Category Archives: Disaster Recovery

How Do You Back Up Your Cloud Services?

I recently came across a post on spiceworks.com that, although it’s a couple of years old, makes a great point: “IT professionals would never run on-premise systems without adequate backup and recovery capabilities, so it’s hard to imagine why so many pros adopt cloud solutions without ensuring the same level of protection.”

This is not a trivial issue. According to some articles I’ve read, over 100,000 companies are now using Salesforce.com as their CRM system. Microsoft doesn’t reveal how many Office 365 subscribers they have, but they do reveal their annual revenue run-rate. If you make some basic assumptions about the average monthly fee, you can make an educated guess as to how many subscribers they have, and most estimates place it at over 16 million (users, not companies). Google Apps subscriptions are also somewhere in the millions (they don’t reveal their specific numbers either). If your organization subscribes to one or more of these services, have you thought about backing up that data? Or are you just trusting your cloud service provider to do it for you?

Let’s take Salesforce.com as a specific example. Deleted records normally go into a recycle bin, and are retained and recoverable for 15 days. But there are some caveats there:

  • Your recycle bin can only hold a limited number of records. That limit is 25 times the number of megabytes in your storage. (According to the Salesforce.com “help” site, this usually translates to roughly 5,000 records per license.) For example, if you have 500 Mb of storage, your record limit is 12,500 records. If that limit is exceeded, the oldest records in the recycle bin get deleted, provided they’ve been there for at least two hours.
  • If a “child” record – like a contact or an opportunity – is deleted, and its parent record is subsequently deleted, the child record is permanently deleted and is not recoverable.
  • If the recycle bin has been explicitly purged (which requires “Modify All Data” permissions), you may still be able to get them back using the DataLoader tool, but the window of time is very brief. Specifically how long you have is not well documented, but research indicates it’s around 24 – 48 hours.

A quick Internet search will turn up horror stories of organizations where a disgruntled employee deleted a large number of records, then purged the recycle bin before walking out the door. If this happens to you on a Friday afternoon, it’s likely that by Monday morning your only option will be to contact Salesforce.com to request their help in recovering your data. The Salesforce.com help site mentions that this help is available, and notes that there is a “fee associated” with it. It doesn’t mention that the fee starts at $10,000.

You can, of course, periodically export all of your Salesforce.com data as a (very large) .CSV file. Restoring a particular record or group of records will then involve deleting everything in the .CSV file except the records you want to restore, and then importing them back into Salesforce.com. If that sounds painful to you, you’re right.

The other alternative is to use a third-party backup service, of which there are several, to back up your Salesforce.com data. There are several advantages to using a third-party tool: backups can be scheduled and automated, it’s easier to search for the specific record(s) you want to restore, and you can roll back to any one of multiple restore points. One such tool is Cloudfinder, which was recently acquired by eFolder. Cloudfinder will backup data from Salesforce.com, Office 365, Google Apps, and Box. I expect that list of supported cloud services to grow now that they’re owned by eFolder.

We at VirtualQube are excited about this acquisition because we are an eFolder partner, which means that we are now a Cloudfinder partner as well. For more information on Cloudfinder, or any eFolder product, contact sales@virtualqube.com, or just click the “Request a Quote” button on this page.

Scott’s Book Arrived!

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We are pleased to announce that Scott’s books have arrived! ‘The Business Owner’s Essential Guide to I.T.’ is 217 pages packed full of pertinent information.

For those of you who pre-purchased your books, Thank You! Your books have already been signed and shipped, you should receive them shortly and we hope you enjoy them as much as Scott enjoyed writing for you.

If you haven’t purchased your copy, click here, purchase a signed copy from us and all proceeds will be donated to the WA chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

My first trip to a DataCenter

Friday, the technology leadership of VirtualQube (and me) descended upon Austin, Texas to meet with our datacenter vendor. It was a meeting long overdue as we had been doing business together for almost four years, but this was the first face-to-face meeting for the entire team.

Our vendor did their homework and took us out to dinner to Bob’s Steakhouse on Lavaca in downtown Austin the night before. It was a GREAT meal, and we had a blast checking out a number of watering holes in the area. According to our hosts, we apparently stopped the festivities just before entering the “seedy” part of the city. I feel like that was the perfect amount of fun to have, especially since we had a 4 hour meeting starting at 9am the next day.

The first thing we started with was a tour of the facility. Our vendor is in a CyrusOne Type Four Level II datacenter. For the uninitiated, this means it’s the best of the best. Fully redundant everything, generally with another safety valve or failover in addition. And the majority of these failovers were tested MONTHLY. Whoa, that’s impressive. We even saw the four huge generators outside that were gas powered and would support the entire building in case of a loss of electricity. Looking inside them (which we weren’t supposed to be allowed to do) was awe inspiring. Basically a V-12 design, with a filter on each cylinder due to its size. I didn’t get the specs, and I would have gotten a photo but security showed up right as I had grabbed for my phone. Just believe me that this building had thought of everything that could go wrong.

I broke the rules and took a picture of all the blinking lights. Kinda looks like my home theater, only more expensive (which is tough to do!).

DC1DC2

 

After the tour we talked about ways to work together for the coming years and both teams came away with a list of action items to make our collective futures brighter. And I’m off to get started on one of those projects now!

Why Not Amazon Web Services?

Thinking about moving to Amazon Web Services? Address these 4 Concerns FIRST

We’ve been hearing a lot of debate recently about using Amazon Web Services for all or part of a cloud infrastructure. Many people sing their praises whole-heartedly, and we here at VirtualQube have even explored their offerings to see if there was an opportunity to bend our own cost curve. But there really is a mixed bag of benefits and features. How do you know if the move is right for you? We’ve narrowed it down to 4 concerns you should address in light of your own circumstances before making the move.

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1. Business impact

First of all, let’s analyze the business model for AWS. Amazon rents out virtual machines for a reasonable price per desktop. But in order to get their best price, you have to pony up 36 months of service fees in advance to rent the space. If you’re an enterprise with three years of IT budget available, this is a great deal. If not, take a closer look.

The pricing from AWS also assumes that virtual machines will be spinning-down 40% of the day. If your workforce mostly logs in within an 8:30am – 6:00pm time frame, you will greatly benefit from this pricing. If your employees have much more flexibility in their schedules (due to travel, seasonal workload spikes, or shifting hours for coverage), then you may need to look at another provider.

AWS also allows for 1GB of data to flow into their cloud for free, and only charges for the outflow of data. This is great for storage if you only use it sparingly, or in the case of a disaster, but can add-up quickly if you need to access your data frequently. While this doesn’t seem to be a concern now, as businesses exchange more and larger files, the cost of this pricing model could quickly outweigh the benefits.

2. Operations impact

The operational capabilities of Amazon truly are world-class. However, to achieve scale and offer its best price/experience the lowest cost of operations, AWS has one set way of operating and its customers are required to interact with AWS in this one way alone. So AWS may not offer the flexibility that would make it easy for you to add services to your existing operations.

If your firm fits AWS’s standard use case, it could lead to an easy transition, but if you have unique requirements, the friction caused with your organization could quickly lead to discord, operational changes, and many other business costs while trying to fit the mold AWS promotes.

3. Technology impact

The technology benefit of AWS is really second-to-none. Their infrastructure has the best hardware and capabilities offered by any of the cloud vendors. The efficiencies of scale mean you can get access to best-of-breed hardware faster than you would otherwise. The only caveat is this could give you a false sense of security.

How we approach business is to think of all the things that CAN go wrong, because many times they eventually do. We coach our customers to prepare for the times when technology will fail. And fail it will. We have consistently seen multi-million dollar technology fail unpredictably, even in hundred million dollar installations. These cases are NOT supposed to happen, and may not happen frequently, but they will happen. And if the failure impacts your business, it doesn’t matter how expensive the underlying technology is. And when the technology does fail, will you be able to get a senior engineer on the phone to immediately address your concerns?

4. Flexibility impact

The ability for AWS to match your business needs during hyper-growth and/or significant volatility could make the business case alone. With AWS’s web interface, your internal technology leader can order additional computing capabilities and they will be ready as soon as you hit “Enter.” The days of placing hardware into a room, hooking up cables, creating and testing images are truly over for all cloud users, and AWS does shorten the timeline for creating these technologies from minutes to seconds. Companies with significant growth who are doubling or tripling in size within a year many years in a row are a perfect match for AWS. No question.

Your final decision…

To sum it all up: AWS works well for you if:

  • You have a scale of operations and support for tens of thousands of users
  • There is three years of IT spend on the balance sheet and it can be invested today
  • You are a typical player in your industry, which fits AWS’s definition of your industry
  • Your IT needs to meet business demands that fluctuate exponentially, immediately, and unpredictably
  • You take advantage of some advanced features for business continuity

For an more in-depth discussion on this topic, check out this: LINK. For an in-depth cost analysis, check out this: LINK. Please note, you will have to be a Citrix Service Partner to access the cost analysis.

 

The Red Cross Wants to Help You with DR Planning

Red Cross Ready Rating Program

Ready Rating Program Seal


A few days ago, I spotted a headline in the local morning paper: “SBA Partners with the Red Cross to Promote Disaster Planning.” We’ve written some posts in the past that dealt with the importance of DR planning, and how to go about it, so this piqued my curiosity enough that I visited the Red Cross “Ready Rating” Web site. I was sufficiently impressed with what I found there that I wanted to share it with you.

Membership in the Ready Rating program is free. All you have to do to become a member is to sign up and take the on-line self-assessment, which will help you determine your current level of preparedness. And I’m talking about overall business preparedness, not just IT preparedness. The assessment rates you on your responses to questions dealing with things like:

  • Have you conducted a “hazard vulnerability assessment,” including identifying appropriate emergency responders (e.g., police, fire, etc.) in your area and, if necessary, obtaining agreements with them?
  • Have you developed a written emergency response plan?
  • Has that plan been communicated to employees, families, clients, media representatives, etc.?
  • Have you developed a “continuity of operations plan?”
  • Have you trained your people on what to do in an emergency?
  • Do you conduct regular drills and exercises?

That last point is more important than you might think. It’s not easy to think clearly when you’re in the middle of an earthquake, or when you’re trying to find the exit when the building is on fire and there’s smoke everywhere. The best way to insure that everyone does what they’re supposed to do is to drill until the response is automatic. It’s why we had fire drills when we were in elementary school. It’s still effective now that we’re all grown up.

Once you become a member, your membership will automatically renew from year to year, as long as you take the self-assessment annually and can show that your score has improved from the prior year. (Once your score reaches a certain threshold, you’re only required to maintain that level to retain your membership.)

So, why should you be concerned about this? It’s hard to imagine that, after the tsunami in Japan and the flooding and tornadoes here at home, there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t get it. But, just in case, consider these points taken from the “Emergency Fast Facts” document in the members’ area:

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans feel prepared for a catastrophic event.
  • Close to 60% of Americans are wholly unprepared for a disaster of any kind.
  • 54% of Americans don’t prepare because they believe a disaster will not affect them – although 51% of Americans have experienced at least one emergency situation where they lost utilities for at least three days, had to evacuate and could not return home, could not communicate with family members, or had to provide first aid to others.
  • 94% of small business owners believe that a disaster could seriously disrupt their business within the next two years.
  • 15 – 40% of small businesses fail following a natural or man-made disaster.

If you’re not certain how to even get started, they can help there as well. Here’s a screen capture showing a partial list of the resources available in the members’ area:

Member Resources

You may also want to review the following articles and posts:

And speaking of getting started, check this out: Just about everything I’ve ever read about disaster preparedness talks about the importance of having a “72-hour kit” – something that you can quickly grab and take with you that contains everything you need to survive for three days. Well, for those of you who haven’t got the time to scrounge up all of the recommended items and pack them up, you may find the solution at your local Costco. Here’s what I spotted on my most recent trip:

Pre-Packaged 3-day Survival Kit

Yep, it’s a pre-packaged 3-day survival kit. The cost at my local store (in Woodinville, WA, if you’re curious) was $69.95. That, in my opinion, is a pretty good deal.

So, if you haven’t started planning yet, consider this your call to action. Don’t end up as a statistic. You can do this.