that storage solution given that many users have even claimed to have lost over 5 years worth of both personal. and the only retroactive solution provided was for the user to have a proactive solution in advance. and business data. I rather believe it may [also] be part of their effort to compete with the other big players in the free email community and to support their newly released Windows-based tablet PC’s. There are literally thousands and thousands of people posting on multitudes of forums. RSA Security kept its SecurID token secrets online and was hacked. The Sony Playstation network was shut down from April to June 2011. And. Why? Here are some things that folks don’t think about (but should): Fires. With the recent push for Skydrive®. in one case. online email. In 2011.
but you’ll be putting out tens of thousands or more to rebuild databases (if you’re fortunate enough to even be able to do that). but insurance covers it. I inquired as to the cost and found that for only a few thousand dollars. If. so is the entire operation. in-house staff). Forget that data centers are just as subject to disaster as any business. I recently participated with a financial institution’s infrastructure upgrade through their IT provider where I was pleasantly surprised to see that their information was being sent to a back-up server contained in a disaster-ready enclosure. out of mind’ philosophy is becoming exceedingly outdated. Yes. all of the employees’ hours and work had been on hard drives that were only backed up online. Technicians were called in (including the support of their own. and the backed up data could not be restored by simply importing it. Technology Failure: “Nothing’s happened to it yet. The rebuild cost them dearly in time and profit. and that insurance money can be spread awfully thin. they had purchased the entire system and had it professionally installed. Guess what? So did tens of thousands of Microsoft Live Services users. For a company that handled tens of millions of dollars in transactions annually. there’s good news – you don’t have to. Cloud Computing: “We have an online solution. but it does not restore information! Insurance will reimburse for losses. the fact is that they were lucky to even have a database to restore. including their accounting and payroll database. and could painstakingly restore their transaction information through the 150 or so sources they interacted with. and the computer that hosted the policies had been toasted. there’s a fire and the sprinkler systems turn on – no problem.These types of disasters are not isolated. I recently assisted with a company that had a massive outage due to a power surge which destroyed several internal systems. maybe the water damage will destroy the computers and hard files in the office. and we have a server so everything’s fine…” Having been present when this was said. at least. But. . insurance covers damage. Fortunately. the entire database was redundantly secured. nor are they even improbable. These situations may seem overwhelming and impossible. that single point of failure is breached. some of their payroll went to an outside source.’ So. The ‘out of sight. but no thanks…. if the reliance of business operations rests on a single point of failure.’ also lost 7 hours of operational time (tens of thousands of dollars) because their ‘RAID’ server went down due to an error in one of the interfaces corrupting both the drive and the ability to replace it. and you may want to just give up and decide that it’s too much and you’ll take your chances. this is the mind-frame of many folks.” With that. I just smile and wave and head my merry way. that months later not only lost their entire marketing database because the data wasn’t being backed up to any system due to its ‘sensitivity. at a multi-billion dollar banking institution. and so have tens of thousands of other folks and businesses throughout the past 22+ years who have relied completely on online data. Sure. so thanks. It is difficult for me as a systems analyst to show a consumer the potential risk from damage due to accidents or disasters when they feel they’re not at risk or they have a ‘solution. Equipment is not – and I believe it pertinent to be repetitive here – is not infallible. and when. Unfortunately. replacing systems and going on-line to begin downloading data. and they went to work purchasing new equipment. User account profiles were not being backed up. It doesn’t matter if there’s a great IT team in place (which always makes me happy to see in any company). There was only one glitch: the software on the computers had not had the most recent update (which had been released during the time the new equipment was being acquired and installed).
but it does mean that the 100% risk you were taking before has been dramatically reduced (or even mitigated entirely). accounting records. Maybe right now. but a fire in the business place destroys not only the computer systems. research and similar types of information on their computers. That doesn’t mean that simply backing up the entire company’s data to a fire safe/water proof-enclosed server will be the end-all of solutions. but any unprotected back-ups). a plug. Remember key words like ‘redundancy. should rejoice at the variety of disaster-ready prevention technology solutions on the market today. we all get it: technology is not always inexpensive. Just don’t plan on a simple solution. Sometimes. that $2000 computer system may have set you or your company.’ Wearing a seat belt in a car with air bags is ‘redundant. family genealogy. and those who have often reeled at the price tag of $200. So.behind an additional firewall that was frequently monitored. and put them in a safe-deposit box. will pay for itself when restoring invaluable data takes nothing more than an hour. But. And.’ but there is a purpose behind it. or keep them at a different location when performing only a weekly or monthly back-up. Medium to Enterprise Businesses: For larger companies.’ You don’t purchase that. the small effort (that can be written off on taxes for companies). it doesn’t take much research or effort to find a solution. they were able to maintain control of their data and have the added security and the benefit of peace of mind! Individuals. Even if your company subscribes to a cloud service. and a USB cable. accidents do happen. We buy insurance for a reason. Yes. the additional purchase of a disaster ready back-up drive for a couple hundred dollars is currently out of reach. The point is that. families and small businesses that place irreplaceable pictures. may have the best solution at a reasonable cost. but. Small & Home Businesses: I have personally worked with individuals. From hard drives with fire resistant enclosures to back-up server enclosures. you generate it. create it. Your nearby IT group (and you can always do local calls to check on reputability). provide a much higher return than retroactive ones. business data. the costs are reasonable and the benefits are huge. End . If you can afford a disaster-ready solution. that small investment for an onsite solution means faster recovery and increased productivity. For only a fraction of the price of a restore (which they believed would have cost them well over a hundred thousand dollars). after the once-in-a lifetime flood or earthquake (that has a higher probability of occurring than the probability of recovery from a zero or non-redundant back-up solution) has crushed or erased the surface of the only hard drive containing your company’s records. but proactive solutions will always. The answer remains simple. without fail. it is extra work and perhaps even an added cost. start saving. Many of these groups have not even considered a back-up solution. And. even if we never have to use it. that one-time cost may be the difference between opening your doors for business tomorrow or closing them. back a few dollars. input it. and rely on it. or your personal files. especially those who recoil at the thought of additional IT expenses (it always amazes me that so many companies refuse to invest in the very thing that keeps the money rolling in). we even buy the warranty just for the peace of mind that we have it. I’ve worked with IT Professionals who have recommended to their customers to take the hard drive out of the business place (a back-up is great. there is no promise or security for your ‘data.
.Daniel Kennedy is a Systems Specialist with degree sin Computer Information Science Technology and holds certifications from multiple sources for computer support. training. network support and security.
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