Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Data Recovery plan in action....

Data can be lost due to many different reasons. Power spikes, Accidental reformatting, virus attacks and hardware malfunction are just some of the situations where you will find yourself looking for a data recovery solution.

This past weekend I was updating a Symantec Antivirus Corporate 10 installation to the new Symantec Endpoint product. Endpoint includes some client management tools that will reduce this clients concerns of unauthorized software installs and system changes. They are a medium sized financial firm with a Windows Server based network and 10 clients. This client previously used a tape backup system to do their data backup/restores and after taking over the I.T. management for this company I pursuaded them to go with Datashield Online backup and it has proven itself a number of times.

For some reason Dell shipped the new 160GB server with a 12GB system partition and we ran out of room there quickly. In the midst of extending a Windows Server 2003 hard drive partition for the Symantec End Point install, the process locked up. There was nothing I could do but reboot and upon rebooting the system would only do a partial boot and then reboot again ... and again ... and.

This is where the importance of a Data Recovery Plan shows up. At the end of tax season and with the potential for 8 employees billing at over $60.00 per hour the loss could be substantial! We kept the old Windows 2000 server and made minimal file and network changes. The data structure had not changed as soon as the partition extension failed I began to put contingency plans into effect. Within 15 minutes the Windows 2000 server was reconnected to the network and the Datashield Professional Data Restore was underway. If the recovery of the Windows 2003 system did not happen by Monday at 9am then the W2K Datashield data restore estimation put us on track to be live with the Windows 2000 server in 12 hours barring any network slowdowns or other 'stuff'. Plenty of time to be back online for Monday morning at 8:00 am. The first step in the recovery process was to determine the cause of the failure in order to apply the correct solution path. In this case it was not hardware and the hard drive partition tables (C:\ and D:\) were still visible and D:\ was recoverable. C:\ would not boot because the repartitioning software I chose rewrote a unique boot.ini file and the custom boot cd would not work either.

Having worked with data recovery I have some experience with partition corruption and data extraction and after investigating many promising partition/boot recovery programs I decided to go with an opensource program because they gave me the answers straight up, no double talk, no false promises, easy to order and delivered in 30 seconds. (oh..and it was free!)

I was able to recover both partitions on the Windows 2003 Server and went live at 9pm Sunday night. The data was intact and the Windows 2000 Server was at the ready in case there was some peripheral damage or other issues.

Remember that having your Data backed up is just part of the plan. Make sure you have a well thought thru contingency strategy in place. Document the details including usernames and passwords for critical resources, what data is stored where, what to do do 'IF" etc... Give the plan to 2 or more trustworthy people and make sure they understand the importance of your plan in terms of Business continuity and Security - the wrong information in the wrong hands can be a bad thing. More on Disaster Recovery at a later date....

Friday, May 16, 2008

OMG! and what to do after a data loss...

Once the tranqulizers have kicked in and you realize that what just happened is really really bad, you can take some relief in knowing that all may not be lost.

ALL computer users experience, in some form or another, the loss of some important information from a variety of causes which I will address in a later Blog. For home users its usually email or contacts, passwords, home finance or investment information, family photos, downloads, home business information, etc. For business the losses can be catastrophic and the statistics indicate that a large amount of businesses (up to 75%) will go bankrupt, within 2 years, after a critical data loss.

Even though Data Recovery experts claim that in 80 percent of cases, lost data can be recovered, the costs can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Add the cost of lost sales and productivity in a multiple employee organization and the costs rise again. If there is permanent data loss the rebuilding can take hundreds of hours and the cost skyrockets. The value of business data has been estimated by a number of sources to be $10,000.00 per megabyte. Consider this carefully when you are choosing your backup method.
Many backup experts would agree that the time and money spent investigating a backup method is an investment, not an expense.

If your computer was stolen, there's not much I can offer other than my condolences and hope that you get it back, data intact. There are computers designed for the mobile workforce and they have built in security features that prohibit access to the computer and hard drive. Live data encryption is readily available and can protect your clients or business from information falling into the wrong hands.
If you have Datashield Online Backup then your data is recoverable (to the point of your last backup) to any computer with an internet connection.

If your hard drive has failed the first thing you need to do is STOP TRYING TO GET IT GOING until reading this next paragraph!

Hard drives are mechanical. They have fast moving parts that WILL wear out. When these parts break loose they can come in contact with the disks that hold your information. If your disk(s) become damaged the data can be recovered but the more damage that happens to your disks the more expensive recovery becomes and the less likely that all your data can be recovered. The best thing to do if you hear a metallic tinkling or scratching sound coming from your harddrive is to shut it down and DO NOT attempt to start your computer until consulting with a qualified technician with experience in hard drive failures and data transfer/recovery.

Qualified Technicians can advise you on the next steps and potential costs involved. Again, the best practices here are to have a your critical information backed up on a regular reoccuring basis BEFORE a data loss occurs. I'll talk more about backup methods in a later module.

If your computer does not start there are a number of potential causes for this. With the outcome of keeping your data intact being paramount, best practices again suggest contacting a qualified tech.

If you have lost data to a virus or accidental deletion/format there is still hope. Again the first thing to do is STOP doing anything on your computer. Anything you do beyond this point may overwrite lost files and make them unrecoverable.

Self Recovery - If you have accidentally deleted a file don't loose all hope yet! There are a number of programs available that you can use to scan your drive for files that cannot be seen by the operating system or if there is no operating system. Read and follow the instructions carefully. If you are not comfortable with the process then contact your local tech. Keep in mind that different techs have different strengths and may or may not have the skills to recover your information. Ask as many questions as you can to determine the experience and approximate costs involved.

Most people contact me after they have lost some or all of their data. They all have the intentions of backing up regularly but life happens and we don't. Automated online backup is the best method available today and storage costs have come down considerably. Stay tuned for 'what to look for in a backup provider' in a later blog.

If you have any questions about data recovery or backup please feel free to contact me or visit

"A thousand mile journey begins with one step"
Lao Tse

Has this ever happened to you?

Let's face it, everyone loses their data at some point in their digital life. Whether its by theft, virus, accidental deletion, hardware failure or your little brothers squirt gun. I believe this is common knowledge and the solution is one or more of a number of backup options.

10 years of experience tells me that this is 100% true! Most of the requests I receive are from clients needing assistance in recovering lost files/data and they just want to not have that happen again because it really freaked them out. So, I give my "Why you need to Backup your Data' sermon? People re-commit themselves to doing the same things they stopped doing the last time they re-commited themselves. And by re-swearing to: Getting out the DVD's, emailing yourself, sticking a reminder post-it-note on the coffee cup, buying a new flashdrive and hanging it from the car mirror, creating another outlook reminder, emailing yourself, emailing your friends, etc etc. (did i mention emailing yourself?) It's great to use any backup method as anything is better than nothing at all. In reality, manual backups are easily deferred by other more pressing tasks and at times there are a plethora of important tasks just waiting!

What do I do now? I no longer email nor write threatening notes to myself. My info backs up automatically every night at 7pm to a server somewhere on the internet. (I can't tell you where because, well...lets just not go there) I never have to worry about it. No more recommiting, no more waking at 3am wondering if I did back up, no more retracing my steps looking for my M.I.A. flashdrive. In my opinion, automated disk to disk backup (local or remote) is the best thing that ever happened to data integrity. (insert smilie face here).
"Take rest. A field that has rested gives a beautiful crop."

Fine. I'll do it then...

Numero uno bloggo...

First and foremost I had best introduce myself. My name is Chris Freelund and I am a chronic serial entrepreneur. I think i was around 17 when I discovered my passion of New Concept Development. Although the vim of youth is somewhat tempered I am still gripped by the same excitement that many of those obsessed by the words "Thar's GOLD in them thar hills!" must have felt.

Still to this day I am easily distracted by a great idea and I hope that I always will take the time to explore something new. My experience has been that I can't do it alone and anything I have accomplished is only due to those around me who motivate, inspire and drag me to the next phase of wherever I am going.

If you are on this path or are 'thinking' of following the path of todays cyber adventurer. The secret to success is to "Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never....give up!

I was born here in Vancouver, B.C. Canada and have lived most of my life here. My career has many pieces ranging from Hospitality, Manufacturing, Construction, New Product Development, Sales and Marketing, Retail franchisee, Computer - Training, Web design/Hosting, IT Services Company, Support/Helpdesk Management, Software Development, Ecommerce, Data Security... (i'm sure there's more...)
My hobbies include Hiking, Long distance running, Technology, Volunteering, Music, Reading, Canoeing, Wellness, Family, Reading Where's Waldo with my son (who knows where everyone is!) again, Nature and, laying in the sun because I can.

Before I go on (and on, and on...) I want to give credit to a very talented individual by the name of Odette B. By an act of fate we collided on Facebook recently and have become not only friends but (IMHO) we also compliment each others strengths and direction. Without her wisdom, generosity and insight I would not be right here right now. You can find Odette here

"To know how to wait is the secret of success."
Joseph de Maistre