[Tech Blog] Maintaining your system and sleep easier at night

Thursday, 12th January, 2017

I wanted to discuss Backups. Why?

  • Do Servers ever fail?
  • Files ever corrupt?
  • Even, a server-update break functionality?

I have seen technicians pulling their hair out trying to recreate a system from their memory - often not having been the original installer - all due to there being no backups of an otherwise perfectly working system.

And of course we are often asked to help but, for a medium complex system, this could be a 2-3 day install and we can't offer that as part of standard maintenance so although we do try to help we might have to schedule a consultant and charge to effectively do another install from scratch.

There is a concentration - quite rightly - on backing up "data" but the actual configuration of a system can be at least (and sometimes more) important; systems often grow and have changes made after an initial setup and then might have been left for a number of months or even years; frequently no-one can recall how that final setup was configured.

Print Management
We provide Print management software: See our How To Guide, “Pcounter database maintenance” by clicking here for information on backing-up the current Pcounter version.

We've come across sites that could roll-back their print-servers to a backup from a week ago, test updates to see which might have caused an issue, replay transactions, then be up and running again in less than a couple of hours; kudos to them.  This isn't always necessary and a reasonable risk/ROI analysis needs to be done but one has to have at least a minimum backed up to cover any disasters.

With Virtual's, this could be a simple clone (although images can also be backed-up from a physical box, too), taken after any major configuration changes have been tested, ready to be run-up in case of a failure. Clustering, although not supported by Microsoft for Print Servers themselves, can be utilised for the backend data if this is vital.  Alternatively, a document can be produced to show how a system is configured and data can be backed up each evening in a typical tape-backup cycle.  If in doubt, also having backups done before any changes are made to configurations – it’s amazing how many times a “simple change” can break a system - will also help us support you better; along with details of any changes made and what causes the error.

Email filtering

My colleague, David, mentioned in a previous Tech blog the Replay feature of our FuseMail product last year as a way of backing up incoming email as part of that product. That's a nice simple way to cover having a backup of email-data without needing tapes and schedules and manual off-site storage. Click here to read David's blog.

SQL-based
Our Access-Control, Cashless and Security solutions run with SQL back-end. This can add a level of complexity to backups.

All the standard backup software applications offer add-on’s to help backup SQL databases - since all the tables are contained in one or two large files, effectively SQL is a separate filesystem within the server filesystems – so while a server-level file backup is still useful, the add-on backup software should be utilised for SQL back-ends.  Microsoft offers clustering here, too, if the data warrants instant backup availability.

Summary

My suggestion for New Year Resolutions:        

  1. Backup data
  2. Backup (or document) system configuration
  3. Sleep easier at night!

See our other support documentation at www.ait.co.uk/support or Log a case if you can’t find the answer there.

Happy New Year

By Chris Terrington, Chief Technical Consultant