In my dealings with small businesses I find that the majority pay little attention to the issue of backup/restore until they lose files/folders or worse still have a hard disk failure in one or more of their machines. At that stage it is often extremely expensive to employ a recovery specialist to attempt to resurrect a dead drive and you can never guarantee that the drive contents will be recoverable.
When I ask small business owners why they haven’t considered a proper backup/restore regime I hear two common answers. The first is that they trusted in the reliability of their hardware and didn’t think they it would break (and hence would need a backup) and the second is that they think that a backup solution would be prohibitively expensive. Let me take this opportunity to share with you some wisdom on both of those comments!
- Computer hardware is not like consumer electronics devices
My dad is a keen satellite TV enthusiast and has TV’s that are over 20 years old. They function as well as the day they were bought and probably will do for another 20 years! Sadly, computer hardware can’t be regarded in the same vein. Modern mechanical hard disk drives spin at very high speeds and get quite hot in the tight enclosures they are packed into. Even though the mean time between failure (MTBF) quoted by manufactures is of the order of millions of hours the truth is that hard disk corruption or total failure is one of the most common causes of data loss both for home users and business users.
- Backup solutions need not be expensive
It is true that backup solutions can vary in features and price by a huge amount, and often depends on the amount of data that needs to be backed up and the speed by which a business requires the backed up data or machine to be restored. For small businesses however there are a number of fantastic software solutions that offer you a great set of features for a low price. One that I am really fond of is Windows Home Server. If you have up to 10 Windows client machines (XP, Vista, Windows 7 etc.) then Windows Home Server would be a great solution for your business.
Windows Home Server
Windows Home Server is built upon a slimmed down version of Windows Server 2003, however it has technologies in it that aren’t found in any other Windows server version including:
- A fantastic console for controlling the software,
- a dedicated backup/restore module
- Drive extender technology (Drive Pooling)
- and a remote access module
The backup/restore module uses VSS to allow any Windows client machine to be completely backed up. In essence you can restore individual files/folders or the entire machine to the point at which it was last backed up. It also has a scheduler which takes care of backup’s for those client machines automatically. So restoring a whole machine to an existing or new hard disk is as simple as booting from a CD or USB thumb drive, connecting to the server and running the restore process. Restoring a file or folder is as simple as opening the backup set on the Home Server console, and copying the files/folders from the backup to the original location on the source PC.
The drive extender technology within Windows Home Server allows a small business to duplicate their files and folders across multiple physical disks to add resiliency to the server. It also allows a business to expand the available storage space easily when required. The process of expanding storage is as simple as adding a new physical disk to the server chassis, opening the Home Server Console, clicking on the newly found disk and finally clicking “add”. Since the drive extender technology makes data duplication easy a small business owner need not concern themselves with the configuration of RAID arrays that would be necessary for an IT administrator to consider with a standard Windows server install. This makes Home Server perfect for small businesses.
Finally, if a small business has a requirement to give remote access to files/folders to employees over the Internet, Home Server can configure a secure website to facilitate this.
Below is a set of screenshots of Windows Home Server demonstrating Backup/Restore and Remote Access features. Please contact Forza IT if you are interested in discussing a Windows Home Server solution for your small business.