One of the most important tasks of a network administrator is backing up clients and servers on the network. Even when the task is automated, backup consumes a lot of resources, and a lot more of your time. Whenever one of your clients deletes a file by accident, corrupts a file, or has a disk drive fail, you or your staff has to run to their aid. Even when the backup file(s) exists, you have to take time from your current tasks to find the correct media, run a restore operation, and then check that the restore was successfully completed. Nothing is currently available that will remove the need for backups, particularly of an archival nature. But there is new technology that can help you give your clients a first level of defense against many easily solved problems.
A number of vendors are packaging light backup packages with external disk drives that are very easy to use. Maxtor has just introduced its Personal Storage line (3000 and 5000) that are USB 2.0 and FireWire compatible. Capacities run from 60 GB to 120 GB. That series ships with Dantz Retrospect Express, which provides snapshot backups with or without scheduling. But Maxtor has gone one step further by providing a button that provides "One Touch" backup, meaning that the drive initiates a complete backup to a single volume as soon as you press that button. For clients, even neophytes, this feature ensures that backups will be done locally more often than not. Given a first line of defense, you have provided your clients with an option that they can now use for themselves.
A number of vendors are introducing similar external drive/software combinations of this type including: CMS, APS, Apple, and others. It's also fairly straightforward to build your own drives, using standard ATA drives and external drive housings. When you purchase a housing, look for the Oxford chip set and USB 2.0 and Firewire support. Enclosures of this type should cost about $60 to $90. Software should cost between $25 and $50. So it's easy to see that a bundle can be an attractive purchase.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.
Editor's note: The mention of specific products or services in this tip is for illustrative purposes only, and does not imply recommendation or approval of such product or service. Furthermore, the editors of SearchNetworking have not reviewed such products or services.
This was first published in December 2002