Backup Backup Backup!

Ok folks, moving on from our last topic on Cyber Security, one thing that seems to crop up quite often here at TER is someone in a panic because the hard drive in their PC or Mac has died or the machine won’t boot up. I should add this is typically on personal machines as most office environments will use a server to store data.

Hard disks are (usually) mechanical devices, although see my piece on SSDs here, and will eventually fail. This is due to a number of factors, not limited to mechanical wear, accidental damage from shock or bumps, and difficult environments such as hot and dusty places.

smashy hard drive

When this happens, there is a significant chance the data on the hard drive cannot be read by conventional means. Yes, we can try all kinds of tricks to get to the data, such as freezing the hard drive (yep, this actually works), to see if we can get anything off it, but typically the drive has had it.

At this point your only hope is to use a data recovery agency, such as Kroll OnTrack, however this can be expensive (£400 at a minimum) and no guarantee that the data can either be recovered or be useful. So what to do?

Well, the best thing is to avoid the heartache of having to worry when this sort of thing happens. Backup your machine and you can have access to your data almost instantly and the loss of the machine becomes an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe. Both Windows and Apple offer built in solutions (depending on version) that can utilise an external hard drive as a backup repository that can be used to recover your machine in the event of a hard drive failure. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of user involvement, reliability and ease of use but will provide  a layer of protection.

There are also a number of online backup providers – we use JungleDisk here a lot at The Engine Room – it’s cheap, easy and pretty reliable. The best thing about it is that it’s fairly hands off and you can largely not worry about it. The only catch is that being an online service accessing your data can be a slow process and it’s a monthly cost.

Dropbox, SkyDrive can also provide a limited form of backup but can be a more expensive solution and is still reliant on you to make sure your data is in the right folder being sync’d. The other consideration is that Dropbox will sync corruption as well so is not a failsafe method.

In the context of a server, we recommend using a combination of both. The local hard disk backup is for speed and local failure, with the online backup used for business continuity. You can’t have too much protection from failure.

And lastly, test your backup. I remember in the olden days when backing up to tape was the norm. We had a server that would backup every night and we’d get a success report the following morning. Then one day someone deleted their mailbox and we needed to get the tapes out to recover the data. Except the tapes were blank. It turned out the write head on the tape drive had fallen off and no one knew about it until we needed to restore the data! So check it periodically by running trial restores, be it from a local source or an online backup. You don’t want to find there’s a problem when you’re trying to recover your data.

We’ll talk about Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity another time so we’ll leave it at this for now. If you want to find out more about how we can help you with your backup and other processes around protecting your data get in touch.

Your personal cyber security

Security​There is always something in the news regarding IT security – whether it’s the horrendously scary GO Zeus or remembering to cover your PIN code at the tills, all around us we are being warned about the impact of letting our guard down. But be honest, how many of us still think – It won’t happen to me?

That includes me. Without ever wanting to admit it, my ignorance relating to IT Security plays a part of my total lack of addressing my weaknesses.
But these are real threats and there are huge organised groups out there, incredibly smart and devious, that are ready to take advantage of vulnerable and unsuspecting folk. There are probably a million things that you can do to protect yourself, I sure as hell don’t know all of them – but below are some easy top tips to remember to keep you a little bit safer.
1. First rule – Don’t ever think ‘it won’t happen to me’. It can. Be vigilant and don’t ignore ‘strange’ things even if they seem small and insignificant at the time. If something looks suspicious, don’t ignore it.
2. An old favourite, but be careful when opening attachments or links in emails. If you don’t know the sender, or it looks suspicious – Don’t Click! A little known fact (and not something I am proud of) but I once opened a file from ‘DHL’ – a supplier at the time. I was lucky. My computer was contaminated with a programme that kept taking me to Wowcher or would download 100s of adverts every time I tried to do anything. Like I said, I was lucky it wasn’t something more malicious – but my computer still had to be sent away to get rebuilt and resulted in about 2 days downtime in total. And a lot of embarrassment. But imagine if that spread to the whole business…
3. Practice good password management. And that means, changing it regularly, using a good mix of characters, not using the same one on multiple sites. And don’t write them down. Thinking ‘what a nightmare’ to think of strong passwords and then remember them all? Here is a useful site to help you create memorable passwords.
4. It might sound obvious, but don’t leave your devices unattended. Your computer, tablet, phone etc – if you do have to leave them for any length of time, remember to either lock the keyboard, or lock them away. And this goes for USB sticks and flash drives – if there is something on it that’s valuable to you, then it is valuable. It takes just one opportunist to give you a complete nightmare day.
5. Backup Backup Backup!! My brother owns a Business Tech company, and tells me this is one of the most important things to remember. If it all goes a bit wrong and you find yourself with an empty hard drive – your files will be backed-up somewhere. But remember to do it. Mental note to self – remember to back up….
6. Be savvy about your browsing, and only use a device that belongs to you, and on a network you trust. Non secure networks will mean your data is vulnerable, and you will need to consider what it is you are doing. Make sure your firewalls are up to date, and if you do sign into your local Costa wifi, select it as a ‘Public’ network.
7. You can’t get away from Facebook, Twitter etc etc (I am not ‘with it’ enough to know all the different networks out there, but I am advised that there are many) but don’t forget that these are actually incredibly public, especially if you have not selected the right privacy settings. Therefore, be careful who you ‘link in’ with. If you don’t actually know the person / business you are connecting with, then be aware that they will now have access to a lot of personal information. Not to freak you out, but this will include where you went to school, when you are going on holiday, names of your kids …
8. And so to end on another old favourite – don’t ever give personal information to someone over the phone or internet unless you are 100% confident they are who they say they are. And in any case, if they are legit, you will never have to give this information out.
Hopefully, I haven’t completed messed you up, and this is just a reminder of what we already know. If you want to know more about how Cyber Security affects you, please contact us HERE with your query.
Stay safe people.