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  • FIRST POST
    • Aubrey Thicket
    • By Aubrey Thicket 10th May 18, 9:46 AM
    • 220Posts
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    Aubrey Thicket
    Advice on Back Up software (and hardware) just to be sure and safe
    • #1
    • 10th May 18, 9:46 AM
    Advice on Back Up software (and hardware) just to be sure and safe 10th May 18 at 9:46 AM
    Hi all

    My Sister and her Fiance have a small business. As part of their business insurance they are required to back up all their data to an external source which is carried out by their monthly contract with their tech firm. Recently, their tech firm trebled the amount of their support contract because they said that backups were becoming more and more complicated etc. Bare in mind they only have 5 computers in the business although a Cyber attack would badly damage them! When the tech firm wrote to them they implied that my sister didn't have to accept the treble in price BUT if they didn't accept the huge price hike bad things would/could happen etc. You get the idea... So, my sister asked around some business colleagues and received a mixed bag of responses. Some of the options they received/discussed were:

    1. "Stay on the same package with their Tech company but simply back up yourself. There's lots of good, free back up programs"
    2. Accept the huge increase in fees and trust that your tech company will back up as they say they will.
    3. Look for another tech provider and trust that they will back up too.

    Now, I know many people would say that option 2 is the best way but what I haven't mentioned yet is that 4 years ago she was in a similar boat. She accepted the increased fees from the company who had been 'Providing backups' for previous 3 years. However, when their server HDD drive failed there was noy other back up of the data. Naturally she asked the company where was the data for the back ups she had been paying for but the company blinded her with tech jargon about Linux being not fit for Windows backups etc... despite them actually implementing the whole back up system. To be fair to the company they 'sort of' held their hands up and admitted that "something had gone wrong" and that particular back up had failed (the one they needed to restore). They didn't charge her for 'trying' to find the data. Either way, my Sister lost many sleepless nights and ended of having to pay an 'expert' to get her back to somewhere close to where she should have been before the HDD crash. Thankfully, 75% of data was recovered and then my sister got with her current tech provider (this company who want to treble the price). So, what is the point of this thread?

    Well, to be sure and safe my sister would like to implement a backup system OF HER OWN (with my help) that runs automatically at a certain time. We accept we will have to purchase a backup device of some sort and would love your advice guys on this backup hardware and any free software.

    Can we back up to a USB Drive or is this not a suitable back up medium? what about a removable HDD (plugged into USB?) We have also read about NAS drives but I think that tech is a little over our head.

    Basically, we are just looking to implement a secondary backup system of our own. We don't plan to rely solely on this but what if... lo and behold this tech company ever fails to back up our files (and we only have their word that they do) we simply want to have the data to call on ourselves.

    Thanks all and apologies for this essay. I look forward to your replies and suggestions of hardware & software.

    PS...To give an idea of back up sizes
    Each individual PC has some files saved but the main drives and files are shown below:

    Finance (T) 1.47TB Free of 1.81TB
    Shared Scans (W) 1.47TB Free of 1.81TB
    Company (Y) 1.47TB Free of 1.81TB
    Strangely (or not) all 3 drives seem to have same amount of data on them??

    Thank you in anticipation.
Page 1
    • macman
    • By macman 10th May 18, 10:07 AM
    • 42,686 Posts
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    macman
    • #2
    • 10th May 18, 10:07 AM
    • #2
    • 10th May 18, 10:07 AM
    `Does 'external source' mean an external drive, or to an external location?
    If the latter, then cloud storage is the obvious option.
    Don't even think about backup to a USB flash drive, they are too fragile and easy to mislay. The 'on-site' option is a USB hard drive, but this gives you no security in case of fire/flood/theft.
    No free lunch, and no free laptop
    • googler
    • By googler 10th May 18, 10:39 AM
    • 14,827 Posts
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    googler
    • #3
    • 10th May 18, 10:39 AM
    • #3
    • 10th May 18, 10:39 AM
    Stop saving mission-critical data on separate machines.
    Establish a system whereby all that needs to be backed up is on one machine, whether that is an active PC or a background file server.

    Perhaps buy some time with an IT consultant, independent of the current backup provider, who has experience in building systems of this type. Ideally one who sells their knowledge and expertise of the field, not a backup product of their own.

    Unless the business has more than one set of premises, the data security implications of carrying multiple USB drives around between ... what? Owner's home? Staff members' homes? ... probably don't bear thinking about, assuming there's mainly customer data within.
    • onomatopoeia99
    • By onomatopoeia99 10th May 18, 10:50 AM
    • 4,587 Posts
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    onomatopoeia99
    • #4
    • 10th May 18, 10:50 AM
    • #4
    • 10th May 18, 10:50 AM
    PS...To give an idea of back up sizes
    Each individual PC has some files saved but the main drives and files are shown below:

    Finance (T) 1.47TB Free of 1.81TB
    Shared Scans (W) 1.47TB Free of 1.81TB
    Company (Y) 1.47TB Free of 1.81TB
    Strangely (or not) all 3 drives seem to have same amount of data on them??

    Thank you in anticipation.
    Originally posted by Aubrey Thicket
    T, W and V are all drive letters of mapped network drives? If so, it's possible they are three shares on the same computer and actually located on the same physical drive, which is why they all show the same used and available space.

    If it is a single drive, it looks like 240GB of data total which is beyond the scope of a USB flash drive, but who knows what else is on the drive so it might be much less data

    I'm not going to advise you on backup procedures, other than to say remember that RAID is not a backup, and that you must keep up to date copies of the data off site, because a backup to a USB hard drive is no use if it is still plugged in and the building burns down overnight.
    INTP, nerd, libertarian and scifi geek.
    Home is where my books are.
    • Aubrey Thicket
    • By Aubrey Thicket 10th May 18, 11:28 AM
    • 220 Posts
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    Aubrey Thicket
    • #5
    • 10th May 18, 11:28 AM
    • #5
    • 10th May 18, 11:28 AM
    Thank you for the excellent advice all. I (we) am understanding this a little more now. Really, silly question though...How will she KNOW if there is a standalone server? She tells me "There is a large machine upstairs that is working away. it is connected to the network hub via an ethernet cable. I think that may be the server but it has no screen or keyboard/mouse attached. I'm pretty certain that this is the server and I tested it to be 100% sure that it is turned on by pressing the CD tray eject button"

    The downside to this is that she wants to know for herself that the server (if this actually is the server) is present and running and is back up able. She tells me "Yes, I know I could ask the tech firm but they charge me for telling me all is in hand and then I have no choice to believe what they say".

    To be certain here...This is not a case of my sister not trusting her tech firm. It simply is a case of her wanting to know for herself. Remembering back the previous tech firm told her she needn't worry about anything as 'all was good' only to tell her later (as I mentioned earlier) "See, the problem with a Linux based S.M.E Server on Windows machines causes blah, blah, blah issues" yet they installed this software!

    Sorry if this is a little bit convoluted. Just looking for some initial advice.
    • agrinnall
    • By agrinnall 10th May 18, 11:48 AM
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    agrinnall
    • #6
    • 10th May 18, 11:48 AM
    • #6
    • 10th May 18, 11:48 AM
    If she doesn't understand the system that the business has and doesn't fully trust the tech firm I would suggest that she pays someone independent to come in to review the system and offer advice on back up options - if she finds someone who doesn't themselves provide a backup/support service then their advice should be OK as they won't benefit from it.
    • Aubrey Thicket
    • By Aubrey Thicket 10th May 18, 11:56 AM
    • 220 Posts
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    Aubrey Thicket
    • #7
    • 10th May 18, 11:56 AM
    Paying
    • #7
    • 10th May 18, 11:56 AM
    Whilst that is relevant and good advice with the whole point of the site being moneysaving I thought it would be good to 'start' somewhere first, such as here. As an anology to this, I was watching the program 'Watchdog' recently and there was a feature where mechanics were charging people for certain 'extras' at service that were later proven to be false. The advice from the experts wasn't to carry out the service themselves but to ask 'certain' questions bout these 'extras'. Don't get me wrong my Sister is not about to dive in and try this herself but some good, impartial, free advice would be great.

    Thank you
    • agrinnall
    • By agrinnall 10th May 18, 2:42 PM
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    agrinnall
    • #8
    • 10th May 18, 2:42 PM
    • #8
    • 10th May 18, 2:42 PM
    But my point is that without a full description of the system being used it's impossible for us to offer much more than general suggestions about backing up. While that might be appropriate for a home user with one computer, for a business with multiple computers it makes sense to get accurate professional advice. Not only is that a legitimate business expense, it could also save a huge amount of money should something go wrong in the future.
    • Robisere
    • By Robisere 10th May 18, 7:29 PM
    • 2,386 Posts
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    Robisere
    • #9
    • 10th May 18, 7:29 PM
    • #9
    • 10th May 18, 7:29 PM
    A NAS: Network Attached Storage, in combination with a second backup to a Cloud service. These are the best NAS boxes:
    https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/storage/best-nas-drives-for-2018-3217608/

    I would recommend the Synology DS218j, with (2x) 4 TB hard drives. No, RAID is not a backup, but RAID1 allows you to "mirror" the cotnets of one drive with the other. To allow for a very rare case of the Synology box becoming inoperative (never heard of any case like that) every backup can be set to be copied to a Cloud service at the same time as the NAS backup.

    Cloud backups for small business:
    http://uk.pcmag.com/cloud-services/89451/guide/best-cloud-backup-services-for-businesses-in-2018

    But I would take the advice offered first, and contact a local professional company. Here in Lincolnshire, my grandson works as an IT specialist and network engineer for one of the best in the area, but in your area I would contact more than one, then check them in comparison. Ask other local businesses which company they use and recoomend.
    I think this job really needs
    a much bigger hammer.
    • googler
    • By googler 10th May 18, 8:32 PM
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    googler
    Ask other local businesses which company they use and recoomend.
    Originally posted by Robisere
    Is she a member of any business networking group, such as BNI, or any local business initiatives? Their meetings might be the time to ask.
    • that
    • By that 10th May 18, 8:39 PM
    • 517 Posts
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    that
    How much in is triple the price? It still could be cheap!

    How often do you currently contact the company?

    Are you a time waster... "Help my mouse is not working", or paper jam in the printer?

    How long do you expect the acceptable downtime to be?

    How old is this equipment - when is it going to be replaced, is it in the contract?

    Service packs and Patches - who does them?

    Does the company supply hardware support and maintenance and includes printers, scanners and internet, mice? or is this just a backup/restore senario?

    If it is just a restore senario, and still the data does not work, will you understand that the restore is their only function, and possible reconfiguration, licenses to get it to work is yours?

    If a fire breaks out, or thieves enter, are they expected to supply replacement equipment? Loan equipment? Just do a restore on equipment you purchase? Restore and also make all the software work too? Re-install the network cabling? Deliver all new PCs, restore and make the software work, set up accounts, configure printer paths?

    A company with both Linux and Windows skills are far less common. Twice the skillset twice the price? You have to make the two different operating systems talk to each other too. Although Windows is not free, it is everywhere, and every IT company knows it, cutting the price down.

    All your backups are encrypted? You would not want to back up to ONE usb drive. It is often better for data to leave the premises, but this had better not be your only copy and your data line has to be quick enough too. Also you probably want a backup set that goes back daily for at least one month, with one copy each month that goes back at least a year.

    In our workplace, each PC is estimated to cost around 600 each a year to support - not breakages, not replacements, not power. We roughly have over 12000 PCs, and 1500 servers.

    Thank you for the excellent advice all. I (we) am understanding this a little more now. Really, silly question though...How will she KNOW if there is a standalone server? She tells me "There is a large machine upstairs that is working away. it is connected to the network hub via an ethernet cable. I think that may be the server but it has no screen or keyboard/mouse attached. I'm pretty certain that this is the server and I tested it to be 100% sure that it is turned on by pressing the CD tray eject button"
    If you do not know your stuff, you always will have to pay people. You will always be at the mercy of those people. More you know, the less likely people will pull the wool over your eyes.

    If you only know this little, a service contract will be a mine field, could be costly too. You have to know your business.

    I am in IT for many decades, never seen any computer to be turned on or off by pressing the cd button. Depending what a server is running and doing at the time, just switching it off could stop everything from ever working, corrupting the software. Sorry, misread as pointed out by Googler
    Last edited by that; 10-05-2018 at 11:30 PM.
    • googler
    • By googler 10th May 18, 8:46 PM
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    googler
    I am in IT for many decades, never seen any computer to be turned on or off by pressing the cd button.
    Originally posted by that
    The OP is saying the business owner simply verified it was on and running by opening the CD tray. Power to CD drive = machine switched on.

    Not that they switched it on or off by this method.
    • googler
    • By googler 10th May 18, 8:55 PM
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    googler
    OP, as an aside, many years back I was in the IT dept of a large financial co.

    At first, backup was a daily operation of shuttling large IBM magnetic tapes between data centre and offsite storage. Then it became smaller tapes, and data cartridges, and eventually reached the point where the co had a mirror of the main data centre (same CPU, same disk drives, etc), with the mirror linked so that every update on the live systems was immediately mirrored at the other site.

    You and your sister have to decide what you want from your backup strategy, which is where someone with expertise in the field, but someone divorced from the day-to-day mechanics of it, with no product to sell you other than knowledge, can help.

    Do you want a once-per-day, so that you can restore to the end of the previous day's work? Or instantaneous, such that you can pick up exactly where you left off when failure occurred? What other premises are available for physical backups? Has the business got more than one site? etc etc
    • ChuckMountain
    • By ChuckMountain 10th May 18, 9:31 PM
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    ChuckMountain
    How much in is triple the price? It still could be cheap!
    Originally posted by that
    Yep agree with you on that that . Without knowing what they are paying and what they are getting for it is hard to say if it is good value for money.

    Does the backup service have a regular test, or have they proved it works. What you don't want to do is come to the time when you need a restore only for it no to work. Something if you do it yourself you need to cover too.

    You know (or should know) the risk and associated cost to the business if your IT goes down\gets stolen etc., does the company have a service level agreement to get you back up and running in x hours\x days etc.

    Incidentally that 600 per seat figures seems high for what I would expect at that volume of PC level but I guess it depends how you have calculated it.
    • that
    • By that 10th May 18, 11:05 PM
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    that
    OP, as an aside, many years back I was in the IT dept of a large financial co.

    At first, backup was a daily operation of shuttling large IBM magnetic tapes between data centre and offsite storage. Then it became smaller tapes, and data cartridges, and eventually reached the point where the co had a mirror of the main data centre (same CPU, same disk drives, etc), with the mirror linked so that every update on the live systems was immediately mirrored at the other site.

    You and your sister have to decide what you want from your backup strategy, which is where someone with expertise in the field, but someone divorced from the day-to-day mechanics of it, with no product to sell you other than knowledge, can help.

    Do you want a once-per-day, so that you can restore to the end of the previous day's work? Or instantaneous, such that you can pick up exactly where you left off when failure occurred? What other premises are available for physical backups? Has the business got more than one site? etc etc
    Originally posted by googler
    Unfortunately this may not be good enough these days. If the files are small and plentiful, an encryption virus can take days to trundle through a volume. if you have only one or two daily backups and rotate them, they will always be encrypted files.

    If the encryption virus finds an open share with backups on your san, or open virtual tape library, you are more than in the brown smelly stuff, and you will either pay or loose it all.

    If your company has a quarterly billing process and that file is only used every quarter, if it goes faulty, or gets deleted by a disenfranchised employee you loose up to 6 months work, providing you have monthly copies going back a year, if you only have a months rotation, the file will possibly no longer exist and it is lost for ever.

    ChuckMountain, we cover multiple sites - think 70?, citrix farm, windows, unix and linux. Have about 700 applications we support, about 400t data and an expensive backup solution
    Last edited by that; 11-05-2018 at 6:05 PM.
    • ChuckMountain
    • By ChuckMountain 11th May 18, 12:07 AM
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    ChuckMountain
    Can't quote on this device but see where you are coming from that, as normally application support and other things would for me would have been in a different bucket as opposed where I was thinking in terms of pure desktop support if that makes sense.

    It's important for the op to ensure when comparing providers that's is apples and apples in terms of pricing.
    Last edited by ChuckMountain; 11-05-2018 at 10:37 AM.
    • Heedtheadvice
    • By Heedtheadvice 11th May 18, 10:20 PM
    • 909 Posts
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    Heedtheadvice
    Aubray,
    Loads of excellent pointers being made on this thread.
    A few thoughts.....

    Backup ....and business continuity really in it's wider sense .... includes data protection, disaster recovery, security etc....and more.

    Your sister ought to be in the best place to put values on that for loss of business (lost from the computer system) cost of duplicating work (and risk of not getting that right), reputational risk or time delays resulting in worst case of lost customers, loss of data you are legally obliged to keep (lots here such as records for HMRC, pensions, employee records, maybe those that are needed to show compliance etc.).

    Then there could be risk that your contract with the third party tech company is not fulfilled (one cause already mentioned -their error, you lack of a complete contract, the company folding....)

    Now given sufficient detail of needs and acsoec their are 'experts' who post on this site who can give great technical advice such as those earlier in this thread. However, and I do not disagree with much that has been written above, it seems probable that you need a business risk assessment to then be able to specify your need. You can then take it from there balancing cost with likelyhood of risks materialising and impact of those risks. I would suggest a review by a Business Analyst who also has experience in IT issues.

    Athough your sister is focussing on 'computer data', that could just be current blinkered vision, a review could be an eye opener that she has other significant risks of equal (or greater?) importance.

    As mentioned already by a previous poster that is a legitimate business expense eventually paid for by your customers as part of your overheads but tax deductable.

    ......but yes there are several backup regimes as well as other security measures a business should take. That's post gives an idea of what might be appropriate. Good that your sister has an eye open on the issues and is not living in naive bliss of 'buy a few pcs and life will be easier and I need do nothing'.....oooops too late.

    Let's hope this thread has given much food for thought and helps you help her.
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