Reality Check: Workstation Backups?

As IT professionals, we are (or should be) quite obsessed with backups.

The question is … does our obsession go far enough?

Yes, I’m sure our IBM i systems are all backed up quite securely … with tapes being rotated and taken off site. Probably even a solid HA solution to mirror your operational environment to another machine.

But how many of us backup our workstations?

As we all know … hardware fails. It’s just a fact. Hard drives especially, as they have parts that are constantly moving.

When was the last time you backed up your workstation?

Not to take a ‘holier-than-thou’ stance … but I’ve got my workstation backed up three times a day to an external 500gb USB hard drive using Norton Ghost. I particularly like Norton Ghost because it can do a complete backup (or incremental) while I’m using the system. I’ve got it to configured to backup the entire system at 6am, 12pm, and 7pm. Full backup’s once a week the rest are incremental. I had to ask our IT manager for the drive and software.

Guess what: It’s saved my bacon more than a few times.

Case in point: A few weeks ago the main hard drive on my workstation started generating errors … mind you I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t check the Windows event log periodically (another pet peeve of mine, disk errors should generate critical error notifications in Windows).

I ran the built in disk diagnostics and was informed that there was an ‘Error 7’ on the hard drive.

I told our network administrator about it, he got me a replacement drive, I installed it, and started the restore from the backup.

My total down time was about 3 hours.

Had I not been doing regular backups of my workstation, my down time would have been significantly longer.

I would have had to reinstall windows, reinstall all software (some of which requires a LOT of time to install), reapply all the updates, reconstruct my development environment, and reconstruct any the local documents I had on my machine. Best guess as to down time: 2-3 days.

Take my advice … get some backup software that makes it easy to do regular backup’s for ALL the machines in your organization and start using it.

Oh, while you’re at it … pick up an inexpensive UPS for your workstation … there’s nothing more annoying than a minor power blink that causes your workstation to reboot.

Comments

  1. Why would i backup our workstations?

    There’s not data on them. User profiles are synced to the server. Documents folders etc. are redirected to the server. All other data is on shares from the server or in Sharepoint, or somewhere else.

    Setting up a machine anew requires pressing F12 during boot, selecting the appropriate Image, waiting a few hours, logging on again and bam – all settings are back, downloaded from the server, and all the data was never gone.

    In a properly managed and maintained IT environment, backing up workstations is a waste of time. It sounds like you’re doing still a lot of manual software installation on your workstation – that’s just prone to failure, and encourages way too much inconsistency across your entire organization, which makes it easy to miss important security updates.

    By the way, SMART errors will pop up critical notifications on all current versions of Windows. On legacy versions, such as XP, they don’t. But you’re not still on XP, where critical security issues are no longer fixed?

    http://tech.slashdot.org/story/09/09/15/0131209/Microsoft-Says-No-TCPIP-Patches-For-XP

  2. Why would i backup our workstations?

    Because not every organization does that kind of synchronization. In fact, I would say that your organization is by far the exception rather than the rule.

    By the way, SMART errors will pop up critical notifications on all current versions of Windows.

    Of course SMART isn’t all that accurate, is it?

    But you’re not still on XP, where critical security issues are no longer fixed?

    Considering that Vista is currently the only option, I would say that yes … I’m still on XP. The fact that MS has decided to drop support for a current version of it’s OS speaks volumes about them.

  3. Because not every organization does that kind of synchronization. In fact, I would say that your organization is by far the exception rather than the rule.

    I agree with that 100%.

    Considering that Vista is currently the only option, I would say that yes … I’m still on XP. The fact that MS has decided to drop support for a current version of it’s OS speaks volumes about them.

    We are still on XP and will be skipping Vista altogether

  4. I don’t do a full backup, but do have a folder labeled “sync” that is backed up using JungleDisk to the Amazon S3 cloud.

    That will work to backup your data … but not your system. Think of the time you would loose if you had to rebuild your system from scratch? Install the OS, apply updates to the OS, install all your apps, apply updates to your apps, THEN restore your data. Also, what if you forgot to copy something to the sync folder?

  5. I have an XP in a vmware which is as tiny as possible which can be regularliy backed up to a network drive. The vmware host is Ubuntu 9.04 and works well.

    I am going to ask for a Mac again, since Time Machine is the best thing to happen to ordinary users for many years.

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