• Posted on September 20, 2017 9:35 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    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 September 17, 2017 9:30 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    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 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 January 31, 2017 11:22 am
    Joseph Forbes
    No comments

    The Advanced Startup Options menu, available in Windows 10 and Windows 8, is the central fix-it location for the entire operating system. From here you can access Windows diagnostic and repair tools like Reset This PC, System Restore, Command Prompt, Startup Repair, and much more. Advanced Startup Options is also where you access Startup Settings, the menu that includes Safe Mode, among other startup methods that could help you access Windows 10 or Windows 8 if it is having problems starting. The Advanced Startup Options menu should appear automatically after two consecutive startup errors. However, if you need to open it manually, there are six different ways to do so. The best way to decide which method to use to open Advanced Startup Options is to base your decision on what level of access you have to Windows right now: If Windows 10/8 starts normally: Use any method, but 1, 2, or 3 will be easiest. If Windows 10/8 does not start: Use method 4, 5, or 6. Method 1 will also work if you can at least get to the Windows 10 or Windows 8 logon screen. Time Required: Accessing Advanced Startup Options is easy and can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on which method you use. Applies To: All of these means of getting to the Advanced Startup Options menu work equally well in any edition of Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 unless I note otherwise. Method 1: SHIFT + Restart Hold down either SHIFT key while tapping or clicking on Restart, available from any Power icon.​ Tip: Power icons are available throughout Windows 10 and Windows 8 as well as from the sign-in/lock screen. Note: This method does not seem to work with the on-screen keyboard. You'll need to have a physical keyboard connected to your computer or device to open the Advanced Startup Options menu this way. Wait while the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 2: Settings Menu Tap or click on the Start button.Note: In Windows 8, Swipe from the right to open the charms bar. Tap or click Change PC settings. Choose Update and recovery from the list on the left (or General prior to Windows 8.1), then choose Recovery. Skip down to Step 5. Tap or click on Settings. Tap or click on the Update & security icon, near the bottom of the window. Choose Recovery from the list of options on the left of the UPDATE & SECURITY window. Locate Advanced startup, at the bottom of the list of options on your right. Tap or click on Restart now. Wait through the Please wait message until Advanced Startup Options opens. Method 3: Shutdown Command Open Command Prompt in Windows 10 or Windows 8.Tip: Another option is to open Run if you can't get Command Prompt started for some reason, probably related to the issue you're having that has you here in the first place! Execute the shutdown command in the following way: shutdown /r /o Note: Save any open files before executing this command or you'll lose any changes you've made since your last save. To the You're about to be signed off message that appears a few seconds later, tap or click on the Close button. After several seconds, during which nothing seems to be happening, Windows 10/8 will then close and you'll see a Please wait message. Wait just a few seconds more until the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 4: Boot From Your Windows 10/8 Installation Media Insert a Windows 10 or Windows 8 DVD or a flash drive with the Windows installation files on it into your computer.Tip: You can borrow someone else's Windows 10 or Windows 8 disc (or other media) if you need to. You're not installing or reinstalling Windows, you're just accessing Advanced Startup Options - no product key or license breaking required. Boot from the disc or boot from the USB device, whatever your situation calls for. From the Windows Setup screen, tap or click Next. Tap or click on the Repair your computer link at the bottom of the window. Advanced Startup Options will start, almost immediately. Method 5: Boot From a Windows 10/8 Recovery Drive Insert your Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive into a free USB port.Tip: Don't worry if you weren't proactive and never got around to creating a Recovery Drive. If you have another computer with the same version of Windows or a friend's computer with Windows 10/8, see How To Create a Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive for instructions. Boot your computer from the flash drive. On the Choose your keyboard layout screen, tap or click on U.S. or whatever keyboard layout you'd like to use. Advanced Startup Options will begin instantly. Method 6: Boot Directly to Advanced Startup Options Start or restart your computer or device. Choose the boot option for System Recovery, Advanced Startup, Recovery, etc.On some Windows 10 and Windows 8 computers, for example, pressing F11 starts System Recovery. Note: What this boot option is called is configurable by your hardware maker so the options I mentioned are just some that I've seen or heard. Whatever the name, it should be clear that what you're about to do is a boot to Windows's advanced recovery features. Important: The ability to boot directly to Advanced Startup Options isn't one that's available with a traditional BIOS. Your computer will need to support UEFI and then also be configured properly to boot directly to the ASO menu. Wait for Advanced Startup Options to begin. What About F8 and SHIFT+F8? Neither F8 nor SHIFT+F8 is a reliable option for booting to the Advanced Startup Options menu. If you need to access Advanced Startup Options, you can do so with any of the several methods listed above. How To Exit Advanced Startup Options Whenever you're finished using the Advanced Startup Options menu, you can choose Continue to restart your computer. Assuming it's working properly now, this will boot you back into Windows 10/8. Your other option is to choose Turn off your PC, which will do just that.

    Blog Entry, Security, Technical Support