Toward IT Utopia…Your Most Critical IT Asset

Having covered hardware and software on our journey towards IT Utopia, let’s talk about the most crucial information-technology asset: your data.

Based on our utopian-model, your hardware is relatively current, under warranty and well maintained. Your software is the current rev and supported by the vendor. Your staff is equipped with the knowledge to utilize your software tools productively and efficiently. What could go wrong?

How about power outage, fire damage, riot, earthquake, flood, disgruntled employees or even…(shudder, gasp)…hard-drive failure! The technically astute among you (no offense to the technical neophytes of course) will invariably cry, “In IT Utopia, we don’t buy servers without at least RAID 1, preferably 5 or 10, making us immune to data loss due to hard-drive failure!” To which I respond, “Bravo! But are you sure all of your business-critical data is on your servers? Did you buy RAID for all of your workstations, laptops and thumb drives!?”

Where is your data? Where is it created and, more importantly, stored? The obvious recommendation is that it be stored centrally on a device equipped with hardware redundancy (meaning that a single component failure will not result in data loss).
Redirect your users’ data to your server or NAS or SAN. Don’t give them a choice! Make it a procedural imperative or, better yet, a technical control. Use a centralized or hosted email solution, so that you don’t have to worry about the end-user’s email data store, which is likely business-critical data. Then use a solid, commercial backup tool to backup your data, as well as a server imaging solution to take a nightly or weekly snapshot of your entire server system (allowing for bare-metal recovery to new hardware or virtual server), store copies of your data off-site, and rest easy!

Using this methodology, I have successfully recovered from catastrophic server hardware failure in a production environment in 45 minutes.

“What about workstations?” Remind your users that the workstations are tools, belong to the company and that personal customization is not allowed. Have a standard set of applications installed on all workstations, keep your data stored centrally, and use an inexpensive imaging tool to build, deploy and maintain. Spyware problems? Virus issues? Quirky Windows problems? Spend about 15 minutes troubleshooting and, if not resolved, NUKE it (I mean re-image but that doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic)! Again, I have literally used this methodology to take a trashed workstation to clean and pristine while the user took a slightly extended coffee break.

I am planning on one more post in this series (The Myth of Managed Services…if that title doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will!), and then we’ll return to some more web-centric topics. I confess to feeling a bit lonely, as no one is posting inflammatory comments or emailing me questions or suggestions (patterson “at” flexiss.net). I see the hit counter growing, so I know I have at least one fan (Hi, Mom!). Anyhow, feedback would be cool…see you next time for…The Myth of Managed Services!

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