Windows IT Pro Storage UPDATE--February 28, 2005

Windows IT Pro Storage UPDATE--An Innovative Use for Portable Media Players

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1. Commentary
- A Simple, Elegant Information-Delivery Solution

2. From the Community
- Adding Cluster Nodes Might Cause an Error

3. News and Views
- Symantec Probes Disaster Recovery

4. New and Improved
- NSI Software Offers New Version of GeoCluster
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: A Simple, Elegant Information-Delivery Solution ====
by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

This week's column is a little off the beaten track from my usual topics, although it's definitely a storage issue. I thought I'd share a unique solution that I recently found for what I'm sure is a common storage problem.

I recently got myself volunteered to assist a nonprofit organization in completing a rather large computer-based project. The issue I had to deal with was that when the project materials showed up at my office, I found myself with close to 30 CD-R discs containing the 12GB of data that comprised the project's deliverables.

After I finished my part of the project, I talked to the folks to whom I'd be delivering it. They confirmed that they didn't have access to DLT tape drives, which meant that I had to figure out some way to deliver this 12GB project (which could no longer be broken up into smaller pieces). I first tried backing up the project to DVD- RW. I made sure that the clients had a copy of the backup software I used, but after a couple of long phone conversations with them, I gave up on trying to walk them through a successful restore of that backup. They insisted that it would work if I used CD-R instead of DVD-RW, so I went back to the drawing board and backed up the project to CD-R media, which worked no better for them than the DVD- R/W backup. (Actually, it was worse; the restore process reported successful results, yet they couldn't make the project run correctly and received reports of corrupted data when they attempted to execute the final project.) In both cases, I had run restores locally before shipping off the discs, and they worked correctly.

I considered uploading the project to one of my FTP sites, but I wasn't too keen about trying to upload that much data on a 384Kbps uplink and tying up my Internet connection for the hours that the upload would take.

By this time, I realized that the final deliverable I was working on wasn't going to fit very well on any of the removable media that I commonly used except for an external hard disk (and I use both IEEE 1394 and USB 2.0 external drives), so it looked as if I'd have to buy another hard disk, which I didn't really want or need. It wasn't so much the expense; I could have easily ordered a name-brand 60GB or 80GB USB 2.0 external drive online for just under $100 (although time constraints meant I'd actually have to buy one at a local computer superstore for about $120 plus tax). Instead, it was the fact that I'd be stuck with a useless drive; my current external drives are all in the 200-plus-GB range, and I didn't really want to add a small USB hard drive to any of my computers.

As I resigned myself to going out and buying an external hard drive, I realized that the problem's solution had been sitting on my desk all along: a small MP3 player I had bought for my daughter. She's notorious for losing things, so putting a $300 iPod or a $250 Dell DJ into her hands wasn't something I really wanted to do. But when I saw a listing for the Entempo Spirit 20GB MP3 player for $130 delivered, I thought it was worth a look. The Spirit is bigger than its competitors, but it's also available for significantly less. Most importantly for me, Windows XP recognizes the device as a removal drive and didn't require me to install a driver. The high- end music players require Windows drivers to be installed so that the OS will recognize the device.

I plugged in the Spirit, copied the project to it, wrapped the device in a sheet of bubble wrap along with a USB cable, stuck it in a flat-rate USPS Express Mail envelope, and dropped it off at the post office. I didn't need to include a power supply or any software; the software was unnecessary, and the internal battery would run the unit for about 10 hours. I had the MP3 player back in my hands in two days, the nonprofit had its project intact and installed on a server (and the organization's unpaid IT person was happy with the solution's simplicity), and I didn't have to invest in any unneeded hardware.

As hard-drive vendors continue to release more efficient small- form-factor drives and the cost of portable media players drops daily, it would seem that a market niche exists for information delivery, especially mixed-media information. Using a similar solution to deliver product databases, video presentations, and hard data to a sales force would give content-creation people a lot more flexibility in producing their deliverables because their content is no longer limited to the size of a CD-ROM or DVD. Media players' potential far exceeds the use that marketers and the public currently envision for them.

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==== 2. From the Community ====

Adding Cluster Nodes Might Cause an Error

When you add nodes to an existing Windows Server 2003 cluster, the Setup Wizard might stop working during the Analyze phase and will generate an error message. You can learn more about the problem and obtain a workaround at
http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=331801

==== 3. News and Views: Symantec Probes Disaster Recovery
by Anne Grubb, [email protected]

It's no secret that Symantec is aggressively building a presence in the backup and recovery market. The company is finalizing a merger with storage vendor VERITAS and recently updated its LiveState Recovery continuous data-protection products. The two developments signal Symantec's intent to branch out from its traditional security stronghold into data protection and recovery.

To learn more about organizations' disaster-recovery practices, Symantec recently conducted a survey among a random sampling of IT sites. The survey, whose 100 participants represented IT professionals at a cross-section of large, medium, and small businesses, shows that in general companies are concerned about data protection on their servers and overall are doing a good job of making sure servers are backed up regularly. However, although 84 percent of the IT pros surveyed say they regularly back up data on their organizations' servers, only 50 percent say that information on corporate desktops is included in the regular backup routine, and only 28 percent include laptops in their regular backup. These figures imply that a significant portion of an organization's valuable data isn't protected adequately.

The responses suggest that companies typically view backup coverage as a hierarchy of data protection, says L.D. Weller, senior product manager for Symantec's enterprise administration business unit. According to Weller, organizations prioritize backup in this way: "First, mission-critical devices, then workgroup level, then desktops and laptops are last," he says.

Weller says that the information that Symantec obtained in the survey will help the vendor develop a strategy for educating IT professionals about the need for best practices in backup and disaster recovery. These best practices include making sure you address desktops and laptops in your backup strategy, backing up not only data but also system settings and applications, and separating data and system files into different partitions, which speeds the backup process.

The Symantec survey also asked participants about how they respond to a security threat, such as a virus, worm, or vulnerability. This question points to Symantec's vision of integrating its security and backup offerings. For example, says Weller, in the future Symantec's DeepSight Alert Services, which give sites early-warning notifications about security threats, could be integrated with a backup product. "A security alert could increase the frequency of backups. Then, when the security level goes down again, the policy changes to decrease the frequency of backups. Our long-term vision for our backup technology is 'set it and forget it'," he says.

==== 4. New and Improved ====
by Anne Grubb, [email protected]

NSI Software Offers New Version of GeoCluster

Data-replication vendor NSI Software released GeoCluster 4.4, the latest version of a software product that provides increased data and application protection and availability for Microsoft Cluster service. GeoCluster 4.4 enhances the data-protection capability of Cluster service by letting each cluster member have its own independent copy of cluster data (overcoming Cluster service's limitation of keeping only one copy of the data) and lets cluster members be separated over much greater distances than Cluster service allows, thereby helping protect the cluster from site and regional failures. New features in GeoCluster 4.4 include intelligent data compression; email event notifications; customized user views within the Management Console; Management Console Filtering, which lets users select and view only servers that they need to view; and Web software updates. Pricing for GeoCluster 4.4 starts at $4495. For more information, contact the vendor on the Web.
http://www.nsisoftware.com

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