News Analysis: Everybody knows you have to prepare for disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, but sometimes you need a recovery plan when the disaster is entirely personal.
I'm sure that at one time or another, pretty much
everyone who uses computers has had the sinking feeling that greeted me when I
came back to the office one evening to finish some work on a review for eWEEK.
The primary workstation in the lab, the one that had test
results, notes and the background information for the article, was showing a
blank screen. The computer had quietly stopped working. It was unclear whether
the data on it was lost or simply inaccessible because I couldn't use the
computer. But no matter how you look at it, I needed to implement my business
Fortunately, I have one. One of the things I've learned
through my years of pontificating on the need for a business continuity plan,
for backups and for an offsite storage plan is to practice what I preach. Back
in the lab's back room I have a rack of Windows 2008R2 servers. In addition, I
have a couple of NAS servers.
Every so often, the primary production computers back
themselves up, and they periodically store an image on the NAS server. There
are also several test computers in the lab that don't get backed up because
they don't contain anything but test data, and they get completely reimaged
every time I test anything significant.
In addition, the primary production machines back up
critical files, including all documents, e-mail, images and multimedia files,
to Carbonite's cloud-based storage service
This service works with computers and servers running Windows, and provides
reasonably priced backup for small to medium-size businesses.
In my case there's one significant advantage to using a
cloud-based storage service, and that's the fact that I can retrieve individual
files from my backup from wherever I am. In other words, in addition to being
able to restore all of my critical information to a different machine, I can
grab a single document using my laptop if I need it while I'm out of the
So once I determined that this was really a computer
failure, not a Windows update run amok (I'm still not totally convinced of
that), I restored those documents that I thought I'd need in the immediate
future to another machine in the office so I could continue work. Meanwhile, I
spent hours on the phone with Microsoft tech support making sure it wasn't just
Windows having a very bad day. Sadly, it wasn't.
So for the time being, I've shifted operations to another
desk and another computer, and I'm up and running. What I haven't done is
reimage the substitute computer with the stored image of the original.