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Author Archives: Tim

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Tech Commentary: Windows phone overtakes Blackberry

Posted on May 17th, 2013 by Tim

Sales figures for the first quarter of 2013 show that Windows Phone has overtaken Blackberry to take third place in the ongoing smartphone race. Android and IOS still account for the vast majority of the market at 75% and 17% retrospectively but for the first time Microsoft have pipped Blackbbery with 3.2% vs 2.9%.

Of course this needs to be put in perspective. Android and IOS still clearly lead with over 90% of the market between them. That being said it still makes interesting reading. I have never understood the continued appeal of Blackberry in the SME market. Our experience has shown that Blackberry users are less satisfied with their devices than either IOS or Android users and from an administrative perspective I have never been enamoured with Blackberry Enterprise Server or the model Blackberry use for e-mail delivery.

From a professional perspective Windows Phone is something I really want to see take off. Would I recommend it to clients? maybe not yet. Am I using it myself? Again, no. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not just a little bit excited to see it overtake Blackberry.

Tim Goldfield – Director (Geek-Guru Ltd)

Posted in: Latest News

Protecting Data - Part 5 - Tape Alternatives Part 1

Posted on May 17th, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at backups and data protection. How do you backup your data, how is it best to store data to ensure you always have a copy at hand and how do you protect it when it’s off site.

Tapes Alternatives – External Drives

With the advent of Windows Server 2008 even Microsoft have turned their back on tapes. The media of choice for Windows Server Backup is now external USB drives. These have some real benefits:

  • No need for a drive – External hard drives are both media and drive in one. They don’t require an expensive dock to connect to a server.
  • Relatively cheap – External drives are well priced when compared to a tape drive and media and the price per MB is continually dropping.
  • High capacity – External drives come in sizes that are more than adequate for SMEs.

We are seeing external drives being used more and more – especially for Small Business Server backups where budgets tend to restrict the use of more expensive mediums. However, external drives are not without their issues.

  • Fragile – When powered external drives are prone to shock damage. Even in transit they can easily be damaged if dropped.
  • Don’t scale well – Whilst a couple of drives are cheaper than a tape drive and tapes, the cost benefits don’t scale well as more drives are added.
  • Poor archive – Drives don’t make a great archive medium due to price and lack of a read-only mode.

Next Time – More Media Option

Don’t like the look of external drives as a backup medium. Check out the next blog for some more ideas.

Posted in: Latest News

Protecting Data - Part 4 - Tapes

Posted on May 15th, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at backups and data protection. How do you backup your data, how is it best to store data to ensure you always have a copy at hand and how do you protect it when it’s off site.

Tapes – love them or hate them

Traditionally all backups would have been made to tapes and they still have their place when looking at backup strategies. Tapes have numerous benefits including:

  • Cheap Media – Tapes themselves are usually very well priced per MB.
  • High Capacity – Tapes offer huge capacities on high end drives.
  • Quick Speeds – The throughput of tapes can be very high indeed resulting in shorter backup windows.
  • Rugged – Tapes themselves tend to be pretty rugged in their design.

Until recently tapes represented the only really viable option for enterprise backup due to the large capacities and quick backup speeds. However, they are not without their problems:

  • Drives are expensive – Whilst the tapes are relatively cheap the drives themselves are often very expensive.
  • Prone to failure – Drives are mechanical so by their very nature are more prone to failure than solid state devices without moving parts.
  • Data scaling – Whilst tapes have grown in capacity, so has the data being backed up. High capacity tapes and drives are often out of reach of SMEs.
  • Require maintenance – Tape drives need regular cleaning to stay in good condition.

Because high capacity drives are expensive we often see clients with inadequately sized drives. This means that not all the data on a server can be backed up leading to cherry picking of data – a recipe for downtime or lost data should disaster actually strike.

Next Time – Tape alternatives

Because of the issues traditional tapes are quickly falling out of favour with SMEs. Next time we’ll be looking at some alternatives to tapes.

Posted in: It 4 business Tagged , , , ,

Protecting Data - Part 3 - Software Alternatives

Posted on May 13th, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at backups and data protection. How do you backup your data, how is it best to store data to ensure you always have a copy at hand and how do you protect it when it’s off site.

Backup Alternatives

Whilst Windows Server Backup (WSB) does fit some clients IT environments it can only be used in certain circumstances. If any of these are true then WSB may not be suitable for you:

  • You require your backups to be encrypted (WSB does not encrypt backups)
  • You have multiple servers hosted on multiple physicals and require a single backup to cover all of those servers.
  • You have applications that require granular backup – such as SQL, Exchange, AD or SharePoint.
  • You require complex archiving or backup manipulation. For instance you require a monthly archive to different media.
  • You require physical to virtual conversion for your DR strategy.

In these cases third party backup software must be used. Depending on the number of servers and the applications being backed up this can be costly. Generally software is licensed by how many servers are included in the backup and how many applications will be included in the granular backup.

Third party software also comes with other benefits including the ability to use a wider range of media, the option to use cloud based storage, complex media rotations and virtual conversion to enable physical servers to be restored easily to a virtual environment in a disaster situation.

Next Time – Backup Media

Next time we’ll be looking at the specifics of choosing backup media. Check out our next blog entry for some great tips.

Posted in: It 4 business Tagged , ,

Protecting Data - Part 2 - Software (WSB)

Posted on May 10th, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at backups and data protection. How do you backup your data, how is it best to store data to ensure you always have a copy at hand and how do you protect it when it’s off site.

Backup Software

Your requirements for backup software will most likely come out of the initial specification as it will be defined by what is required of the backup strategy as a whole. However, the first question is usually ‘Will the built in backup suffice?’.

Windows Server has always shipped with some form of free backup software. Generally this software is no frills but provides a quick and easy backup solution where there is no requirement or budget for anything more complex. In previous versions of Windows ‘NTBackup’ was the built in option but in recent releases this has given way to Windows Server Backup.

Windows Server Backup (WSB) provides a basic system to backup data to external drives or a network share (with some tinkering). It does not support tapes and does not support encryption, which rules it out for many clients. However, where it can be used it does provide a cheap way to set up a fairly reliable backup that can be rotated offsite or archived internally. Often we use WSB alongside another backup to provide a layered backup strategy even when another piece of software is used for the primary backup.

Next Time – Alternatives to WSB

Next time we’ll be looking at alternatives to WSB. Why you may need them and what you get for your money.

Posted in: It 4 business Tagged , ,

Geek-Guru embraces digital contracts

Posted on May 08th, 2013 by Tim

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been making changes to the way we process our contracts. We’re pleased to announce that as of May 2013 Geek-Guru will no longer be using any paper contracts for our services. Instead we are now using fully digital contracts through world leaders DocuSign.

DocuSign enables us to process contracts without wasting valuable time and resources. We’re ensuring our processes are as efficient as possible for our clients whilst also reducing our carbon footprint – that’s win-win as far as we’re concerned.

For more information about how Geek-Guru are working towards a paperless office drop us an e-mail. We would be delighted to share our tips with budding eco-businesses out there!

 

Posted in: Latest News

Protecting Data - Part 1 - Planning

Posted on May 08th, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at backups and data protection. How do you backup your data, how is it best to store data to ensure you always have a copy at hand and how do you protect it when it’s off site.

Planning Backups

The data stored on your backup is arguably the most important data you might never need. Most businesses will never actually use their disaster recovery backup (assuming their system is set up properly and monitored). However, is it worth the risk of not having adequate backups in place should the worst occur? It’s usually too late to address flaws in your strategy once a disaster has actually occurred and the backup is required. Every minute spent in planning is an extra guarantee that your business will survive a disaster.

Ask yourself these questions about your backup:

  • Is your backup sufficient to protect all your data in the form you would require it in?
  • How long would it take to restore a backup in the event of a disaster?
  • Do you have a plan for if your office or IT system is destroyed? What is your disaster recovery plan? Do staff know the plan?
  • Is your data stored in more than one place?
  • Is your backup data sensitive? If you lost a backup could the data be of value to criminals or your competitors?
  • Is the data on the backup subject to data protection regulations?
  • How many copies are you storing off-site. In a disaster can you guarantee the data would be accessible (you are storing them off-site right)?

Backups do not plan themselves. They take careful analysis looking at the specifics of each IT system and how that system is used in the organisation.

Next Time – Backup Software

Next time we’ll be looking at the specifics of backups. Check out our next blog entry for some great tips on choosing backup software.

Posted in: It 4 business Tagged ,

Hard Drives - Part 7 - Protecting Externals

Posted on May 06th, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at hard drives. What are hard drives, why do they fail and what can you do to extended their life and prevent data loss?

Why Protect External Drives

Just like their internal cousins, external drives are reasonably fragile. They contain numerous moving parts and are very susceptible to damage when they are spinning. This is compounded by their usage which often sees them hanging from a laptop when powered meaning they tend to fail far more often than both desktop or laptop hard drives.

Whilst the chassis of an external hard drive offers some protection they are  still far more fragile than a drive safely housed inside a PC or laptop. A standard external drive may have a few millilitres of plastic around the drive but that doesn’t offer a great deal in terms of shock protection and  provides almost nothing if the drive is spinning and then dropped.

How to Protect External Drives

  • Don’t move external drives when the are connected.
  • Sit them carefully on a solid surface when they are connected and treat them with care to avoid knocks and bumps.
  • If you are using an external drive as a backup on a server. Disconnect the drive and wait 5 seconds before moving it. Don’t pick it up whilst it is still connected.
  • If you are worried about a drive getting damaged in transit – Chose a model that offers some physical protection such as rubberised case or bumpers.
  • Would a USB pen disk suit you better – These are solid state (i.e. no moving parts) and are therefore less unacceptable to movement damage.

Next Time – Data Protection

With so much data stored on an external drives, data protection quickly becomes an issue. Check out our next blog entry for some great tips on protecting the data stored on a drive.

Posted in: It 4 business Tagged , , , , , , ,

Hard Drives - Part 6 - External Drives

Posted on May 03rd, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at hard drives. What are hard drives, why do they fail and what can you do to extended their life and prevent data loss?

What are external drives

External drives are in many cases exactly the same technology as their internal counterparts – indeed often the exact same drive. Internally a hard drive is mounted in either a laptop or desktop PC drive cage and then connected to the motherboard via its on-board interface (usually a SATA cable). With external drives the same drive is mounted in a plastic case which is then connected to some form of intermediate interface – usually a USB or eSATA connection. The important thing to realise here is the drive within the plastic case is exactly the same as the drive in your computer and is subject to the same mechanical issues as those drives.

External drives comes in two flavours:

  1. Portable Drives – Contain a 2.5″ laptop drive; are smaller and lighter and do not require a separate power supply.
  2. Desktop Drives – Contain a 3.5″ desktop drive; are larger in physical size and data sizes and cheaper per MB but usually require a separate power supply.

External hard drives have numerous uses in the business including:

  • Bulk storage for data that is not used frequently (such as music or movies).
  • Backup of laptops, desktops and even servers.
  • Bulk movement of data around the office.
  • Bulk movement of data between offices / home / clients etc.

Next Time – Protecting External Drives

Because of their flexibility we find external drives in use throughout most of our clients. However, by their very nature external drives are subject to even more risk that their securely housed internal brethren. Next time we’ll be looking at the various options to protect your data.

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Hard drives - Part 5 - SSD Drawbacks

Posted on May 01st, 2013 by Tim

In this series of mini-blogs we’re looking at hard drives. What are hard drives, why do they fail and what can you do to extended their life and prevent data loss?

So what’s the drawback?

These days very little apart from cost. SSDs are now relatively mature and the technology has come on a long way. However, price per MB is still far higher than traditional drives which means that laptops generally don’t come with SSDs as standard until you start looking at premium machines or ultra-portables.

Because the price per MB is high laptops that do have SSDs often come with lower sized drives such as 128MB or 256MB. This is fine for most business use but not great for storing your large iTunes Store or large numbers of music and video files. If you are considering an SSD then you need to think very carefully about what data you will need on your laptop and what could be moved off to alternate storage. Do you really need to carry 100GB of music to every business meeting or would that be best on a desktop PC in the office (or an external drive)?

Next Time – External Hard Drives

External drives by their very nature are subject to even more risk that their securely housed internal brethren. Next week we’ll be looking at the various options and what you can do to protect your data.

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