Archive for Disaster Recovery

A Good Backup Strategy: Your Best Defense Against Ransomware

By Tom Fedro
As seen in Security Magazine 2.2.17 –

http://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/87775-a-good-backup-strategy-your-best-defense-against-ransomware

Last year, cybercriminals attacked the California-based Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, encrypting files crucial in running the hospital’s operating systems and demanding a ransom to restore them to working order. The scam worked – after 10 days of futility, the hospital surrendered and paid $17,000 to regain system control.
Other hospitals, government agencies and businesses in the U.S. and abroad were targeted similarly last year, leading CNET to dub such ransomware scenarios as “the hot hacking trend of 2016.” And the numbers are truly staggering. Osterman Research estimates that nearly half of surveyed organizations have been hit with ransomware within the last year, and concludes that ransomware will amount to a $1 billion source of income for cyber criminals in 2016. In a recent report, Kaspersky Security states that in Q3 2016, a business was attacked by ransomware every 40 seconds, and that even after paying the ransom, one in five of them never got their data back.

Apple Users Now a Target

But while many ransomware instances go unreported due to embarrassment or the desire to not be targeted again, the attacks were thought to be largely focused on the Microsoft Windows software realm, leaving Apple users relatively unscathed. But that changed in 2016 when the first public ransomware targeting Apple systems was discovered by Palo Alto Networks, which found a popular BitTorrent client for Apple’s OS X software for Macs infected with ransomware. Known as “KeRanger,” the ransomware is delivered with a ransom note demanding 1 Bitcoin, which has a current market value over $700. Fixing the problem can also be complicated and time consuming.
Antivirus software also isn’t having an impact; by the time a computer is infected with ransomware, it’s likely that the antivirus software won’t detect it until it’s too late and the damage has been done. The encryption used by modern ransomware is often too good to crack, leading most security experts to conclude that the best approach to fighting ransomware is to avoid it in the first place.

Different Backup Approaches

It seems the most effective way for Apple users to safeguard their computer files from these nefarious attacks is through regular backups. And, in the event you are hit with ransomware, the solution would lie in simply restoring your system to the state it was before the malware hit your computer. There are several backup and restore approaches to consider for the Apple environment:
Time Machine is the backup software application distributed with the Apple operating system, introduced in Mac OS X Leopard. It was designed to work with various storage drives such as Time Capsule. But for Time Machine to be effective, files must be unlocked or closed, which may not be practical for those currently in use. In addition, there is the possibility of a two-step process within OS X that requires users to reinstall the operating system before retrieving the application and files from the backup image.
File System Snapshots simplify backup and recovery by taking a point-in-time virtual file system photo. But while this backup method can be employed to protect active operating systems, depending on files sizes, it can take significantly more time.
Disk Management Solutions can create image-based copies of a disk or partition (or multiple disks and partitions) whether active or inactive, at a specific point in time far more quickly. Such robust offerings have the advantage of being able to make consistent sector-level backups (also often referred to as Snapshots) even if data is being currently modified.

Thus, while there are different backup approaches to consider, the bottom line is that a regular, proactive backup strategy – potentially even a multi-pronged approach – is your best defense against crippling ransomware attacks. And while Apple users were once immune from such attacks, they too now need to join the rest of the computer world in being vigilant in protecting themselves. After all, like many things in life, when it comes to avoiding being held hostage by cybercriminals, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The Value of Data Storage vs. the Cost – Software Defined Storage

Balancing the cost vs the value of storageSenior Strategist Randy Kerns argued on Storage Soup that businesses cannot really just focus on the cost to store information; that the focus should be about the value. Other factors, for example, should be evaluated such as the speed at which data needs to be retrieved, how important the protection and integrity of the data is, how long must the data be stored to meet compliance and regulations in the industry. He is really spot-on.

Often, IT managers, directors and engineers find themselves arguing the need for highly effective storage and backup solutions only to be shot down by Finance. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a disaster, such as a hurricane, fire, earthquake. tornado or some other event, to get their point across. Communication is paramount; tech managers must speak in the language of profits and losses to help drive the point home.

While the argument for the value of securing data is important, especially as our need to save data increases exponentially we can’t dismiss the associated investment involved. Fortunately, the cost of saving and protecting the data has decreased with advances in technology. In fact, software-defined storage seems to be logical direction for the market to head. By implementing a software solution for storage, the hardware manufacturer is irrelevant, enabling the engineer to use commodity off-the-shelf (read inexpensive) components.

Good news is there are storage options on the market today that make securing your company’s data much more affordable than it was even 12 months ago.  Software defined storage is a trend that needs to be followed closely by any serious IT Executive.

Benefits of Licensing the Technician Rather Than the Hardware

Hard Disk Manager Field Technician License

By Tom Fedro

Guardian I.T. Services, a provider of IT services and consulting in southwest Florida, was faced with multiple similar projects where clients – including Charlotte County Airport Authority’s Punta Gorda Airport – had to migrate critical systems to new hardware and/or larger drives, to meet the growing demand for more storage and performance.

David Ward, president of Guardian I.T. Services, searched for nine months for software that enabled him to migrate his customers’ servers to new drives or all new hardware without hassle and without any risk of data loss. After vetting a short list, Ward selected software that ultimately offered a suite of disk management tools (including image-based backup and recovery), as well as a licensing model that saved his clients thousands of dollars because the software was uniquely licensed to the user rather than the hardware. Paragon’s Hard Disk Manager (HDM) Technician License offered twice the features at half the cost as the next best product he tested; the Technician License decreased the per-server cost even more.

After only four months of using HDM to create snapshots of all of the airport’s security systems, the hard drive of one of the servers failed and brought the entire system to a halt. The server that failed stored and managed all of the airport’s security data such as badges, personnel information, and security clearance – required for FAA, TSA, Homeland Security and FBI background checks along with all other regulations airports fall under.

The system was ultimately restored from an HDM image-based incremental backup to new hardware (MS Server 2003 with a new RAID configuration and two 500GB SATA hard drives).  Paragon’s “Adaptive Restore” technology allowed for a seamless restore to the dissimilar hardware.

It took only 54 minutes to get the server back up and running like nothing had ever happened. “After that one incident I will never consider using anything else; I absolutely swear by it,” said Ward about the Paragon product. “Before buying anything else, you must try Paragon. For a server restore or migration, no other software comes close in restore time, reliability and ease-of-use. I recommend Hard Disk Manager Tech License for any company with field technical support.”

Today’s Storage Mosaic

Popular Backup Methods by IndustryBy Tom Fedro

Paragon recently surveyed more than 370 IT professionals regarding the backup and restore methods employed in their networking environment. The results show that today’s storage environment is primarily serviced by local servers and Network Attached Storage. Cloud storage only made up 30 percent of the mix. And, long ago considered obsolete, tape’s foothold is nearly 40 percent.*

However, the interesting numbers lay among the makeup of storage implemented in vertical markets. Among those surveyed, the

  • Healthcare, aerospace and aeronautics industries did not use cloud services for backup at all, instead relying primarily upon local server and tape storage–this may be due to the sensitivity and complexity of the data produced by these two industries, along with associated regulations;
  • Finance industry’s unique mix of very short system-recovery and long data-retention requirements makes it the market segment with the highest integration of cloud services (36.8 percent) in the storage environment. Finance is also the highest integrator of tape into the storage mix, 68.4 percent of those surveyed; and lastly
  • Logistics and Government industries were the second and third highest users of tape backup.

Here’s a look at how the numbers aligned:

Industry

Server

Tape

Cloud

Aerospace/Aeronautics

66.7%

50.0%

0.0%

Education

50.0%

53.6%

17.9%

Finance

47.4%

68.4%

36.8%

Healthcare

50.0%

50.0%

0.0%

Government

60.0%

56.0%

16.0%

Insurance

50.0%

50.0%

25.0%

Logistics

66.7%

66.7%

33.3%

Manufacturing

41.7%

55.6%

25.0%

Non-Profit

42.9%

42.9%

21.4%

Real Estate

75.0%

50.0%

25.0%

Retail

47.1%

23.5%

35.3%

Telecommunications

33.3%

50.0%

33.3%

Transportation

60.0%

40.0%

10.0%

For all the hoopla surrounding cloud, it appears that in all industries IT professionals still prefer to maintain some control over their organization’s critical data, unwilling to completely trust the cloud in the event of a disaster.

* Note: In some cases, multiple storage methods are employed within the same IT environment thus resulting in a totaling of storage methods greater than 100 percent.

Who Can Benefit from Software-Defined Storage via an iSCSI SAN or NAS?

Benefits of Software Defined StorageBy Tom Fedro

There’s a lot of talk about software-defined storage lately. It even has its own Twitter hashtag: #softwaredefinedstorage to keep us up to date on the topic. The emergence of iSCSI-based SAN & NAS means that an IT department with budgetary constraints can have a scalable, highly available and affordable storage network using off-the-shelf hardware. Furthermore, building your own iSCSI SAN is a fairly easy task.

But why bother with an iSCSI SAN at all?

With an iSCSI SAN you can do many common tasks far easier and faster than with conventional file servers and direct attached disks. A SAN gives you “shared storage” on your network, meaning that you can centrally manage all of your storage from one device as opposed to managing storage on each individual application server. Some of the advantages of shared storage includes enabling simplified backups when using snapshots and allowing replication between storage devices — for off-siting data — to be done at a far lower cost than with host-based replication.

Who can benefit most from an iSCSI SAN? Any company that places a high value on their data can benefit from an iSCSI SAN, including

  • Any IT shop with limited resources and limited budgets. iSCSI is a proven technology that costs significantly less than Fiber Channel and provides superior data protection and cost reductions over traditional direct attached disks (also referred to as DAS). iSCSI is fully supported by VMware and many  other virtual machine vendors: in most cases an iSCSI SAN is the best choice for server virtualization projects.
  • Designers and testing and development teams that require immediate and fast access to data and backup sets, without waiting for delays with traditional tape-based backups.
  • When data is required in real time across geographically distributed organizations, iSCSI makes the most sense due to the low cost and ease-of-use of IP Networking.
  • Organizations that host other people’s data such as Application Service Providers (ASPs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Storage Service Providers (SSPs) can all benefit from a reduced TCO footprint when using iSCSI storage.
  • Anywhere remote data replication or disaster recovery is a requirement: Typically as organizations start to expand (i.e., a new office is opened or a new company is acquired in another state), the costs associated with traditional data protection such as tape off-siting and data center hosting costs can be significantly reduced by leveraging remote sites and iSCSI.
  • Even the smallest companies can seek a positive ROI when using iSCSI storage to back up straight to disk before going to tape, essentially retaining weeks or even months of backups for protection against data loss and for legal/compliancy requirements, thus reducing the dependency on backup tape.

But software-defined storage is only touching the surface of the impact of this technology. Software-defined networks may in fact eliminate siloed functions of servers in the near-future data center…all while cutting the expenses associated with traditional data centers.

Migrating from a Hard Disk Drive to a Solid State Drive can be Tricky Without the Right Tools

By Tom Fedro

The task of migrating the operating system, applications and files from one storage drive to another can be a slow and tedious process.

In the case of migrating system files from an HDD to an SSD, it can be especially complicated. The latest SSDs usually do not come with very high capacity. Smaller-sized drives and faster processing speeds are the norm. The robustness of SSDs is a prime benefit, which is leading more users to consider migrating their OS to SSDs to get the most out of their systems. The main obstacle they are facing is the modest capacity of SSDs for the price. So, how do you migrate an OS and hundreds of gigabytes of data on one huge volume to an SSD drive of 80-128GB? Without migration software, the only solution was to re-partition the HDD first, and then perform the migration using a special utility to separate the system and data, a process which risked data loss and was quite time consuming.

To help circumvent these potential issues, Centon Electronics Inc.  decided to include Paragon Migrate OS to SSD software in its SSD Notebook kits, bundled with their solid state drives (SSDs).

“After testing another party’s software with our SSDs, we decided to look for a more intuitive software solution,” said Aaron Campbell, product marketing manager for Centon Electronics. “I had worked with Paragon in the past, asked for a copy to test, and it worked perfectly. It was simple, quick and accurate. Exactly the solution we were searching for. Paragon was very responsive and more than willing to work with us even though we were not a large corporation. The customer and technical support was excellent and made us feel we were just as important as an International firm.”

Migrate OS to SSD provides easy copying of system data including the operating system, data files and applications to Centon’s SSDs. With an intuitive wizard-driven interface, the software automatically downsizes the source system volume, if needed; auto-aligns the copied system partition; and provides intelligent selection of specific files and folders for migration — all without rebooting the system.Paragon Migrate OS to SSD

Key features and benefits include file-exclusion technology (which increases migration speed), a simple and convenient wizard-driven graphical interface, automatic partition resize capability (prevents common issues when migrating system data from an HDD to a smaller SSD), automatic partition alignment awareness (to prevent redundant read/write operations), Microsoft Reserved Partition awareness, hot copy (without a system restart), and a smooth migration process regardless of the operating system.

 

State Governor’s Office Ensures Reliable Backup in Case of Disaster

Paragon Backup Software for Disaster RecoveryBy Tom Fedro

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf State region of the U.S. in 2005, IT departments in states based in the southern part of the U.S. became particularly sensitive to the potential loss of their critical data.

When the director of technical services started his new position in the govenor’s, one of the first tasks was to replace the old tape backup system with a more reliable, and cost-effective, image-based backup solution. After a lengthy and comprehensive evaluation process Paragon Software’s Hard Disk Manager (HDM) Server was selected to ensure that their files were safe in case disaster strikes.

Not long after the selection was made the office had its first test of the new backup system. Their RAID controller and the backplane on one of their servers failed, thankfully Paragon’s HDM solution rose to the challenge and not only ensured there was no data lost, but also had the office back up and running in record time. To read the case study in its entirety along with others, search by product or by market.

To view a video demonstration of our Drive Backup Server software (bundled with HDM for Servers), check us out on YouTube: