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Laptop Disaster Recovery

      Dick will be quoted in an upcomping article about laptop disasters and recovery. Here is some of the information from that piece.
      Here's some background to the approach I use. Individual users and users with corporate IT departments have the least difficulty keeping computers running. Individuals can cut a few corners and cobble up the solutions they like(1). Corporate IT may be slow to respond, but those departments have tested their deployments and can generally resolve problems transparently to the user. A small business, one with 5 or 10 or 30 computers, one or two workgroup servers, and no single administrator generally has the most difficulty creating and maintaining a safe computing environment.

1) Do you feel an online "hard disk space" web site is a good alternative or are there negatives to using such a service?


  • Online storage fails if the Internet connection is down or you are in a meeting without one.
  • The online storage server will be down when you need it.
  • Data Security is worrisome when your data is online.
  • Getting online if your computer is dead requires planning ahead.
And the explanation (I'm very wary of storing critical data online because too many things can go wrong):
  • The Internet connection can be down or not available. Without the connection there is no chance of retrieving the data. None.
  • The online storage server will certainly be down for routine maintenance when you need it (99.4% uptime guarantees over 260 minutes of downtime in an average month.)
  • Hackers like big targets. Data Security becomes more worrisome when your data is out there where any hacker can try.
  • Here's the biggie: If your computer is dead in the water, how much local work will you have to do to get online to access your data? When the laptop goes down, online backup is often useless. The user needs a solid recovery method and some local backup just to get back online. I create recovery CDs with an image of all loaded applications in their current configuration for that purpose.

2) What tips would you offer to laptop/notebook users?


  • Keep all data files in a separate, easily backed-up location.
  • Synchronize your data with a server every time you return home.
  • Run a daily server backup routine.
  • Create a CD-based recovery file for all the applications on the laptop.
And the explanation:
  • Keep all data files in a separate, easily backed-up location on your laptop. I always set drives up with separate partitions for that, but even "My Documents" works in a pinch if all the data files are there.
  • Synchronize your data with a server every time you return home. I use LapLink(2) because it is fast and easy. If cost is an issue, most households and offices have a computer that's just too slow. Use it. The "server" can be any old computer in the corner with its shares set properly. That server lets SOHO users or family members share files, Internet connections, and peripherals with ease.
  • Run a daily server backup routine with a different tape for each day. Windows-based backup programs are inexpensive and cranky. Netware-based backup programs are expensive and cranky. Linux based backup programs are (mostly) free and cranky. Read the manual and practice. Restoring after a fatal crash is much easier if you've restored once or twice for fun.
  • Use Drive Image or a similar program to create a CD-based recovery file for all the applications on the laptop. Do it every time you add or remove programs and every time you make significant changes to an application set up or configuration.


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