Nov 052012

We went to a new client today and were not all that surprised to find:

The backup had not backed up since June 10, 2009!  Oh, it was also programmed to backup to the same drive that the server was on (which means if the server drive went south, so would the backup—if it had been backing up.)

Not to mention problems connecting to the server.  Could it be that the workstations were trying to connect to a different IP address than the server was actually on?

Also typical: they have been through a half-dozen IT service providers over the past couple of years.

Are all IT people really the same?  We think not.

 Posted by at 1:39 pm
Aug 032012

We’ve all been there.  You have an established iPhone and for whatever reason, synching it with a new installation of iTunes will cause you to lose all those carefully placed icons on your iPhone.

iCloud backup and restore do not seem to have the same issues, but our multiple backup strategy suggests a backup to our computer on occasion is a Good Thing. In addition, we find moving the icons around via iTunes is a lot easier than on the device itself.

When transferring your iTunes to a new computer, or, before wiping and reinstalling your old computer, always remember to deauthorize your old iTunes account.  Go to Store ->Deauthorize this computer.

Here are the steps to avoid all that head-banging pain of rearranging your icons by hand when synching an established iPhone with a new installation of iTunes :

NOTE: in iTunes 11, you will need to View->Show Sidebar to see your iDevice listed.

  1. Sign into the iTunes Store and go to Store->Authorize this computer.
  2. Don’t synch anything just yet.  Hook up the iPhone and cancel any prompts to synch.
  3. In iTunes, right click on the device and transfer all your purchases to the new iTunes.
  4. In iTunes, right click on the device and select Backup.
  5. Now, go to the Apps tab and click the Synch all apps checkbox, BUT …
  6. As quickly as you can, cancel the synch that appears at the very top of the screen, just click the x in the status box that appears at the top of the iTunes screen as shown. Stop the synch before it finishes so you don't lose your icon placements
  7. Eject and disconnect the phone.
  8. Close iTunes.

Open iTunes and connect the phone. Let it synch.  The iPhone desktop on iTunes should appear exactly as it appears on your phone.

You may have to fool around with it a time or two, but you should be able to avoid a painful transition.

 Posted by at 1:59 pm
Apr 222012

Lately we’ve been hearing about more people using mirrored drives as part of their backup strategy.  If you already have it in place, don’t get rid of it; but, it is not something that we particularly recommend.  Let’s take a look.

Mirrored drives come in two flavors:

  • two drives on one controller (Figure A); or
  • two drives, each on their own controller (Figure B)two drives on one controller

As the name implies, each time you write to one disk, the identical thing is written to the other disk.  If one drive goes bad, the theory is that the other drive has your data and you have no downtime, except to replace the failed drive at your convenience.

Sounds great. In theory.  The reality is that if one drive is fried with a power surge, they both are.  If the controller goes bad, you might have two drives that still have your data, but you are still down until the controller can be replaced.  If the controller goes bad in such a way that it ruins one drive, the chances of the other drive escaping damage are pretty slim.

two drives on two controllersIf you have each drive on its own controller, you are in a better situation; again, in theory.  However, you are still in a position of having all the hardware fried with the right power surge and in the same sad position as anyone else with fried hardware.

Frankly, we recommend you spend your money in other ways.   Online (cloud) backup and an external hard drive for backup are two excellent ways to spend that money and give you a much better chance at recovery in case of failure.

Right now, Amazon offers free online storage of ALL your music (whether it was purchased at Amazon or elsewhere) if you purchase a storage plan.  The plans start at $20/year for 20GB.  Other cloud services include DropBox or SugarSync.  If you have a little more money to spend, services like Carbonite make a good choice and back up your drives automatically.  (Our professional services can help you configure your online backups beyond the “standard”, which may not be backing up all your data.)

You can buy a 32GB SanDisk Cruzer flash drive (thumb drive) for less than $20. (Price fluctuates. Great for backing up your daily work product.)

Whatever you select for your backup strategy, remember: pick at least two (preferably three.)

You can never be too thin, too rich, or have too many backups.


Note: a mirrored drive is not to be confused with a RAID array.  A drive array is an arrangement where 3-5 drives are configured such that a portion of your data is written to each drive, and is most often found on file servers.

Jan 282012

Organizing your hard drive is just as important as organizing your cupboards.  By default, all downloads go into your Downloads folder. That would be like stuffing all your plates, spices, and canned goods into one cupboard.

Why is organization necessary? You want to keep your software and registration information in one place to make backup and subsequent reinstallation an easy task.  When you make a software purchase, sometimes the receipt has the serial number, but it is often sent in a separate e-mail.  Did you remember to print out both e-mails? Where did you put the hard copy?  What about that free Photoshop add-in? Even if it was free, do you remember where you got it so you can download it again?

Don’t panic, there is a way you can avoid looking for all those e-mails, or receipts and serial numbers you might have printed out when you made the purchase.

Step 1.  We recommend making a top level folder with a separate folder for each purchase or program.  You might call your download programs folder MyPrograms.  So, under MyPrograms you would have many folders, and the structure might look like this:

Put all your downloaded software into separate folders

Step 2. When you download a program you will get the prompt to Run, Save, or Cancel the download. Always select Save (unless the instructions specify that you click Run):

Always save your software to disk unless otherwise instructed

When you click Save, Windows Explorer will open to the location of your last download. Redirect it to your MyPrograms folder, create a new Folder for your latest download, then click Save again:

Save to a folder with a descriptive name

Step 3. Using Notepad, copy and paste the information from your registration e-mail into a text file and save it to the same folder as the program, like so:

Keep your registration info and program together

That’s it!

Now your downloaded program and registration information is in the same folder, speeding up the reinstallation process.  Even if some programs or add-ins are free, you still want them all in one place to make reinstallation easier.

Backup your MyPrograms folder regularly.

If you are preparing to wipe your system to do a fresh install, check your MyPrograms folder for all the programs and add-ins that you have downloaded, then go to the manufacturer site and download the latest versions* before you wipe your computer. Backup that folder, restore it to your freshly installed system, and reinstallation of your programs and utilities will be a breeze.

#    #     #

*When preparing to wipe and reinstall your system, download the latest version for which you are licensed, or,  you may want to upgrade your license to get the latest version.

How do you know what version you are licensed for? Check the Help->About section of your program for the version number.  If the leading digit of the latest version is a full number higher than yours, chances are you may need to purchase an upgrade. If the leading digit is the same, but the other numbers are higher, then chances are the upgrade is free.

Example: You have version 4.876.1.0. The latest version is The leading digit indicates you might need to buy an upgrade. If the latest version is 4.975.1.0, then the upgrade is probably free.  Some companies charge for a .5 revision, like 4.312 to 4.5. Always check with the manufacturer when in doubt.

Jan 232012

We hear a lot of questions about “The Cloud,” let’s talk about it.

What is “the cloud?”  Simply put, it’s disk space. That disk space can be used for many purposes, including storage and applications. 

Where is “the cloud?”  Typically that disk space resides in specialized data centers. Those data centers have disk backups, power supply backups for the servers, more disk backups, and several generators in case of area power outages.  These are typically heavy-duty IT facilities. Gaining access to a professional data center can be more difficult than getting into NORAD. Some companies keep the exact location of their data centers a closely guarded secret.

How do I get to “the cloud?”  Via an Internet connection.

Cloud computing is when the data and/or application resides on remote servers instead of being installed to your local computer.  If you use Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo, you are using cloud computing. The programs and data reside on those companies’ servers; you access them via the Internet.  Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Calendar are other examples of cloud computing.

Cloud storage is when you back up your data to a remote server using backup services like Mozy, Carbonite, or DropBox.

 Posted by at 1:20 pm
Jan 212012

We saw a recent article entitled If you think cybersecurity isn’t a big deal, guess again. The author tells of looking for images of a baseball player, clicking on one—and that’s when the adventure started:

“I started to get a bunch of official-looking pop-ups telling me that my computer was infected with all sorts of nasty viruses. They also told me that all I needed to do in order to mitigate the threat was to click on the button contained in the pop-up window and the anti-virus program — which had a very official-sounding name—would make the crisis disappear.”

“I knew enough not to do that. So what I did instead was close the pop-up. That was a big mistake, as clicking anywhere on the desktop is what actually unleashes the virus.

“This particular virus was particularly nasty, burrowing deep into my operating system and rendering my computer inoperable. It took the IT guy two days just to find where the virus was hiding in my system, and then several hours to get rid of it and fix the damage to my operating system. It was a total pain. “

What should he have done? Power off his computer immediately and call his IT people. Stat.

When infected, many people ask: “Why didn’t my antivirus software stop it?” No antivirus software is 100%; things can and will slip through. Unfortunately, whether you are an individual or a corporation, downtime is costly in terms of both repair and … being down.

Here is the $64,000 question: do you have current backups?  Many times it is a lot less costly just to wipe an infected computer and reinstall the system from scratch—reloading all your software and restoring your data.

But if your data backup is not current and we have to try to salvage the system instead of wiping it, it is not out of the realm of possibility to spend a couple of days trying to rid the system of the virus as described in the scenario above.

Got backup?

 Posted by at 9:43 pm