• Posted on September 17, 2017 9:30 am
    Joseph Forbes
    No comments

    Whether you're managing disaster preparation activities for a small business or a large corporation, you need to plan for natural disasters because, as we all know, information technology and water don't mix well. Let's go over some basic steps you'll need to take to ensure that your network and IT investments survive in the event of a disaster such as a flood or hurricane. 1. Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan The key to successfully recovering from a natural disaster is to have a good disaster recovery plan in place before something bad happens. This plan should be periodically tested to ensure that all parties involved know what they are supposed to do during a disaster event. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has excellent resources on how to develop disaster recovery plans. Check out NIST Special Publication 800-34 on Contingency Planning to find out how to get started developing a rock-solid disaster recovery plan. 2. Get Your Priorities Straight: Safety First. Obviously, protecting your people is the most important thing. Never put your network and servers ahead of keeping your staff safe. Never operate in an unsafe environment. Always ensure that facilities and equipment have been deemed safe by the proper authorities before any recovery or salvage operations begin. Once safety issues have been addressed, you should have a system restoration priority so you can focus on what it will take to stand up your critical infrastructure and servers at an alternate location. Have management identify which business functions they want back online first and then focus planning on restoring what is needed to ensure safe recovery of mission critical systems. 3. Label and Document Your Network and Equipment. Pretend that you just found out that a major storm is two days away and it is going to flood your building. Most of your infrastructure is in the basement of the building which means you are going to have to relocate the equipment elsewhere. The tear down process will likely be rushed so you need to have your network well documented so that you can resume operations at an alternate location. Accurate network diagrams are essential for guiding network technicians as they reconstruct your network at the alternate site. Label things as much as you can with straightforward naming conventions that everyone on your team understands. Keep a copy of all network diagram information at an offsite location. 4. Prepare to Move Your IT Investments to Higher Ground. Since our friend gravity likes to keep water at the lowest point possible, you'll want to plan to relocate your infrastructure equipment to higher ground in the event of a major flood. Make arrangements with your building manager to have a safe storage location on a non-flood prone floor where you can temporarily move network equipment that might be flooded in the event of a natural disaster. If the entire building is likely to be trashed or flooded, find an alternate site that is not in a flood zone. You can visit the FloodSmart.gov website and enter in the address of your potential alternate site to see if it is located in a flood zone or not. If it is in a high risk flood area, you may want to consider relocating your alternate site. Make sure your disaster recovery plan covers the logistics of who's going to move what, how they are going to do it, and when they are going to move operations to the alternate site.. Move the expensive stuff first (switches, routers, firewalls, servers) and least expensive stuff last (PCs and Printers). If you're designing a server room or data center, consider locating it in an area of your building that won't be prone to flooding such as a non-ground level floor, this will save you the headache of relocating equipment during a flood. 5. Make Sure You Have Good Backups Before a Disaster Strikes. If you don't have good backups to restore from then it won't matter if you have an alternate site because you won't be able to restore anything of value. Check to make sure your scheduled backups are working and check backup media to make sure it is actually capturing data. Be vigilant. Make sure that your administrators are reviewing backup logs and that backups are not silently failing.

    DATA, Hardware, Security
  • Posted on September 9, 2017 9:29 am
    Joseph Forbes
    No comments

    So, at this point it is hard to say that current quantum computers (well more like chips) have integrated within them RAM (random access memory), ROM (read only memory), hard drives (another memory component), and buses or data lines — but there are developments in quantum computer architectures, with most of them being quantum-classical hybrid architectures, where you certainly do have components that manipulate qubits or qudits (so hot right now) to carry out calculations on quantum circuits (like a processor), schemes to store this information onto other qubits (memory), and then also systems to carry out measurements after our manipulations to get the result of our quantum informatical computation (with quantum information relayed through optical buses). What are quantum computers/chips (or just qubits) usually made out of currently? Well it’s like the Cambrian Explosion (ok, maybe not that diverse) but with different quantum computing architectues or substrates if you will — each with their advantages and disadvantages. Trapped ion qubits, superconducting circuit qubits, diamond nitrogen vacancy qubits are some examples of physical representations or realizations of qubits — generally you can use something as a qubit as long as you can manipulate the state of said quantum entity (electrons, photons ~ usually spins in which case, some other field quantity, etc) in a two-level (so you get the 0 or 1 state or superpositions of these) or multi-level (qudits can take on these multi-level states, so think 0, 1, 2 … n-states) fashion. You usually end up manipulating these quantum states using optics, so photons, or different electromagnetic frequencies such as microwaves or radio-frequency waves — and often in composite pulses (there are experimental benefits to doing this where delivering our manipulations in pulse sequences offers robustness to noise or other errors as opposed to a single pulse). Another aspect of current quantum computing hardware you may be familiar with is the near universal requirement for cryogenic temperatures (from balmy and warm 1~10 Kelvin to colder milli-Kelvin to even colder micro-Kelvin temperatures) as well as pulling a hard vacuum for certain qubit modes (notably trapped ion methods). And the field really is rapidly marching forward with centers in the US, Europe, Australia (these three nations are heavily invested in bringing forth a working universal quantum computer), Asia (China focuses heavily on quantum informatic experiments, Japan and Korea also have their sights set more on quantum information manipulation with quantum optical systems). In fact there are proposals to build a “football” sized quantum computer based on trapped ion methods — owing to their good entanglement lifetimes, scalability and straight forward manipulation and addressing of qubits (trapped ions are also a pretty legacy technology, used in things like atomic clocks or as components in mass spectrometry work flows) — this is pretty exciting and would actually be a great thing to invest in and make it a big public science project much like how CERN’s LHC or the LIGOs might be operated and used. You can obviously see where this would be a good first step but might need improvement to break the mainstream commercial barrier — the intense energy costs of pulling a hard vacuum and maintaining milli- to micro-Kelvin temperatures (maybe you can do some clever thermal engineering and integration to save some money but the operating costs will still be steep). Nonetheless it would be a wonderful undertaking and could prove valuable in guiding the design and development of future quantum devices (maybe with the bulky and expensive quantum computer you can figure out how to build a more compact and energy efficient/heat-resistant one).

    Blog Entry, DATA, EDUCATION
  • Posted on September 2, 2017 9:36 am
    Joseph Forbes
    No comments

    Whether you're a home PC user or a network administrator, you always need a plan for when the unexpected happens to your computers and/or network. A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is essential in helping to ensure that you don't get fired after a server gets fried in a fire, or in the case of the home user, that you don't get kicked out of the house when mamma discovers you've just lost years worth of irreplaceable digital baby photos. A DRP doesn't have to be overly complicated. You just need to cover the basic things that it will take to get back up and running again if something bad happens. Here are some items that should be in every good disaster recovery plan: 1. Backups, Backups, Backups! Most of us think about backups right after we've lost everything in a fire, flood, or burglary. We think to ourselves, "I sure hope I have a backup of my files somewhere". Unfortunately, wishing and hoping won't bring back dead files or keep your wife from flogging you about the head and neck after you've lost gigabytes of family photos. You need to have a plan for regularly backing up your critical files so that when a disaster occurs you can recover what was lost. There are dozens of online backup services available that will backup your files to an off-site location via a secure connection. If you don't trust "The Cloud" you can elect to keep things in-house by purchasing an external backup storage device such as a Drobo. Whichever method you choose, make sure you set a schedule to backup all your files at least once weekly, with incremental backups each night if possible. Additionally, you should periodically make a copy of your backup and store it off-site in a fire safe, safe deposit box, or somewhere other than where your computers reside. Off-site backups are important because your backup is useless if it's burned up in the same fire that just torched your computer. 2. Document Critical Information If you encounter a major disaster, you're going to loose a lot of information that may not be inside of a file. This information will be critical to getting back to normal and includes items such as: Make, model, and warranty information for all your computers and other peripherals Account names and passwords (for e-mail, ISP, wireless routers, wireless networks, admin accounts, System BIOS) Network settings (IP addresses of all PCs, firewall rules, domain info, server names) Software license information (list of installed software, license keys for re-installation, version info) Support phone numbers (for ISP, PC manufacturer, network administrators, tech support) 3. Plan for Extended Downtime If you're a network administrator you'll need to have a plan that covers what you will do if the downtime from the disaster is expected to last more than a few days. You'll need to identify possible alternate sites to house your servers if your facilities are going to be unusable for an extended period of time. Check with your management prior to looking into alternatives to get their buy-in. Ask them questions such as: How much downtime is tolerable to them based on their business needs? What is the restoration priority (which systems do they want back online first)? What is their budget for disaster recovery operations and preparation? 4. Plan for Getting Back to Normal You'll need transition plan for moving your files off of the loaner you borrowed and onto the new PC you bought with your insurance check, or for moving from your alternate site back to your original server room after its been restored to normal. Test and update your DRP regularly. Make sure you keep your DRP up-to-date with all the latest information (updated points of contact, software version information, etc). Check your backup media to make sure it is actually backing something up and not just sitting idle. Check the logs to make sure the backups are running on the schedule you setup. Again, your disaster recovery plan shouldn't be overly complicated. You want to make it useful and something that is always within arms reach. Keep a copy of it off-site as well. Now if I were you, I would go start backing up those baby pics ASAP!

    Blog Entry, DATA, Data Recovery
  • Posted on July 9, 2017 10:48 am
    Joseph Forbes
    No comments

    A Guide to the iPad Recovery Mode Resetting the iPad to its factory default settings is the nuclear option when it comes to troubleshooting.  For most issues, simply rebooting the iPad will fix the problem.  It's amazing what a simple reboot will do for the iPad, although it is important to follow the right procedure when rebooting.  When that fails, choosing to erase all settings and data and start from scratch becomes an option.   But what happens when you can't even reset the iPad?   If the iPad is locked or continually gets stuck at the Apple logo, you'll need to go beyond nuclear and force the iPad into recovery mode. The iPad's recovery mode is a process that uses iTunes on your PC or Mac in order to bypass the normal operation on your iPad.  If the iPad has been disabled or something went wrong with a previous update and it now freezes at the Apple logo, this process can force the iPad to reset to its fresh-out-of-the-box factory default settings. Remember, this should only be used when you cannot get into the iPad to operate it.   If your iPad boots up but freezes often while you use it, you can use some basic troubleshooting steps to help fix the problem. And before you try this option, make sure you have tried forcing a reboot.  If you iPad is merely frozen, even if it is at the Apple logo, try holding down the Sleep/Wake button for a full thirty seconds to see if it will power down.   Once the iPad's screen goes completely dark, wait a few seconds and then press the button again to power it back on.  If the iPad reboots but gets stuck at the Apple Logo again, or it simply won't reboot, you will need to continue with these instructions. If you do not already have iTunes installed on your PC or Mac, you can download it from Apple's website. How to Enter Recovery Mode on the iPad: Connect a USB cable to your PC. The cable that comes with the iPad can be used to connect it to your PC. Only connect the USB cable to your PC, not your iPad. Connecting the cable to your iPad must be done in the proper order. Turn off your iPad. You can accomplish this by holding down the Sleep/Wake button at the top of the iPad until a red slider appears on the screen. Activate the slider to turn the iPad off. Hold down the Home Button. The Home button is the round button at the bottom of the iPad, below the screen. While holding down the home button, connect the USB cable to the iPad. Your iPad should power on at this point. Keep holding the Home button down until you see the iTunes logo appear on the screen. If you see a battery on the screen, you will need to let the iPad charge for a bit and then repeat these steps. You are now in the iPad's recovery mode. You will receive a message on the screen alerting you that you have entered recovery mode. At this point, you can restore the iPad through iTunes using these instructions. This process will work from any computer, so if you don't own a PC and never turned on Find My iPad, you can go through this process using a friend's computer.  If you have backed up your iPad using iTunes or iCloud, you should be able to recover everything up to the point of your backup. But even if you haven't backed up your iPad, you can still recover any apps that you have previously purchased by downloading them from the App Store. What if you don't have access to a computer? If your iPad is locked and you don't have access to a computer, you can use Find My iPhone/iPad to wipe it remotely. You can either use the Find My iPhone app on your iPhone or you can go to www.icloud.com from any device that can connect to the web and then simply log on using your Apple ID. To wipe your iPad remotely, choose your iPad (click the blue button if you are on the map screen) and then choose "Erase iPad".  Get more help erasing the iPad remotely by getting in touch with us through our contact form.

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, Hardware
  • Posted on April 7, 2017 11:46 am
    Joseph Forbes
    No comments

    Deciding which laptop to buy can be tough, with hundreds of laptop models to choose from and prices ranging from under $200 for Chromebooks to over $2,000 for high-end laptops. In addition to your budget, the kind of work and play you plan on doing on your laptop should help you narrow down your choices. Here are some tips for making a wise laptop purchase. How to Select the Best Laptop for Your Needs 1. Consider your operating system. You have more choices with Windows laptops, but Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops can also run Windows, which makes these laptops attractive for their versatility. However, Apple's laptops are much pricier. If you're considering this age-old debate between Mac or PC laptop, think about how much you really want to spend (see below) and whether you need a laptop with features (Blu-Ray, touchscreen, TV tuners, etc.) not available on the few variants Apple offers.​ 2. Start with your budget. Netbooks are the cheapest and smallest type of laptop, and you can actually use them for business, but they're very underpowered and limited. They are also being replaced by tablets and more powerful laptops shrinking in size and weight. You can buy a budget laptop, good for most basic tasks like web browsing and word processing, for under $500 (even much less during sale holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday); these laptops sometimes use older processors and often come in the 15.6" display size. Generally, the smaller and thinner you want your laptop to be, the more you'll have to pay for it. If you have a couple of hundred more to spend (between $600 and $1000), you can buy a thin-and-light laptop (4 to 6 pounds and 14-inch to 16-inch displays), with better performance: the latest generation processors, a sizable hard drive of 500 GB or more, and more memory. Thin-and-lights are probably the most common types of laptops being sold (and bought) today. For $1,000 or more, you can opt for either a sleek ultraportable laptop--light in weight, and very thin, with screen sizes 13 inches or less--or go the other way, and buy a gaming laptop or a desktop replacement laptop--heavy in weight and with giant 17-inch screens.​   3. Make a checklist of what's most important to you in your next laptop. Think about how you want to use your laptop to rank the features you should look for in your next laptop: Entertainment, such as music and movies? Go for the larger screen sizes, 15-inch or more, and higher resolution, high definition displays (1920x1080 pixels). You'd probably also want as large a hard drive as possible for all your media storage, e.g., hard drives of 750GB or more. A Blu-Ray player would probably be on your list for movie-watching, as well as HDMI ports and/or wireless TV streaming. Travel or a lot of mobile work? Portability will obviously be your biggest consideration. Look for screen sizes 13-inch or under, weights 4 pounds or under, and a rated battery life of 6 hours or more. You might also want a mobile broadband card in your laptop for Internet access on the go. A lot of graphic/multimedia work or gaming? A large, high-definition screen, lots of memory (4GB is low, 8 GB is better), and a dedicated video graphics card should be at the top of your checklist. For the best performance, look for quad-core processors. For a balance of performance and portability, seek out a thin-and-light or ultraportable laptop with 13- or 14-inch display, the mid-range processor (e.g., Intel Core i5 processor), 4GB or more of RAM, and 500GB or more of hard drive space (or, for better performance, a solid state drive). 4. Read reviews. Once you have your checklist, it's time to find the laptops that fit the bill. Check out review roundup sites like ConsumerSearch to see the most recommended laptops, then compare features to your checklist. Keep in mind that a lot of laptop manufacturers, such as Dell and HP, also let you configure laptops to your specifications--adjusting the amount of RAM or choosing a different hard drive, for example. 5. Compare laptops. Finally, I like to make a table comparing the top few options. You could use a spreadsheet and list the specs (processor, memory, hard drive, graphics card, etc.) as well as price for each laptop to make your final choice. This interactive laptop chart can also help you narrow down the options, by filtering available laptops by their specs.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, MONEY