Data Loss

Data loss is an inevitable consequence of owning anything electronic.  Having been involved for over 25 years in IT implementation and management I have seen it all, and provided not only data recovery services, but also counseling for the grieving individual that was responsible to make sure the data was safe.

As an IT person often times we make recommendations to our supervisors for better equipment, software and services to prevent data loss, and are met with resistance at the cost, or the time to implement.  IT Managers are stuck trying to get the best bang for the buck and often times end up with sneaker net solutions, backup subsystems that require manual intervention, or systems that require a tremendous amount of labor to return them to operation.

As a company our primary headache throughout  our years of servicing systems has always been keeping backup and redundancy systems running.  We have implemented, and beta tested software from vendors like Symantec, Arcada, Computer Associates, Acronis… ad infinitum.  All of them have their quirks, and most of them seem built for the militaries requirements with layer upon layer of complex tape rotation methodologies, buggy daemons and services, and full access to the enterprise wide authentication and security systems.  I have seen countless systems with a “special” backup user that has a fairly week password yet full access to the entire corporate structure.  I have also seen passwords changed on an admin user, only to break every backup job across the enterprise, perplexing regional IT managers as to why their backup daemons no longer run!.  The systems require constant supervision to make sure they continue to run.  Needless to say these systems create a lot of stress.

Technology continues to push forward and the capacities and time now required to backup endless electronic documents, pictures, applications, databases are increasing exponentially.  In our environment it is not uncommon to have users with an Inbox in excess of a couple of Gigabytes within a 6 month time frame.  This has lead to the obsolescence of any tape backup, or physical media backup (DVD) except for long term archival purposes.  Most people are moving to hard drive based backup systems but the times required to move that much data, even over Gigabit Ethernet are increasing.  As hard drives are utilized many of the backup methodologies do not support archiving, revision control, or even recovery of deleted files.  We are finding customers that backup their machines regularly, but in reality they only have one copy.

Revisioning and Archival are extremely important.  Shouldn’t a backup system be able to recover deleted files?  Even if you deleted them a week ago or a month ago?  It’s crazy and time to look at all of these systems and analyze why we use them and if they are going to guarantee a return to service.  This has led me to research many systems, and finally settle on one I can support that we are deploying called ZenGuardian, more about that later.

In the next few articles i’ll tell you about some major crash recoveries i’ve been involved with.  The worst of which seem to be the systems with the most critical data, using highly available back ends.  Storage Area Networks (SAN’s) and Network Attached Storage (NAS), and Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID).