Is Your Critical PC Data Adequately Protected From Disaster?
No sound business large or small can afford to loose their data or the ability to use
their computing assets without a potentially heavy reputational, opportunity or financial
loss. Usually in the event of a disaster you lose a bit of all three. The recent panic
about on and off line security of data is testament to the risks and consequences. Though
it seems worrying about security is fashionable and protecting from disaster is not and
therefore often forgotten. However I would urge you both are just as catastrophic and
perhaps disaster is more likely these days!
More and more people are now realising just how much protecting against disasters
applies equally to individuals as well as businesses. Could you do without access to your
bank account, reference to that critical email correspondence, access to your home
budgeting finance software or spreadsheets. At the very least it's hugely inconvenient at
worst it could lead to heavy financial losses or liability.
For the purposes of very small businesses or home users protecting and managing
disaster scenarios really merges the three industrial IT fields of Disaster Recovery, High
Availability and Backup. Using best practice from industry and modern desktop PC's with
sophisticated hardware and software it's amazing just how much we can do. Protecting
against disaster essentially comes with two key strategies:
• Disaster Prevention - by using redundant components so that a single
critical component failure doesn't compromise the whole systems ability to function i.e.
extra power supplies, redundant disk arrays (RAID1, RAID5 etc), protected uninterruptable
power supplies, dual network cards (NIC), dual processors, even dual machines (clustering) etc.
• Disaster recovery (Backup and Restore) - periodically taking snapshots
of the whole system and changed parts of it are the as 'old as the hills' way of being
able to recover from any disaster scenario. This used to be done to an offline media like
tape or cartridge but now online media are becoming so cheap and far faster its more
convenient to perform online backups to a low cost per GB data store (i.e. external hard
drive or USB stick for domestic or home professional users).
Surprisingly some of these industrial IT tools and techniques are now available to the
home user or professional. High quality desktop computers all now come with RAID providing
redundant disk drive support. So how come you have never heard of any this or many of the
other techniques? Not many PC vendors can be bothered making it available as an option,
configuring and supporting it or understanding how to do it right. For the average risk
adverse PC vendor this just open's up a can of worms that seems like more cost or risk of
cost on the wafer thin bottom line. So they just cross their fingers and hope you don't
ask about it...
Practical things you can do to reduce your exposure
The following is a five step list of inexpensive things you can do to protect yourself
from disaster and minimise the impact in the event it happens, roughly in priority order:
1. Protecting your live data - The most unreliable piece of equipment in your PC is the
only bit that moves, an awful lot, the mechanical hard drive. Almost everyone will at some
point experience one failing and lose data and time as a consequence. An extra disk in
your PC need cost no more than US$40 these days, even an extra terabyte is only US$90.
Almost all good quality desktops support RAID levels that will protect your data. The most
basic of these is mirroring (RAID1) which simply copies the contents of one disk directly
onto another simultaneously, should one fail the other can take over.