Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saving Your Sanity for the Holidays with WHS

Is there a good chance you’ll be under a little stress during this upcoming holiday season? Perhaps you already have a little stress in your life. How much would a hard drive crash or virus infection add to your normal anxiety?

There are some simple steps you can take to prevent the trauma of losing all your precious photos, music, financial data etc… As a security professional I’ll share a secret with you. There is no AV software or anti-malware technique which is 100% fool proof.  Anyone can get infected and have their computer compromised. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a Mac, Windows or even a virtual machine, there are no guarantees.

My number one tip for keeping your data safe hasn’t changed since you purchased your first computer. In a single word, BACKUP! It’s not unusual to hear that people have formatted their computer or even purchased an entirely new computer after getting infected by malware.

Do you have a regular backup procedure for your computer?  If not, stop reading this and create a backup plan that will save your critical data and prevent you from having a nervous breakdown. You’re going to have enough crap to deal with over the next month don’t let your computer become one of your concerns.

My recommendation isn’t necessarily the cheapest but it’s reliable and less expensive than any data recovery service. It could also save your sanity. This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about a Windows Home Server. A WHS is a stand alone device which connects to your network and automatically saves data from every computer, laptop connected to your network.  Once an initial backup, it will only backup changes and can do so on a daily basis.

HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server

This 1 TB Home Server is currently available for $425 but includes many more features than just a regular backup. I have added additional hard drives to my Windows Home Server and it currently backs up two desktop computers and two laptops. Since my investment, I’ve used it three times to rebuild a system that were either compromised by a Trojan or failed due to a bad hard drive. It helped save my sanity and perhaps my marriage. :)

If you already have a solid backup plan in place than consider a Windows Home Server as a gift for one of your friends or family members. It may not be as exciting as the Xbox Kinect but at some time in the future you’ll be someone’s hero.

Cloud Backup
My friend Cathy recently asked about online backup services…
”My nephew has had his 2nd laptop stolen at college.  It's so frustrating - he loses so much. All of his papers, homework, etc.  I thought maybe I'd buy him a subscription/membership to an online file storage site for Christmas,”

Online backup has one major advantage. It’s offsite so in case of fire or other disaster at your location, your data will be safe.  I’m confident in the safety of data being stored online but there’s one reason I haven’t subscribed to any online backup services.

Most internet service providers don’t provide a lot of bandwidth for uploading data.  Instead they assume customers will be watching videos and downloading music. If you’re like most consumers your upload speed will be 5-10 times slower than your download speed. One of the exceptions is Verizon FIOS which provides my internet connection. Even with an upload speed of 20 Mbps it would take me a month to backup my desktop to an online service. There may be a future in online backup, but it’s still in the future.

Happy Holidays
This week the holiday season officially begins so have a happy one. Keep your data safe and when you’re shopping online please be careful.

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