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Spring Journal

Volume 31, Issue 1

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There are two types of companies. Those that have already experienced a serious data loss and those that one day will. Unfortunately, most companies think their existing data storage plans will protect them from massive data loss. Too often these companies are caught unprepared and disaster is often only a short step away.

ata protection is a vital component of a company’s disaster recovery plan. As business continuity and disaster recovery move to the forefront of IT operations, corporations are finally realizing the need to safeguard all company information. However, what most companies are failing to realize is while they believe they are fully protected by asking employees to save to the server, in fact, they are failing to protect 60 percent of their valuable information assets. In fact, an IDC research report published in July of 2002 estimates that there is more than 109,000 terabytes of corporate data that is not backed up regularly.

Employees are a company’s most important asset and almost all of them rely on their PCs as their most valuable productivity tool. Unfortunately, the majority of information employees generate is going unprotected and unmanaged. We all know that PC failure can result in huge productivity losses on the individual user level, and when it comes to company-wide disasters the results are even more staggering.

Research shows that employing a voluntary backup system for user convenience is not enough; users will not make regular or sufficient backups. They simply don’t take the time to save to network servers or local media, and the critical information in their documents isn’t being backed up, setting the stage for a large-scale, data-loss disaster. Even if work disruptions caused by user data loss are not widely discussed, they are happening, because they are statistically unavoidable.

According to Aviel Rubin, “Backup is one of the most overlooked processes when it comes to site security. However, backup is crucial. Backup is important for recovering from loss due to accidental or malicious failure. You would be hard-pressed to find a person or organization that hasn’t had to restore from a backup at some point. When faced with data loss or corruption, the backup archive is one of the most appreciated and loved objects in the entire universe.”

More PCs at Risk; Mobile Computing on the Rise

Corporations have steadily moved critical applications and data from the mainframe to servers, and now to desktop and mobile PCs. Key revenue-generating employees are increasingly reliant on PCs as a single tool for productivity in their jobs and are constantly creating information assets that only exist on those PCs. At every company, from the smallest SoHo to the Global 2000, 60 percent of vital data is stored on individual PCs, with little or no protection according to IDC.

In addition, according to the Gartner Group, the rate of failure for laptops is as high as 20-25 percent per year and every year 30 percent of all PCs are lost or stolen. When a laptop PC fails, user productivity can be halted for days until it’s restored.

Furthermore, the total cost of ownership for a PC now has companies spending $6,000-$12,000 a year to keep a single computer operational. With mobile computing use on the rise, IT staffs are facing heightened pressure to provide support solutions for remote workers. Without the PC (whether lost, stolen, or compromised by a virus or corrupted file), employees are unproductive and companies lose money.

Given this information it is obvious the operational importance of PC availability and data integrity is clearer than ever, yet most companies still do not have an automated information protection and recovery program for their employees’ PCs and laptops. In a sense, PC data protection is often the overlooked stepchild. Not addressing the issue means a company is setting itself up for a disaster.

If there is no PC-centric disaster recovery plan in place, a relatively common PC problem such as a corrupted file or virus strike could mean the loss of months of work and hundreds of key documents. Companies need technology solutions that will get them back up and running as quickly as possible. Smart, successful companies are intensifying their efforts to keep PCs running, while at the same time protecting the valuable corporate information that resides on these important devices. Lost time and lost data mean lost productivity and reduced revenue.
Not to mention, how many more Enron’s still exist? Is there one in your backyard? Rogue employees should never have the power to decide the fate of a company. Organizations must protect, preserve, and track all key assets, especially information assets. The thousands of megabytes of PC data – a corporation’s information – must be retained, tracked, and securely stored. Corporations can and should protect themselves from internal and external PC data disasters. Corporations cannot become resilient unless they can effectively operate a backup-and-restore method for all its user workstations in the offices, including mobile and remote.

How Are Enterprises Protecting Their Most Valuable Asset?

Unfortunately, many companies think they’re fully protected by asking employees to save to the server or by backing up data via some local medium like zip drives or CD-ROMs. While these solutions can work, they have significant drawbacks. Research shows that employing a voluntary backup system for user convenience is not enough; users will not make regular or sufficient backups. They simply don’t take the time to save to network servers or local media, and the critical information in their documents isn’t being backed up, setting the stage for a large-scale, data-loss disaster. An organization cannot become resilient unless it can effectively operate a backup-and-restore method for all its user workstations in the offices, including mobile and remote. In the past, companies have adopted the following precautions to keep their data secure:

Backing Up to a Network Drive: This policy-based system requires users to place their important data on a networked drive, where a copy of all user files resides on a server. This can be automated by telling users to store data in specific folders such as “My Documents” and backing that up. While it is a secure means of protection, it requires users to change their behavior, which rarely happens. Also, if the user does not put the stored information in that specific folder, it will not be protected in the event of a disaster. While this can protect the data that exists on PCs, it has been almost universally ineffective.

Additionally, the model stresses a company’s network infrastructure. Since the servers are traditionally backed up via conventional server backup applications, the user’s data is deemed “safe and backed up.” This puts undue strain on the network as network backup sends data to the server uncompressed as whole files, and is sent in its entirety on a regular basis, which increases bandwidth usage. This translates to a large network overhead for a LAN and is an unreasonable solution for mobile users and can lead to spiraling storage costs as space is taken up for hundreds of duplicates of the same file.

Local Tape Backup Devices: Other organizations have attempted to manage this data security process by supplying their employees with ZIP or other personal tape backup devices. This works when a user remembers to manually initiate the backup by placing in the right tape and starting the backup application, followed by managing and archiving their own individual tapes. This is highly inconvenient for the mobile user as they must carry additional equipment such as tape drives, tapes, and connecting cable. Most users only take one copy and often store it locally, leaving them vulnerable to physical disaster and theft

Smart Data Protection: Tackling the Problem Head On

An example of a company taking this problem seriously is the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), a state-created body responsible for regional water resource management and environmental protection in 16 southern Florida counties. With more than six million people within SFWMD’s water management district, it is the company’s responsibility to manage and protect its water resources and water quality from the threat of data loss due to hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters that frequently strike south Florida.

The organization established an emergency management program in 1992 in response to the effects of Hurricane Andrew. The program’s goal was to prevent or minimize, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies that threaten life or property within SFWMD’s boundaries. As part of the most recent update of SFWMD’s Emergency Management Plan, the IT infrastructure team created PC backups for nearly 2,000 employees strewn across the water management district, ranging from large numbers in the headquarters to smaller numbers at various pumping stations, some of which might have five or fewer people. Their connections to headquarters are crucial, as is the huge amount of data stored on their PCs.

Natural disasters such as floods, fires, and hurricanes can occur at any time, sometimes with very little warning, wiping out critical information assets and leaving organizations paralyzed without access to their vital communications and information systems. PC backup allows the SFWMD to pre-empt IT disasters with a reliable method to eliminate system downtime, prevent the loss of critical data and ensure that the emergency management and infrastructure teams can do their job with 24-hour access to data in any given emergency.

An End to the Madness: Online PC Backup

Most enterprise data-security plans are woefully inadequate with respect to complete data protection. While many organizations have implemented server backup/recovery processes, desktop/mobile backups are not as universal, leaving companies exposed to the possibility of disaster. Keeping a business afloat in the face of disaster requires a great deal of planning.
Online PC backup leverages the Internet or corporate network to simultaneously ensure PC uptime and protect company-wide data while reducing help desk and IT staff burdens. The solution works as well for an individual user as it does for an enterprise, with no loss of quality or control.

An effective online PC backup solution should offer the following capabilities:

• Self-Healing – Automated online PC self-healing can eliminate all application, registry and system configuration problems due to virus, corruption, or any other reason, in real-time.
• Efficient and Automatic Backup – Backup software that finds and transparently captures all user data at every PC. Users need a system that minimizes, encrypts, then efficiently transmits and stores the data on a central server.
• Access – In today’s mobile culture, it is important for users, especially mobile or remote workers, to be able to retrieve files via any Web browser, resulting in anytime, anywhere access to important data from any PC that has network access. This is imperative in the face of a disaster.
• Maximize Storage – Backup solutions must maximize storage by copying only the files you need rather than the ones that are already protected and unchanged.
• Security – High levels of encryption should be standard to ensure tight data security.

As part of a personal or corporate contingency plan, data protection for all the data on the PC, whether a desktop or laptop system must be addressed. Today’s enterprise environments need the right technology to solve this crisis. A secure backup solution is automatic, secure and extends beyond the server to the desktop and documents stored in individual PCs. A successful desktop/mobile PC management solution will protect a greater part of a company’s information, reduce the drain on IT staff, maximize the use of a company’s storage capacity and bandwidth, and increase employee productivity by giving them a simple, quick way to restore data.


Thomas Hickman is the engineering operations manager at Connected Corporation, responsible for product direction and market strategy for the Connected TLM product line. Hickman draws on a broad range of experiences from a substantial career in networking and information technology. Hickman holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.