Taking a data-saving snapshot

The onus on IT to secure and recover its data has become paramount since September 11. ImagineLAN's Jan Olsen explains some of the options IT managers have and what the future holds for data and system recovery.

September 11 brought data and system recovery from the shadows to the consciousness of IT. Couple the ever-present terrorist threat with everyday maladies like virus attacks and system intrusions, just to name two, and the onus on IT to secure its data and recover it becomes paramount. ImagineLAN's vice president of marketing and sales Jan Olsen takes SearchWindowsManageability (SWM) through some of the options IT managers have and what the future holds in this question-and-answer interview.

SWM: How big an issue has data and system recovery become since September 11?

Olsen: Increasingly, they're becoming bigger issues, and not just because of September 11, but because of viruses and malicious code, intrusion attacks and security breaches. These are as disabling to systems.

SWM: So, data and system recovery has been prominent on IT's radar screen?

Olsen: Prior to September 11, these issues were a concern; they've been there for a while. Add to that the growing complexity of systems and software, Windows primarily, and the problem multiplies. On top of the operating system, you've got hardware, software, connections to the Internet, downloads -- all of those add instability to a system and that creates the need for recovery. It becomes more of a need as more people have systems up and running and are constantly changing what configurations and software they use.

SWM: What are some popular system recovery methods being used in Windows environments today?

Olsen: There are several. Some products, for example, take a snapshot of segments of the configuration components of a Windows system. These snapshots can be taken on demand or scheduled or can be taken when there is a configuration change. If something disrupts your system, you can go to that snapshot and recover your system from there. These don't take snapshots of your system data. They target the operating system and configuration and make sure your system is running so you can get to your data.

SWM: What if your system doesn't boot?

Olsen: If your system doesn't boot, on an NTFS for example, then you have limited recovery options. With (ImagineLAN's) CPR product, if you can't boot from a DOS floppy disk, we provide a bootable media, a CD in most cases, where if your NTFS system doesn't boot, you can do recovery that way to a previous point in time and it doesn't affect your data. If your situation is not recoverable, you have the option of reformatting or reloading your OS (and losing your data beyond your last backup). The CPR medium boots the system and copies the data. Other products, like WinInternals, opens an NTFS system as if it is looking at it as if it is a (FAT, file allocation table). That product is geared toward IT professionals and network administrators where CPR is more for every day users.

SWM: What are some of the pitfalls Windows admins need to be aware of?

Olsen: You have to make sure your snapshots, for example, are scheduled frequently. You can schedule them once a month or more often if you change your system configuration frequently. If you don't, you run the risk of losing important data.

SWM: What are some of the leading vendors in the enterprise recovery space?

Olsen:There are several large companies, like Previo, Connected and Alteris, that have recovery solutions that do backup of the entire system and store it on a network. Their products are aimed at larger corporations that do this daily as long as the system is running. Whenever, they encounter a problem where recovery is necessary, they restore up to the last backup. Then there's GoBack, which is a boot-level recovery feature that goes back to the pre-boot environment.

SWM: Is Windows to blame for all of today's recovery issues?

Olsen: It's because of the quirks in Windows that products like these exist. But, you can't blame it all on Windows. It's more of a combination of the way Windows works and the way a company's applications interact with it that causes problems.

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