#Winning on Friday the 13th

f13a_300.jpgToday is Fri­day the 13th. The only Fri­day the 13th of 2011 as it works out.

This spe­cif­ic date has spe­cial sig­ni­fic­ance for me — and it has noth­ing to do with movies.

Since Fri­day the 13ths occur so infre­quently, and are  some­what fam­ous, I use the day as a semi-ran­dom chance to get my digit­al ducks in a row.

Stop everything
My Fri­day the 13th routine starts with a quick review of all open pro­jects and work. I don’t actu­ally do any work on those pro­jects, rather I look over everything, review­ing all the details and mile­stones, and just make sure that nothing’s being missed.

Backup everything
Next, I check out my data backup soft­ware and pro­cesses. In the blo­go­sphere, the 13th of each month  has been pro­moted as Blog Backup Day, but really, pro­tect­ing your data is some­thing that every­one should do, be it through a highly-pro­tec­ted stor­age device like the Drobo-FS, or using a backup drive sys­tem like ClickFree’s, or some com­bin­a­tion of  the two.

Vac­cin­ate everything
Then, I make sure my anti-vir­us and fire­wall tech­no­logy is cur­rent — and run a manu­al scan over all my drives. Yes, time con­sum­ing but it also provides me peace of mind that everything’s clean.

Defrag everything
Finally, I run a drive defrag­ment­a­tion util­ity over all drives that can bene­fit from it. Some oper­at­ing sys­tems auto­ma­gic­ally handle drive frag­ment­a­tion and some don’t.

Data ducks in a row
And yes, that can be a lot of work, but at the end of it, I’ve got a good pic­ture of my work­load, and the state of my data on my com­puter sys­tems. I’ve turned a day that’s fam­ous for hor­ror stor­ies into a day of good. #Win­ning 🙂

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Review: Drobo FS Network Storage Array

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Wow, that title’s a mouth­ful — Net­work Stor­age Array — but don’t let that tech­nic­al-jar­gony sound­ing term scare you, this Drobo FS device is really as easy to use as your Fridge. And for me, that’s a Holy Grail — some­thing that you use and basic­ally for­get the com­plex­ity.

Whut?
But let me back up a moment and describe what a Net­work Stor­age Array (or NAS — Net­work Attached Stor­age) device is.

Basic­ally, it’s a box with a bunch of hard drives in it, and some net­work intel­li­gence. You con­nect your NAS to your home or office net­work, and it appears to your com­puters as if it’s anoth­er com­puter on your net­work that’s shar­ing some drives.

You copy stuff to your NAS and share files with any oth­er com­puter on your net­work.

Pretty simple, yet dif­fi­cult to do well

And this is where things get a little squir­rely. Some people have a house­hold with mixed com­puters shar­ing the same net­work. In my case, I’ve got Win­dows (2 vari­et­ies), OSX and Linux machines. And some net­work stor­age devices don’t play well with dif­fer­ent machines on the same net­work. Sure, the box may say Win/Mac, but invari­ably issues arise. Not so with the Drobo FS. Con­tin­ue read­ing “Review: Drobo FS Net­work Stor­age Array”

Have you backed up your data today?

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Today is World Backup Day, I’m told, but to be frank, every day you should be think­ing about the safety of your data, there’s just too much of it that’s irre­place­able.

So, today, I’m going to take a quick look at some of the backup sys­tems I use and have in place. Yes, I said sys­tems. No one backup sys­tem is infal­lible, so redund­ancy is import­ant.

And, of course, this is my think­ing on the sub­ject. You may have dif­fer­ing opin­ions, which is great, as long as you are back­ing up :smileyhappy:
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Have you backed up your data today?”

Keeping your holiday photos safe

fz50.jpgThe hol­i­day sea­son is upon us, which means that we’ll be enjoy­ing time spent with fam­ily and friends. Many of us will grab our handy cam­era-enabled data phones and snap price­less shots that we’ll want to share, and keep for pos­ter­ity.

But that’s where the tech can get a bit tricky. Sure, we’ve tried shar­ing to our vari­ous Face­book, Flickr and Picasa accounts, but what about the ‘sav­ing for pos­ter­ity’ part.

Pho­tos in the Cloud
Well, two of those three ser­vices men­tioned above are a great start. Here’s the four that I’ve seen and used that will offer sol­id photo ser­vice over the hol­i­days and into the future:

  • Flickr offers a Pro level account (about $25 per year for unlim­ited photo and video stor­age) that will keep all your pho­tos online and avail­able. Free gives you unlim­ited stor­age, but only your most recent 200 pho­tos are view­able. Online image edit­ing provided by Pic­nik.
  • Picasa has a free account that offers 1GB of free photo stor­age and basic image edit­ing tools.
  • Smug­Mug is pri­ci­er, offers three levels of ser­vice, and is geared toward the more ser­i­ous pho­to­graph­er.
  • Adobe Pho­toshop Express gives you access to basic online photo edit­ing and organ­iz­a­tion tools, and 2GB of free photo stor­age. Addi­tion­al stor­age space can be pur­chased annu­ally.

flickr.jpg

So, what’s so great about stor­ing your pho­tos online any­way?

  1. Backup — you don’t have to worry about keep­ing your images safe; the ser­vice you’re using does that.
  2. Shar­ing — easy to embed the images into blogs, email and twit­ter mes­sages. Each photo usu­ally has a pub­lic URL that’s shar­able (or private, if that’s your thing).
  3. Print­ing — a few of the ser­vices are offer­ing part­ner­ships with pro­fes­sion­al print­ing labs which lets you pro­duce pho­to­books, cus­tom prints etc.
  4. Integ­ra­tion — some of the more pop­u­lar ser­vices are already integ­rated into your iPhone cam­era applic­a­tions (such as Instra­gram). Push a but­ton and your latest shot is uploaded to the ser­vice, ready for you to edit and share.

Loc­al stor­age?
Yep, you can keep your pho­tos on your own com­puter, but you do run risks should your com­puter crash or worse. I do keep the major­ity of my images at home, stored on a net­work attached stor­age device that’s got two drives, one a mir­ror of the oth­er. So if one should die, I’ve got a copy of my data on the oth­er.

Also, I backup my pho­tos weekly, and move the backup drive to an off­s­ite loc­a­tion for even great­er safety. Yeah, a house­fire would ruin a lot of things, but I know my pho­tos and oth­er import­ant data would be safe.

Your needs?
It depends. Take a sol­id think about what you plan to do with your pho­tos, how you want to share them, and how import­ant they are to you (can you afford to lose them?). I’ve likely giv­en you some ideas to try and exper­i­ment with as we head into the hol­i­days. I’d love to hear what you’ve tried and how it worked (or didn’t).

Everyone’s a winner

It’s been a bit longer than I’d wanted, but I’ve finally got­ten to wrap­ping up my first blog con­test.

The premise was simple; tell me a backup hor­ror story and you could win a Click­free Trans­former SE backup sys­tem. And some of you did tell me some pretty good stor­ies.

Here’s some excerpts:

On Ver­sion­ing:

Being an artist, dur­ing one of the more heated pro­gram­mer debates I took a closer look at the SVN logs and dis­covered that indeed this guy had stealth­ily checked in some­thing between our changes. Luck­ily for us, when you use a ver­sion repos­it­ory sys­tem (soft­ware or hard­ware) you can roll back your changes to a pre­vi­ously uploaded state that’s stored on the device (since all the data gets saved for each change that is made). I gave this a try loc­ally and quickly dis­covered what the prob­lem was and relayed it to the rest of the team.

On serv­er backups:

I had a stack of flop­pies (and my broth­er and moth­er had stacks of flop­pies at their houses) that could only be read by an Osborne com­puter and that I was the only per­son I knew who still used an Osborne com­puter.… so I went out and bought a backup Osborne. And sure enough, my com­puter died a month or so later. But I thought, no prob­lem, I have my back up, and it sur­vived long enough for me to upload everything to the UofA’s MTS sys­tem. There! Backuped on a main­frame, what could be more secure than that?

On off­s­ite tape stor­age:

I put in a help tick­et to request the tape. Unfor­tu­nately, it’ll take three weeks for the tapes to be retrieved. Ah well, that’s ok. My reports are not a 911 and I’m just happy my data is safe. Six (6) weeks later the tapes arrive and reveal my web logs can­not be restored from the backups. Data gone.

On luck:

Next, we real­ized that no one had ever attemp­ted to do a res­tor­a­tion of the data. Upon fur­ther invest­ig­a­tion we dis­covered that it wasn’t just a mat­ter of people not hav­ing attemp­ted it but that we couldn’t actu­ally do a test restore on the old sys­tems without affect­ing the pro­duc­tion sys­tems. Had we wasted hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in tapes in a vault that could be worth­less?

Well, thanks to some great work by Larysa at Click­free, we’ve got prizes for all the con­test entrants. If you ‘ve not read the full entries then check out the com­ments on the entry post here.

Con­grat­u­la­tions! I’ll be pinging the win­ners shortly 🙂

Fat lady sings. Winners announced soon.

Thus endith my first blog con­test. And a very cool ride it was.

My good friends at Click­free, a Cana­dian backup tech­no­logy com­pany, agreed to provide the prizes (Click­free Trans­former SE) for a blog con­test chal­len­ging folks to provide there best (or worst I guess) backup hor­ror story.

I’ve received some rather good entries. Check out the com­ments in the ori­gin­al post for the entire list, but here’s a couple of excerpts to give you the idea:

In a multi-developer game devel­op­ment envir­on­ment:

We updated our loc­al SVN repos and tried to work with the new changes that we were all mak­ing (plus unknow­ingly the changes this oth­er guy made)… only the game ended up crash­ing. It worked fine before this latest update and no one was sup­posed to have made any changes that would cause this prob­lem, and yet, here it was, the game was crash­ing. Franticly we looked at all the changes “we” had made for the prob­lem (remem­ber we did not know this guy had checked any­thing in) and argue­ments rose over who was at fault of this issue (oddly no one fingered the par­tic­u­lar pro­gram­mer in ques­tion since we didn’t know he had com­mit­ted any­thing, plus it was 4am and no one was think­ing straight).

Stolen Grad-stu­dent Thes­is data:

I got a frantic call from a grad stu­dent once, say­ing that someone had broken in and stolen his com­puter with all his thes­is data and his 34 fin­ished draft thes­is — two years of data col­lec­tion research and writ­ing gone!

Win­ners?

In the next week or so I’ll be review­ing the entries and noti­fy­ing the win­ners. And yes, there will be a blog post about it. Stay tuned!

How to backup files across a network easily

Before I start, a friendly remind­er that you only have a day left to enter the con­test for a free Click­free Trans­former backup sys­tem. Tell me a backup hor­ror story.

It’s one thing to backup the files on your loc­al com­puter and anoth­er to backup files stored on oth­er com­puters on your net­work, or Net­work Attached Stor­age drives or serv­ers.

In the first case, odds are you simply drag and drop files and folders that are import­ant to you to a blank CD or DVD and burn your backup.

In the lat­ter, well, usu­ally a much more com­plex pro­cess with ded­ic­ated backup soft­ware is required.

Recently I grabbed a Click­free Trans­former SE to do some simple backup work on my desktop and laptop com­puters. Basic­ally, the Click­free Trans­former plugs into a USB port. Then you plug a USB Hard Drive into the Trans­former SE.

And the magic begins. The soft­ware quickly scans your loc­al sys­tem and cop­ies import­ant doc­u­ments, pho­tos, media and oth­er files to the USB drive attached to the Trans­former SE.

But back to the theme of this post, ‘back­ing up files across a net­work eas­ily’. Basic­ally there’s two things you need to do.

Map­ping your net­work drives

First, you have to have ‘mapped’ the net­work drives con­tain­ing files to be backed up. Map­ping the drive is a simple pro­cess that tells your loc­al Win­dows oper­at­ing sys­tem to treat the net­work drive as if it is a loc­al drive — even assign­ing a drive let­ter to the net­work drive.

Microsoft has a pretty good walk­through on map­ping drives in Win­dows XP. The pro­cess for Vista and Win­dows 7 is very sim­il­ar.

Con­fig­ur­ing the Click­free Trans­former SE
And this pro­cess is pretty simple. First, you have to get to the Click­free backup con­fig­ur­a­tion screens.

If you’ve seen a backup run, then you know there’s a count­down pri­or to the pro­cess begin­ning. When you can­cel that count­down, you abort the cur­rent backup. But you also now have the abil­ity to con­fig­ure your backup by select­ing which drives (loc­al or mapped net­work) and file types you want to back up.

This is import­ant because it’s pos­sible, when back­ing up mapped net­work drives, to try and backup more files than you have drive space avail­able for…should  you try and backup your entire photo, video, and music lib­rar­ies to one drive, for example. If this hap­pens, then the backup also fails to the con­fig­ur­a­tion screens, allow­ing you to tweak the con­fig so you can fit the backup on the drive.

Ready to roll?
And that’s all there is to it. The next time your backup runs, either manu­ally or auto­mat­ic­ally, files on those mapped net­work drives will be backed up along with the ones on your loc­al com­puter drives. Of course, depend­ing on how much you’re back­ing up, you may need to split the backup across a couple of drives 🙂