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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Protect your own data!

Hello all,

This blog is mostly about protecting your company's IT related assets.  I thought today I would do something a little different.  I would talk about / write about protecting your own personal data.  I have recently been through this with some co-workers and I think it is worth sharing.  I have twice lost hard drives, once in my laptop, and once in my desktop, and in both cases I did not lose data.  This is not that hard to manage.  Plus, I know a guy who has lost his house to fire.  He has several children and they no longer have any of the pictures and movies of them growing up.  That too can be managed and I can assure you that you do not wish to ever be in that position – even losing personal data can be a serious issue.

So, if you want to improve the protection of your own data, read on.

  1. You need to be running a modern OS.  This means for Windows users you need to be running Windows 7.  For Mac users you need to be running at least 10.6.  There is no excuse to not be doing this.
  2. For both Windows and Mac users you should purchase an external hard drive, and it should be larger than the size of your internal hard drive.  So if your desktop / laptop has a 320 GB drive you need to have an external one, dedicated for backup, that is at least 400 GB or larger and I recommend twice as large.
  3. On the Mac there is some great software called Time Machine.  It works great.  So turn it on, configure it, and point it at that external drive.  This will allow you to easily recover files if you delete them.
  4. On the PC there is also some great backup software.  It is easiest to find by using the search function and looking for Backup and Restore.  Configure it to do scheduled backups to the external disk.
  5. In the two previous steps, we have configured protection for Mac's and PC's that will protect you if you lose a file or two or even more.  But neither recommendations will protect against a complete loss of your hard drive.
  6. When you lose a hard drive in a Mac, and when the store replaces the hard drive, they will install the Mac OS for you, and your Time Machine can be used to put everything back the way it was.  However, if you might replace the hard drive yourself, and I consider myself unlikely to do that, but just in case I am prepared.  I use software called SuperDuper and once per week I do a image backup to my external Time Machine hard drive.  SuperDuper knows about Time Machine and will not impact it.  This will allow me to replace my own hard drive, boot to the external hard drive – thanks to SuperDuper, and than use SuperDuper and Time Machine to recover my machine and end up using the new hard drive with my old data.
  7. On a PC, when you get a store to replace the hard drive, it will not have an operating system so your file based backup will not help you.  You do not have to buy something like SuperDuper as Windows 7 has something like that built in.  On the Backup and Restore screen where you configured a schedule backup to your external hard drive you can find an option to Create a system image.  You can use that to create something you can boot from to recovery your machine.  Once that is done, you can use your scheduled backup to recover to you most current backup.
  8. We now have configured backups of our files to external hard drives.  We have image backups copied to our external hard drive.  This will allow us to recover files if we need to, but also, if we lose our whole hard drive, we can recover it, and do a restore that will make sure we lose the minimum data.
  9. But, we are not protected if we lose our house where this is all stored.  For this I use Mozy which does a backup each night when I am not using my computer and it stores the backup off site.  The first backup takes a long time, but after that backups don't take long.  It has a nice wizard on your computer to help restore, but you can do it via a web site as well.  Mozy has clients for both Mac and PC.  As well, there are others like Carbonite, but I use and like Mozy.

Now you can recover a file, or a hard disk, and you can even do it if you lose the house.  Not bad.  Of course, this assumes you prepare and get things ready!

Some important things to think about.

  1. I use Fusion on my Mac as sometimes I need a Windows VM (virtual machine).  Very little might change in my VM, but it will still mean the whole VM must be backed up – which is big and takes a while.  This will cause a lot of extra work for Time Machine – since by default Time Machine does a backup once per hour, and each time that virtual machine – which is one file – will need to potentially be backed up.  So I exclude my virtual machines folder from my Time Machine backup, and from Moxy too.  However, my SuperDuper weekly backup catches everything.    So I can recovery my VM, but it will be a week old.  Which is not an issue as I don't normally save info on that VM.
  2. The frequency of backup is key.  If you do backups once per day, you will lose some amount of work when you do a full recovery unless you lose your file / disk right after the backup.  So pick a schedule of backups that work for you.  I like how Time Machine defaults to once per hour.  That means, worst case scenario, I lose one hours work.  Sometimes when I am working on important things, when I pause, I select Back Up Now from the Time Machine icon.  It only takes a minute and I can than restore as of that minute!
  3. Another thing to think about is making your computer solid and reliable.  That means sometimes buying a good name of a computer, but it also means keeping your applications and operating system current.  Meaning you need to patch.  Your backups will protect you if you need that protection but it is better to avoid that, and IMHO that can be done by keeping your machine healthy and part of that is updates.  For Mac's, this means you need to let the maintenance scripts run at night as they are designed too!  If you turn off your machine all of the time it can stop those scripts from running.
  4. In one of my jobs once, I toured some of our customers and tested their backup strategy and found in most cases it didn't work.  In a few cases it didn't work at all, and in most cases they could not restore what they thought they could.  So guess what?  I strongly urge you to test your backups!
  5. If you and your laptop travel a lot, like I do, while Mozy will still protect you, I like to carry a small external hard drive in my suitcase that I do SuperDuper backups with every few days.  This will let me handle a complete recovery on the road if necessary.  Not perfect as I might lose a little data, but the odds are between my SuperDuper and Mozy backups I should be OK.
  6. I suggest for your off site security blanket to use a service like Mozy.  While that is the best choice, it does cost a few dollars.  Another option would be to have another external drive that you leave off site, perhaps at work.  You roate it weekly with the one at home.  This will work, and likely be less costly than Mozy, but Mozy works all of the time without you moving things around.

I know that this blog doesn't usually cover off user stuff like this, but I thought it was a good idea to share today.  I will not say I am goofing off today, but I am working on interesting things that I choose!

If you need more details, just leave me a comment, or if you think there is something else that the UpTime blog should cover, let me know.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and a great New Year!

(Updated for two external drives idea.)

Michael

ESXi Convergence – Are you prepared or is this no big deal?

Many of already know that the delivery of the next version of vSphere means the ability to deploy virtualized hosts on the ESXi architecture rather than having the choice of either ESXi or ESX (sometimes called ESX classic) as you have today.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that a majority of customers I have spoken with are getting this message and preparing quite well for the migration or are just deploying ESXi moving forward. Here are some tips I can think of when moving from ESX to ESXi:

1. Think about any agents you have running in the COS (mgmt, backup, etc.) and check with those vendors to see how ESXi now delivers gathers that information. In many cases, there is just a different method for achieving the same result.

2. Think about the scripting you have done or created for that host running ESX and how that could be impacted.

Fortunately for users both of these cases are well documented and notes on the ESX and ESXi Info Center.

Let's hear from you folks about this. Are you ready? Do you have a particular ask in mind that would make this upgrade or migration easier? Is there a concern you have or is it truly no big deal?

We would like to hear from you.

-Mike

Helping you to install SRM!

Hello everyone,

I have some resources to share with you to make it a little easier to install SRM, but I wanted to make sure first that everyone understands that making SRM work is just a small part of a DR project, and while sometimes a little complicated, it is generally the easist part of the DR project.  That is why I often recommand people involve outsiders in the form of professional services in a DR project as their experience can often help greatly to make a project successful.  Not just with SRM, but also in the rest of the project.

However, we do have some thing to make SRM and the storage part of it easier.  KBTV
click here has done some storage configuration videos that can help and they can be found at click here.

As well, I have done a Webex type video with demo on installing and configuration that can be found here – click here. Registration is required for this link.

And like with any VMware products if you get into trouble call us!  To improve your SRM support call check out click here.

Have a great day!

Michael

Things to avoid in SRM implementations

Hello everyone,

I have participated in a lot of SRM implementations and proof of concepts, and have talked to a lot of customers who have gone through the SRM implementation and there is quite a pattern to the issues that can develop.  Today, I want to talk about them as with this information you are forewarned and that can help you avoid these issues.

The issues generally fail into three categories –

Applications, Storage, and SRA

Applications means you need to know what applications are important to you, and what they require to work.  Some applications require web services, and often those web servers will use background windows authentication, so that means they need domain controllers somewhere they can talk to as well as web servers.  Most applications today need DNS, and the users need DHCP.  So one simple app will require perhaps as many as 3, 4, or maybe even 10 other machines so that one app can work.  Having an application registry, where you record the applications, the application owner, and the components that application requires to work will be very helpful in your DR project.  It also helps in planing upgrades and troubleshooting as well.  Even without DR projects this is worth doing.  And there are applications that can help you with the gathering of data and the relationships between applications.

With storage, sometimes our customers have no pattern of which application is stored on which storage.  Which means when you protect the SharePoint set of LUNs, you may also have SAP, Exchange, and SQL VM's inside those LUN's.  And when you do a failover, instead of being able to fail SharePoint over, you will have to fail SAP, Exchange and SQL as well since they share the LUNs.  Poor storage organization means little or no granularity to your DR strategy.  Which is worse than it sounds.  In my experience, our customers fail over one or two applications more often than they fail everything over.  If you are going to have a 4 hour outage in your datacenter on Saturday, would it not be nice to fail your email over so you would have only a very short outage on it?  Not only is that a great test – since it is a real fail-over – but it also minimizes a legitimate outage.  I recommend that your most important applications should be able to be failed over on their own, and with your least important applications they can all fail over together.

The Storage Replication adapter is the connection between SRM and your storage environment.  It is what allows one button in SRM to have actions in VMware AND your storage execute together.  The SRA is developed by our storage partners to a VMware API.  There is a great range between what each vendor's SRA can do.  You might find one storage vendor that has replication technologies that has a great many flavours and features.  But the SRA will only support a small subset.  This may not be an issue, unless the replication features you are using are not in that subset.  In addition, not all storage vendors document their SRA requirements equally.  Some vendors have readmes that are not in the archive of the SRA, and some vendors have release notes, install guides and readme files in the archive.  Some vendors have white-papers on how to use the SRA, but also how to integrate SRM with the vendor's storage environment.  You should investigate your storage vendor and their SRA carefully to avoid surprises and frustrations.

More information, and useful links are in my VMworld presentation where this information came from.  It is session BC6703 and can be found at http://www.vmworld.com/docs/DOC-4823 .  On the VMworld site you can see and listen to the presentation which I recommend if you can as there is other info shared verbally.  However, for those of you who have not attended VMworld, you can obtain the PDF at Download BC6703_formatted_v3  .

As always, I most appreciate you being our customer and using SRM.  Let me know about your experiences by leaving a comment.  If you are interested in specific things you might like me to write about leave me a comment.

Thanks, and have a great day!

Michael

New Book on ESXi

I am pleased to write about the fruition of a great project: Dave Mishchenko's book VMware ESXi: Planning, Implementation, and Security is finally out!  In case you don't know, Dave is a vExpert and Guru on the VMware Communities, and the owner of the blog vm-help.com.  Your truly was the technical editor on this book, so I was privileged to read every chapter as it was being developed.  I can tell you that Dave did a fantastic job of assembling an extremely comprehensive set of information about ESXi — I certainly learned a thing or two!

It was a pleasure working with Dave on this book.  I would highly recommend this both to people new to ESXi as well as those who have had some experience with it.  Check it out!