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Plugged into the Cloud with CTERA

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

CTERA CloudPlug - Front The first time I saw an announcement for the CTERA CloudPlug, I was puzzled. “Cloud-Attached Storage” is a catchy phrase, but what did it mean? Could I just plug the device into a wall socket, connect it to my computer, and send my data into the cloud?

So naturally when CTERA’s PR agency offered me a chance to examine the CloudPlug, and interview a representative of the company, I said yes.

The demo package included the device itself (which looks like nothing so much as the voltage converter on a router, only sleeker), an Ethernet cable, a power cord, and an adorably tiny USB stick loaded with manuals and product info, that the cover letter said I could use as the storage device for testing purposes. Oh, and a FedEx return label to ship it back to them, which I’ll be doing in the next day or so. (FTC, are you listening?)

The documentation was extensive (the PDF manual is 200 pages long) but not always helpful, in part because the previous reviewer had forgotten to restore the device to factory settings, so when I followed the directions I didn’t find quite what I was expecting to. I also experienced a little confusion because the Windows Explorer interface for the CloudPlug doesn’t operate the same way as my other NAS drives do.

I don’t think that would be a problem for someone who hadn’t used NAS drives before, though, and the CloudPlug is a device for people who already have a network, but haven’t yet ventured into the realm of networked storage. I will say that despite the apparent simplicity of the device, you really do need to read the manual—once they update it for consistency. (Despite what some parts of the current documentation say, the CloudPlug does work with Macs.) 

Physically connecting the CloudPlug is easy. Stick it into an electrical outlet and then connect the Ethernet cable to your router. Disconnect your hard drive (USB or eSATA) from your computer or hub and hook it up to the CloudPlug. Your computer should take it from there. My laptop, which runs XP Pro, recognized the presence of a new Universal Plug and Play device immediately and proceeded to go through the Windows new hardware installation routine. Thereafter “CTERA CloudPlug” showed up in “My Network Places” with the same kind of icon as my router and my network printer…though it might take a while to appear.

The reviewer’s guide for the CloudPlug is very clear that this device is only one link in the chain between your computer and the cloud. You have to have a modem and a router already. Before you can have Network Attached Storage, there has to be a network to attach it to. Oh, and you have to have some storage. (No one in real life would want to convert a 2 GB memory stick into a NAS drive—or if you would, please leave a comment and let me know why!)

One thing I do not suffer from, however, is a shortage of hard drives. The one I chose to convert into a NAS drive to share among my different machines was Qualora, the Buffalo Quattro, since it has the most storage space and the fancy RAID array.

The next trick was to get to the CloudPlug web interface. As I said, I ran into a few delays there because the device hadn’t been reset, but once I sorted that out I was able to ensure that the CloudPlug used the same network as the rest of the machines and create a couple of network shares for test purposes. Then I went over to the CTERA Portal and set up a trial account for their online backup service.

And that was as far as I’d gotten before my interview with Rani Osnat, VP of Marketing for CTERA, on December 16th.  Since I was still suffering from pretty severe laryngitis at the time, it was a rather challenging undertaking.

CTERA and the CloudPlug: the 30,000-foot View

The first thing I asked Rani was where the name “CTERA” came from. I’d already had to ask Raegan, the PR representative, how to pronounce it (see-TAIR-a). I can’t help it; I do consulting work for a naming company, and I’m always interested in where names come from. In this case, C is for “cloud” and “tera” is meant to be “terra” as in “earth,” not “tera” as in “terabyte”. Which makes sense, but they should probably have a footnote about it on their website somewhere.

Rani then led me through a presentation explaining, among other things, the convergence of higher broadband speeds, cloud storage speeds, and embedded NAS that make Cloud Attached Storage feasible. The founders of CTERA have a background in network security from their previous venture, SofaWare.

It always makes me laugh, though, the way the online backup companies diss hard drives as a backup medium. The slide Rani showed actually says “External HDD: Unreliable, Manual.” Let’s be very clear here, boys and girls. When you back your data up “in the cloud”, it’s being stored on hard drives. They’re hard drives in mirrored RAID arrays in secure data centers (we hope), but they’re still hard drives. And while all hard drives do eventually fail, the failure rate of the hard drives in data centers is actually much higher than that of XHDs in offices, unless you knock the thing on the floor.

Besides, almost all XHDs now come bundled with some kind of backup software, and almost all backup software now has scheduling built in, so it’s a stretch to assume everyone who buys an XHD is backing up by manually dragging and dropping files. More and more backup software includes versioning, too.

The real down side to using an external hard drive for your backup is that it’s almost certainly right there in your office with your computer, so it’s just as vulnerable to theft or natural disaster as the drive you’re backing up.

But I digress.

The CloudPlug is aimed at the “prosumer” market, and those seem to be the people who are buying it. These are the traditionally underserved small and home businesses for whom consumer products don’t quite cut it, but who don’t have nearly the infrastructure—never mind the budget—to support enterprise hardware and software. It is, in fact, a perfect device for someone like me, running a home business, sharing a network with someone else. There are normally four computers and two NAS drives on our network here, in addition to the network printer. (For an office with more than 20 users, the C200 is a better device.)

It’s also aimed at the ISP market, as something the likes of Comcast could re-sell to their customers, with a white-label version of CTERA’s storage portal service.

I asked about the people who have already purchased some kind of NAS device, and want to be able to back it up online?  After all, people who are geeky enough to make good use of the CloudPlug (which is definitely not a device for my mom) might already own a network drive. Or two, in my case. Rani said to watch this space.

So How Does It Work, Already?

The CloudPlug is designed to sync the computers onto the drive it’s connected to, then back the contents of that drive up to the CTERA’s online backup service. The sync feature is pretty basic, even in the advanced version. But once you’ve configured the drive for Windows sharing, you can use any backup software you want to copy data onto the drive that’s hooked up to the CloudPlug.

Of course, part of the point of the CloudPlug, and one of its advantages over traditional online backup, is that you don’t have to install any software on your computer. Any file copying from your working drive takes place over the local network, at fairly high speeds. (Very high speeds if you have a gigabit network, but I don’t.) The actual uploading of files from the backup drive to the cloud doesn’t slow down your machine. You don’t even have to have it turned on. And if you need to back up several machines, you don’t have to install software multiple times—and pay for multiple licenses.

Absolutely brilliant, in theory. Slightly rockier in practice. Easy Sync chooses entire drive partitions to synchronize. I was not that surprised when it ran into errors trying to synchronize my C drive. I was rather puzzled when all it could copy of my D drive, which contains only data, was the file structure. On the other hand, it did a spiffing job of copying data over from my Buffalo MiniStation.

I imagine that if I’d settled in for a session with tech support, we could have worked our way through that problem, but I was already way overdue with this post as it was. (It’s possible that part of the problem is the fact that there’s a password on my laptop.)

I really like the idea of the CloudPlug. I think it may need a little fine-tuning in the usability department. For one thing, if you look at the web interface, the tools are in the wrong order relative to what you need to do to get the CloudPlug set up.

CTERA User Web Interface

I’d be the first to agree that “backup” is high in importance, but before you can back up with the CloudPlug, you have to run the setup wizard, then share folders, then synchronize. (The setup wizard should take care of the network connection.)  Then you can create some backup jobs.

CloudPlug - Backup Control Panel

CloudPlug - restore process

Compared to the rest of it, the backup and restore process are quite simple and straightforward, and fairly speedy. (Though I’m not sure my files actually did get restored, since I’d ticked the box that said to append something to the file name, and never saw any files with names like that.) And I’m not sure why the restore process needs to analyze files outside the folder that the backups came from, either.

Conclusion

I’m not sure the CloudPlug is 100% ready for Prime Time yet, but it’s a very intriguing device with a lot of potential. It looks like it should be easier to use than it is. Admittedly, it performs a pretty complex array of tasks, but configuration was certainly not simpler than, say, my network printer, my Maxtor Shared Storage II, or my Buffalo LinkStation Mini. The main difference is that there’s no software to install. That difference might be worth it to you, and it might not. There aren’t many solutions for backing network drives up online right now, and some of the ones that exist contain slightly bizarre restrictions based on file type.

If you’re doing it just to create a NAS drive for local use, it probably isn’t worth it, since you’d be adding the $199 ($299 when their special introductory period ends) for the CloudPlug to the cost of a comparable drive, which means a USB RAID drive like my Quattro (about $400 for the 2 TB model). The 2 TB LinkStation Quad, the networked equivalent of the Quattro, costs about the same as the Quattro. Yes, you can connect the CloudPlug to an ordinary, inexpensive USB drive. But that wouldn’t be a drive comparable to the NAS drives on the market today, all of which offer some level of RAID protection against drive failure, in addition to the kind of storage capacity you want when using a single drive to back up multiple computers.

Part of the CloudPlug’s cost is the first year’s 10 GB online backup subscription, and it’s really only the “cloud” part of the CloudPlug that makes it stand out. As I said before, backup is the function that works best, with sync still seeming a bit rough around the edges. Automatically uploading backups at times when no one is actually using the Internet, in a way that doesn’t tie up any system resources, seems like technology worth investing in.

But I might wait for the second generation.

Backups on the Run

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I spent last week bouncing around between conferences and meetings, which meant there was no time to review any new backup software, but all that zipping back and forth with the netbook and the iriver (does anyone else hate it as much as I do when companies refuse to capitalize their brand names) gave me plenty of opportunities to make backups and to think about backups.

Normally when I record something, I leave the original recordings on the iriver until I’ve finished my editing on the computer. This week there was too much too record, and too little time to edit. Tuesday at the Social Media Strategies conference I recorded 8 hours of combined sessions and interviews; that’s as much as the iriver can hold. When I got home (well, when I could move again), I copied them onto Mena (the netbook) and backed them up onto the Rebit. Then I copied them onto Enna (the HP Pavilion laptop) and backed them up onto the Metro drive, the second internal hard drive, and the Quattro. I still haven’t had a chance to edit them, but boy are they backed up.

Friday was the BACN meeting, which meant another four hours of recordings. These are supplementary, since we don’t use most of them in audio form, so I settled for copying them onto Enna and from there to the D, Q, and R drives. (They actually go to the R drive twice because I still have Memeo Instant Backup running.)

Yesterday I had another all-day event to record; I still need to transfer those files onto Enna and edit them, but this time I can leave the originals on the iriver until I get my editing done, unless I take a really long time to do it. It’s almost a month before my next conference.

Cruzer Micro by fsse8info Anyone who goes back and forth between computers is familiar with USB sticks. That’s probably why they hand them out as swag at conferences. (Though one of the ones I got at AWSMS09 was defective, and the other overheats awfully quickly.) I’ve been in the habit of keeping data that needs to go back and forth on one or another SanDisk Cruzer Micro U3 USB sticks instead of on Mena’s hard drive. Under normal conditions, a SanDisk Cruzer Micro looks like this photo by FSSE.info. The white part is a switch that retracts the USB plug; it flashes orange when the drive is connected and working.

Back in August, the BACN board was having a special meeting. We were moving the chairs around the boardroom table when one of them ran over Mena’s cord and yanked her off the table. The USB stick took the full force of the landing; the two halves of the black case snapped apart and flew all the way across the room. They were far too warped to fit back together. (The netbook, miraculously, was all right.)

crushed cruzer Here’s the kicker, though. The stub of the Cruzer was still in its socket—and the light was on. It was still working. You know that thing about solid state drives being more shock-resistant? it’s true. (Mena actually has ordinary hard drives that spin, but I guess they weren’t doing anything critical at the time of the fall. I do keep her in a hard plastic shell, but mostly I think I was bloody lucky.)

After I got home and copied the files I needed onto Enna, I tossed the remains of the Cruzer into the drawer I usually keep it in. Though I’d already been wondering vaguely about getting some kind of case for it, I hadn’t really thought about proper storage for the poor thing. (Nor had I thought about the fact that it could pose electrical shock danger, as the Ur-Guru pointed out to me.)

I happen to keep my count-up, count-down timer in the same drawer. And guess what the timer has on the back of it? Yep. A magnet. So of course the next time I reached into the drawer to pull out the timer, the memory stick was stuck to it.

I was sure the data would be completely wiped out. Anyone in my generation has been warned about magnets and floppy disks, hard drives, etc, etc. I was curious to see just what kind of mess would be left, so I plugged the Cruzer in.

Everything was fine.

I swear, this thing is indestructible.

I would never advise you to mistreat your equipment this way. And the injuries my Cruzer Micro suffered are just one example of how easy it is for USB sticks to come to grief, so you should always make sure to copy any information on them to your computer right away.

But I would definitely recommend SanDisk if you want a tough, reliable USB stick. And I’ve been pretty happy with their MP3 players, too.

Just Add Water? Memeo Instant Backup

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

When I first heard about Memeo Instant Backup, I objected that no program that backed up your entire hard drive could possibly be “instant.” Hard drives are getting bigger and bigger, so copying them takes longer and longer.

Robert Phillips explained to me that the “instant” part refers to the fact that the backup process starts instantly: as soon as you install the product, it begins backing you up. You don’t have to tell Instant Backup anything except where you want it to put your files. It’s designed to be easy enough for your grandparents to use, and the author of the press release tried it on hers to make sure.

I was expecting something designed to compete with Rebit, but that’s not quite what I got. Memeo Instant Backup is simple, yes. It’s got a colorful, friendly user interface, and it gets right down to work. It even works pretty quickly, and after the initial backup, its continuous monitoring doesn’t put too much drain on the system. But it’s got a little truth in advertising problem that you need to know about.

The reason I was expecting a software version of Rebit was this statement: “Protect your entire computer instantly. All files on your C drive will be included in the backup plan.” As I found out after running Memeo Instant Backup, this is simply not true. Let’s walk through it and see if you can spot what’s missing.

One minor but early irritation was the inability to choose which directory to install the program to, but that’s because I’m a “power user” type. The people this product is aimed at don’t care about things like that, if they even know they’re an option. There are very few options available in Memeo Instant Backup, but that’s a deliberate move to avoid confusing the user. In essence, there are two things you can do: back up everything, or restore everything. Oh, and you can pause a backup while it’s running if you need to, say, move or rename a file you just downloaded.

The interface is attractive and easy to understand. An illustration of a computer monitor shows the relative proportions of the different kinds of data you have on your machine, while a progress bar shows how much of the available space on your backup device is occupied.

Memeo Instant Backup's backup window

(In case you’re wondering, I chose the new Metro drive from Buffalo as the backup destination.)

Those colorful icons and the size of the completed backup should be your first hint that Memeo Instant Backup is not really backing up the entire C drive. Enna is a fairly old laptop, so my C drive is only 80 GB, though I have a second 80 GB drive built in, as well. Right now my C drive is about half full: I’ve used 40.2 GB. The size of that backup is 15.4 GB.

Contents of backup folderWhat’s missing? The obvious answer is “program files.” Memeo refers specifically to documents, pictures, music, videos, and “others.” If you look at the actual backup destination folder, that’s even more explicit. Instant Backup avoids operating system folders and default program installation folders, so the “Program Files” and “Windows” directories are conspicuous by their absence, are many of the subfolders from “Documents and Settings.”

Leaving out the system files is fair enough, though I don’t think you can make a truthful claim to back up an entire drive if you skip them. But there’s something else missing here, and it’s a pretty big oversight.

Not one of those folders contains my Outlook PST folder. For the uninitiated, Outlook stores all its data in a folder called Outlook.pst that’s stored in Documents and Settings\User Name\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. You will notice there is no such folder here. That means that my e-mail, calendar, and contacts are not backed up. (Well, not by Memeo. I am, of course, backing them up.) Maybe the assumption is that everybody’s grandparents use Yahoo! or Gmail or Hotmail.

instant-restoreAt least the fact that these files and folders neatly replicate the structure on your C drive means that it’s possible to restore a single file via drag and drop, because you can’t do it through the Memeo Instant Backup restore interface. The only option there is to restore all your files, though you do get the choice of whether to restore them to their original location or an alternative location. Whether you will ever then be able to delete them from that alternative location seems to be an open question.

Memeo Premium Backup lets you restore individual files and has other features that the less expensive Instant Backup lacks. I’ve written about its predecessors before if you’re interested.

Instant Backup seems to do a pretty good job at the things it does. I do think the lack of e-mail backup is a serious drawback for anyone who uses a POP mail client, and that the claim to back up “your entire drive” should be adjusted to something more factual. Nevertheless, I like the program as a tool for technophobes who need to back up their photos, documents, and music. It’s friendly, easy to use, and unobtrusive. It will also probably improve in subsequent versions, the way Memeo’s other products have.

Buffalo Goes Metro in San Francisco

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

A few days ago I got a phone call from my BFF Jay Pechek at Buffalo Technology, apologizing profusely for not responding  immediately to my initial queries about Raid Troubles in Europe and his DriveStation. It turns out Jay was on vacation in Colombia and completely without Internet access for a few weeks. But no sooner had he landed in New York than he was off on a product launch tour and headed, in fact, for San Francisco.

So on August 27th I found myself back in the Market Bar with Jay and his boss Oliver Kaven, drinking artisanal diet cola, admiring the new toys, and dropping broad hints about my availability to do freelance writing.

Prior to yesterday, I had three Buffalo drives, two of which I acquired during my last meeting with Jay, in May of 2008. They are all solid, well-made drives that don’t give me any trouble. (Well, I seem to remember that Lachesis, the baby NAS drive, wanted to speak Japanese to me after a power outage once.) Lachesis could properly be described as “cute,” in the same way that my netbook is cute: she’s a miniature but fully-functioning version of something larger. But this is still a long way from “sleek” or “sexy.”

Buffalo MiniStation DataVault Buffalo MiniStation Metro

MiniStation DataVault

MiniStation Metro

The words “solid” and “workmanlike” are far more apt to come to mind. The Quattro frankly looks like a safe, and as for Vesta, the little DataVault, she looks downright virginal. Heck, she looks armored and virginal. Maybe I should have called her “Minerva,” but I already had an M drive.

But this year, in addition to upgrading its technical specs, Buffalo has recognized that electronics consumers care about aesthetics. As Engadget recognized in January, 2009 has been the Japanese storage maker’s year to get colorful. First there was the Cobalt (which Jay somehow never mentioned to me), and now there’s the Metro. Both are 2.5-inch drives. Both come with hardware disk encryption, Turbo USB, and Memeo backup or sync software. But the Cobalt is noticeably skinnier than the Metro or the DataVault, because it lacks the extra layers of cushioning that protect those drives from the hazards of portability.

Buffalo expected the Cobalt to be more popular than it was. After all, competitors Seagate and Western Digital have slim, colorful 2.5-inch drives. But Buffalo’s customers wanted security. They wanted to know that if someone knocked their drive off the edge of a table, it would still work. So the Metro was born, and it manages quite well to be tough and sexy at the same time.

First, it’s voluptuously red. A deep, rich, glossy, metallic, fingerprint-attracting shade. (All right, so it does clash with my hair. So what? I’m not wearing it as an accessory.) Second, the Flex Connect USB cable fits so neatly around the outside edge that it could almost be decorative flashing. In fact, it’s a good thing that the quick start guide provides instructions on removing the Flex Connect cable from its pocket. It’s also a good thing that Buffalo provides a matching extension cable, because that is one short USB connector. (You can remove the Flex Connect cable entirely and replace it with an ordinary USB mini cable, but that does expose the interior of the drive to dust.

Metro flex connect cable and serial number

The drive’s serial number is tucked neatly under the cable. The back of the drive is outlined in red anti-skid treads.

Naturally, I was eager to get this sweet piece of equipment home and check it out, especially since I need a replacement for Freya, my FreeAgent Go drive. Freya is the only hard drive in my collection that I actually paid money for, and she’s getting wonky on me. Fortunately, she has a 5-year warranty, so I just need to dig up my receipt and get the data off her. (The Metro only has a 1-year warranty, but does promise 24/7 tech support.)

Most of the data on Freya is backed up to Lachesis anyway, but I think that Ruby, the new Metro (unoriginal, I know), will probably replace her as my main backup drive anyway. Not only does Ruby have greater capacity (250 GB vs 160, though actually the encryption and other software take up about 20 GB), but she only needs one cable. Seagate’s portable hard drives have an unfortunate requirement for two USB ports, one to provide power and one for transferring data, and ever since one of my USB hubs died a couple of months ago, USB ports are at a premium. (And the problem with Freya is precisely that of getting enough power, whether she’s connected to a hub or directly to my laptop.)

So I plugged Ruby into my USB hub and got the Drive Navigator prompt, which offered to set up my password, install Turbo USB, and install Picasa. (I didn’t bother with that last.)

Passwords do not matchAnd here I ran into a little glitch. Not just the frequently-encountered glitch wherein Buffa
lo has failed to hire a proofreader to go over the user interface (ahem, HINT), but a more serious problem with the password setup.

If you make a mistake, you get an appropriate error message. For instance, the first password I entered contained non-alphanumeric characters, and I got an error message to that effect (except longer, and in poorer English, HINT). Then I chose a long password, and mistyped it the second time I entered it.

The third time, I typed everything correctly, clicked “OK”—and got a message that said “Failed.” So I did it all over again. Same message: “Failed.” So I clicked “Cancel” and went on to the next step, installing Turbo USB. That required disconnecting and re-connecting the drive. When I re-connected the drive, I was prompted to enter my password.

Failed error message The password worked, but I was decidedly puzzled. I took a look in the manual (included in PDF form on the disk) and checked out the program called, I kid you not, “SecureLockManagerEasy.” (I ask you. How about “Easy Secure Lock Manager”? Or even “Secure Lock Easy Manager”? It’s bad enough calling a pocket-sized drive a “Station” when it’s not meant to be stationary and doesn’t broadcast, but “SecureLockManagerEasy” has a sort of Third World warez sound to it.) This is what you use to change your password, and also to tell the Metro to log on automatically if it recognizes your computer. And it’s where you reset the drive to factory settings if you can’t remember your password, but you’d better remember it, because that reset wipes all the data off the drive.

I went through the password reset process just to see whether it would actually work if I did it there, but no. Or rather, it did work, but instead of a confirmation, I just got that “Failed” message. I turned on the automatic authentication, so now when I connect the drive, I get a notice saying the drive has authenticated. There’s a little white light under the red panel on top the Metro to indicate that encryption is on, just under the lock-and-key symbol (which is almost too small to identify). There’s also a little blue light across from it to indicate activity on the drive. It looks slightly purple through the red, just as the white looks slightly pink.

I also ran into some hangups when trying to copy files directly from Freya to Ruby. I’m not sure why this happened, but I ended up having to reboot my machine. I ended up reformatting Ruby as NTFS and plugging her directly into the laptop, and I’ve been copying files from Lachesis. So far there have been no more problems, so the root issue may have been with Freya, or it may have been with the FAT32 format the drive came in. (What is it with FAT32? Does anyone with Windows actually use it? Don’t Mac users have to reformat the disk anyway?)

Since the folks over at Memeo are pestering me to review their latest full version software when it’s ready (it’s in beta right now), I didn’t install that. Once I’ve finished the file transfer, I’ll revise my settings in Karen’s Replicator so that my on-startup backups go over to Ruby. I’ll probably move her back over to the USB hub, as well.

Now, to dig up that receipt for Freya…

Adventures in Data Recovery

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

ds-duo-lg A couple of years ago, an associate of the Ur-Guru’s in Europe bought a 1 Tb Buffalo DriveStation Duo to back up his business data. Last week it stopped working. “I’ve been using it in a RAID 1 array for the past two years, and it’s just failed,” he wrote. “Three different Windows PCs here see it as unallocated space.”

Bad news. And while Buffalo offered to replace the hardware, since the DriveStation was still under warranty, there was still the question of the data.

You see, our European colleague had made the mistake of confusing RAID with backup. The DriveStation was configured in RAID 1, meaning the two 500 GB drives inside mirrored each other’s content. If one drive failed, the data would be safe on the other drive.

But if something else happened to the data—corruption by a virus, say—the damage would also be duplicated on both drives. And in this case the problem was not that awful grinding clicking noise that indicates a dead drive, but something else, perhaps a problem with the circuits in the box that tell the drives how to communicate with the PC. And there was no backup of the backup.

The down side of these convenient, reasonably-priced, consumer RAID boxes and NAS drives like the Buffalo DriveStation or the Quattro and the Maxtor Shared Storage II that I’m looking at on my own computer table is that, unlike traditional enterprise and power-user RAID, you can’t just swap out disks yourself when one goes bad. (With the MSS-II you really can’t; I couldn’t have opened it if I’d tried. With the Buffalo models you just aren’t supposed to.)

And the problem with sending your entire drive back to the manufacturer for repair or replacement is the vulnerability of your data. In this case, there was proprietary business data on that drive, but almost everyone is going to have some kind of data in their backups that shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Even if you trust the manufacturer of your drive to restore your data without actually looking at or copying it, there’s the problem of getting the drive to them. There have been several big scandals involving stolen backup tapes with financial information on them. The tapes don’t get stolen while they’re at the banks, or while they’re at Iron Mountain. They get stolen out of the trucks while they’re in transit. You don’t want your drive lost or stolen while it’s on the way to the data recovery specialists. You especially don’t want it to show up on eBay or end up in the hands of your competitors.

So RAID Troubles in Europe (as Dear Abby might call him) got permission from Buffalo to remove the drives from the case in order to attempt to recover the data. This meant that he had to go out and buy a dock to mount the drives in. At first they showed up there as “unallocated space,” too, which was baffling. The Ur-Guru suggested some software tools that might help him. (I know, I know—DriveSavers and other data recovery professionals say you should never use them.)

In the end, it was a product called Active@ UnDelete that did the trick. According to its website, the product does a good deal more than file recovery, including making system partitions. The particular feature that must have attracted R.T.E. is “Damaged RAID data recovery and reconstruction.” There was much rejoicing in the offices of R.T.E.’s business when this message appeared at the end of the restore process:

restored

Much chastened by his experience, R.T.E. has realized that he needs to develop a real backup plan, preferably automated, with more redundancy than just RAID. Your backups need backups, and you need to make them consistently.

But you should also think about what will happen if you do need to get a drive replaced or send it in for data recovery. Delivering the drive personally would eliminate one level of risk, but that may not be feasible. It’s possible, of course, that if you can’t get data off your drive, thieves can’t, either. But you do want to work with data recovery and computer repair people who have a reputation for integrity, security, and trustworthiness.

And if you don’t need to get your data off the drive, then you should have the drive degaussed before recycling it. (That means subjecting it to really strong electromagnetic fields that completely erase any data remaining on it.) There’s no reason your business should be the next one making headlines because of data leaks.

FileSlinger Backup Blog at Blogged

 

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