Safety First!


Problem:

How much blood, sweat, toil, and tears have you invested in your computers and the data they contain? What damage to your operations and peace of mind could a single hard disk crash or (shudder!) a file server or network crash cause?

Solution:

Lock the barn door before the horse is stolen. Establish back-up policies and execute them consistently. If you share diskettes or networks, install virus detection vaccine software.

Tools:

Networks require more protection than single-user computer systems. With more and more local area networks in operation, more solutions for protecting networks have appeared with better technology at lower prices. The best back-up software can use scripts to back-up files at night or during non-use hours, making the process nearly invisible to users. Most network back-ups concentrate on document files rather than software back-ups. As with backing up a single computer, network back-up procedures can also handle incremental back-ups that replicate only new or altered files, though good network software will retain earlier versions of files as well. The system administrator sets the schedule for centrally administered backup and maintains password protection on the tape data files.

Tape drives operating under automatic backup procedures and software offer the best value for protection. Digital audiotape (DAT) drives can back up 25 80MB hard disks for around $20 per 90-meter tape. And that's without compression. Some tape drives provide their own hardware data compression; others rely on software to handle the task.

Macintosh Networks

Macintosh network users might try Dantz Development's Retrospect Remote 2.0, recommended as a result of MacUser tests by Shelly Brisbin. It costs $449 for a ten-user base pack with additional ten-packs priced at $249 or 50 packs priced at $1,095. The software works with DAT, 8-mm tape, QIC tape, optical disks, removable cartridges, or any other mountable media. For small networks or back-ups on a budget, Brisbin recommends Diversified IQ's SoftBackup II ($149.95).

PC Networks

PC network back-up systems now handle storage management tools as well as data protection. The more sophisticated packages allow administrators to define usage levels and specify different storage media for different files automatically. In a recent review, Michael Peterson recommended Palindrome Corp.'s Network Archivist ($13,485) and Emerald Systems Corp.'s Xpress Librarian ($14,980) for support of an integrated array of back-up environments, including automated tape libraries, autoloaders, and optical disc jukeboxes.

At the high-end, PC-based networks have begun using RAID (Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks) technology to support real-time protection and reduce delays in getting a network back into action after a server hard disk failure. The five-option RAID design was originated in 1987. At present, systems using RAID 1, RAID 3, and RAID 5 options are commercially available. In general transfers of large blocks of data such as bit-mapped graphics or image files need RAID 3, while smaller file transfers such as text or spreadsheet files can use RAID 5. Both RAID 3 and RAID 5 can work with just two data disks, but RAID 3 works best with four.

Recommended RAID systems can cost from $15,800 to over $65,000 with SCSI disk drives. Bill Taylor recommends two external RAID products--Mylex DAC960 DiskArray Subsystem ($20,000) and Storage Dimensions LANStor Continua Disk Array ($23,945). Recently Storage Dimensions introduced a lower cost option for RAID data protection. The LANStor RAIDmaster offers RAID Level 5 protection for as little as $295 without the SCSI host adapter card. Bundled with an EISA or MCA host adapter, the package costs $695, or $593 with an ISA adapter. However, the bargain prices only last until the end of the year, after which prices will jump by $300. …

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