All posts by Kris Price

Why is Message Level Restore Advantageous?

An important component of corporate data today is email communication. The high speed interconnected world demands that email messages suffice as orders, offers, acceptances or a host of legal documentation that earlier was exchanged in hard copy. This means that these email messages are extremely important and valuable to the enterprise that has gone electronic. Entire business transactions may be built up on exchange of a few emails between the contracting parties. A number of federal and legal regulations also make it imperative that such email data is preserved securely and are easily accessed at all times for the stipulated number of years. Hence, organisations looking for backup and restore options for their data must also ensure that the backup software in use facilitates email backup and restore.

Email data is unlike other kinds of data. They are blocks of messages that must be saved as a block and restored as a block. There also needs to be decisions around what needs to be backed up for restore. Do we back up whole mail boxes or do we back up individual messages or groups of messages? If the backup software selected does not allow mail level, group level or message level restore, enterprises are likely to find them selves extremely handicapped. The more granular the level of restore, the better will be the flexibility in backing up and restoring enterprise mails. Additionally, granular message level restores will save enterprises a packet in terms of space and monetary outlay.

Message level restores are possible and enabled in most backup/restore software to restore messages. The advantage, that is immediately visible, is that the operations are directed towards protecting and restoring individual or group emails without interrupting the functioning of the email server. Industries with compliance mandates that must meet several Federal regulations regarding access to electronic data and information find this feature in backup and restore operations extremely useful as it allows them to securely retain only those messages that have significant business value from a mass of irrelevant mail that is received. This feature also safeguards these industries against accidental deletion from the mailbox or from messages.

Another advantage of the message level restore is that the selection and restoration of individual mailboxes is possible by use of filters that are built into the backup and restore software. Agentless backup/restore software like Asigra allows restoration of single user mailboxes or restoration of mails on an entire network. While mail clients make this process extremely cumbersome and unwieldy, single mail or mailbox level restore features in backup software optimise restore operations and even allow messages to be restored to the original location or new location with ease.

In instances where image level backup of the exchange server has been done, it is possible to mount and browse the Exchange database at individual data or mailbox level without having to go into the trouble of mounting the database to a Recovery Storage Group and running compatible utilities to access the database.

The greatest advantage of Message Level Restore process is that the system allows streamlined restoration of messages to any kind of hardware at any location even from multiple sites located at different points on the network. Bare metal restores permit the recovery of email and other data without having to reinstall the operating system or redefining hardware configurations. Agentless backup and restore software offer email / message level restore services as an integrated service at no additional cost.

Best Practises to Protect and Recover Data — Part II

In Part I, we discussed best data protection practices, such as developing plans, how to handle devices, checking for legal obligations, setting up metrics, and restricting access. In Part II, we will continue discussing further best data protection practices.

6/ Centralised Data Management

It is important to update data through reporting, monitoring and policy enforcement through centralised management policy. It will help new employees as there will be just one system to understand.

7/ How Employees Should Work?

Companies must understand how their staff should respond to the recovery plan. There must be some formal benchmarks, ways to improve performance of staff and to make data effective.

8/ Check and Re-Check the Plan

To meet compliance standards, big companies are bound to check their plans. Small companies can practice their specific standards to test how much time recovery plans take in case of any failure. Complexity or depth of a plan must be related to cost analysis (hourly cost when data is not in access).

9/ Backup Frequency

To reduce the risk of data loss, companies need to have frequent backups at geographically dispersed locations. This means, redundancies should be in place. The key is to know your data so that you can store them in tiers, with mission-critical data segregated and stored in highly available vaults, where as, older, less accessed data stored in cheaper servers.

10/ Damaged Hard Drive

If your hard drive fails, you are better off calling a data recovery expert rather than trying to figure out yourself. Data recovery specialists have years of experience dealing with hard drive failures.

11/ Pick the Right Provider

Choose established experts that use clean rooms and are credible. Read customers reviews on these companies before making a decision. Contact their references,

Sometimes, even the best practices could go wrong; so firms must adopt some precautionary measures to retrieve information:

  • Use free utilities to help you retrieve data from USB sticks or hard drives, while making sure that they provide support and are free from malware. Select the most reasonable tools to restore data accurately and quickly.
  • Use cloud storage and local hard drives simultaneously for reliable backups in order to eliminate the chances of data loss.
  • Implement data centre redundancy for maximum protection. Avoiding redundancy to save a little is not wise.
  • Search a partner that is well-reputed and who can provide round the clock support through phone and email.

Best Practises to Protect and Recover Data — Part I

Companies need to develop formal plans in order to protect valuable data and secure desktop and mobile devices. This means, firms require formal protocols for data recovery to retrieve information easily and quickly when things go wrong, like when natural disaster strikes.

Cloud Limitations

Despite improving reliability and decreasing costs, companies should not use only cloud storage option for securing data. Instead, they should have both offsite and local backups for maximum protection. Access to data in the cloud is always dependent on Internet connection, but during Internet outage, it is easy to access data quickly.

While data protection practises vary from company to company, the best practises remain universal:

1/ Develop Plans

Before choosing the best data protection practises, firms must understand the significance of creating a formal plan. If there is an established written disaster recovery plan, then employees can get detailed instructions regarding the management of data. Moreover, the written plan can remind the employees to treat company data as a critical asset of the organisation. Planning helps in discovering new data sets that were not found before, giving additional insight into the nature of the company data.

2/ Handle Devices with Extreme Care

Hard drives are sensitive; therefore, treat these devices with care, avoiding exposure to liquids and extreme heat. SD cards are excessively used to store videos and photos. Firms should treat these cards carefully as they are very sensitive as even simple static charges could affect these devices.

3/ Follow Regulatory and Legal Regulations

Make certain that company’s plan is cross-checked with regulatory and legal requirements. To protect information and to save the firm from lawsuits and fines, it is necessary to exceed these regulatory requirements.

4/ Set Up Various Metrics

When tools for data protection are selected, firms need to make sure that they are working appropriately. Metrics help you identify any policy violations, employees are trained adequately, and all data is encrypted at all levels.

5/ Restrict Access

Employees have access to valuable data, so there must be some established access controls to avoid mismanagement and chances of theft. It is unfair and risky to give complete access to one employee. Make certain that there are a number of staff members who have access to data. Moreover, there must be some plans that can work when some employees leave the company.

In Part II, we will discuss additional best data protection practices, like central data management, the roll of employees in data recovery, testing DR plans, and more.

Mitigating Security Risks in the Cloud

Many understand the importance of data and agree that data should be protected in an efficient manner.  Companies are also realising that moving essential services to the cloud — from CRM to voice to communications — has many advantages.  In order to develop an efficient data protection, storage and transfer protocol, most rely on the cloud. The Cloud based models are more flexible, efficient, scalable, and integrated. These have great potential to save money. On the other hand, careless, unplanned migration to the cloud could bring its own issues and risks, and therefore, a careful well thought after plan is needed before migrating to the cloud.

Data breaches have become a daily global occurrence these days. Leading organisations, associations and groups are facing security threats on a daily basis. So, how do you minimise the chances of data loss or breach?

The cloud enables the users to store data in multiple locations for easy access and restore in case of a disaster. It is very important to have all your security related questions answered from the vendor you are planning to use.  Here are some tips for users who want to reduce the risks while moving to the cloud.

Get Answers to your Security Questions:

Get connected with the online representatives and ask the basic security questions. It would be better if you discuss the concerned security matters with the experts and find out if they align with yours. In most cases, the clients ask following questions:

What type of data protection strategies does your company use to avoid data loss?

  1. Is customer support available for 24/7?
  2. What are the modern techniques (feature sets) being used to protect my data?
  3. Any data breach at your company? If so, tell me how you handled it?
  4. Do you have a security checklist template that we can check?

Partnering with a cloud based service provider has added benefits, as the provider has its own experts in house that can monitor up-time, implement security measures, monitor services around the clock, and implement necessary protocols to protect and backup the data.

Always check the proper security facilities and features. This can be done by checking the history of a cloud service provider (for instance, by talking to present and former clients, reading reviews online).

Consider the following four factors to evaluate cloud service providers:

  1. Secure facility for storage: The cloud service provider should provide details about the security of their storage facilities. While digital security is important, security of the actual physical premises and the employees who work there are also very critical.
  1. Preventive activities: As hackers are becoming creative to be successful in breaches to access data, service providers must have security protocols in place to stop potential risks before they actually happen. The cloud service providers should satisfy the client, for instance, by showing that they encrypt the data during its flight and at rest; monitor any risks 24/7; and inform the clients when security is a concern.
  1. Privacy of data: Data stored in the digital data centres should be treated with high degree of security, as they are important for the users. It is required to check how a service provider maintains the privacy of data. All types of materials such as files, folders, video conferencing data, and call recording data should remain safe and secure, with encryption technologies.
  1. Data loss protection:In case of a sudden data loss, the service provider should have an efficient data recovery system to quickly restore the data. Alert systems help in achieving an efficient data recovery.

Importance of Cloud Application Programming Interface (API)

As technology is becoming increasingly dependent on the cloud, Application Programming Interface (API) in cloud computing has come into focus. APIs can be understood as the technical facilitator of the cloud. APIs enable users to write applications on the cloud by interpreting the user commands and converting it into the necessary semantics that can be understood by the back-end systems. An API describes a certain operation in the system while providing syntax to achieve the same. It also gives information to the user about the kinds of inputs and outputs the system generates when a certain API is used. They can either be in a specific programming language or exist in a standard language like WSDL. It includes a set of defined protocols, which interact with the underlying system. It can be said, an ineffective API for a cloud would be equivalent to having a desktop computer without a keyboard or a mouse!

APIs can offer several features, which in turn increases the flexibility of the cloud. It allows the user to scale up or down the computational power as required and provides the user a rich set of features to work with. It plays a vital role in maintaining the cloud platform security and helps with rapid cloud access. The API takes care of the integration of a system as well as the portability and interpretability of an application on the cloud. Cloud service providers work very carefully to develop a robust APIs to provide the user with an exceptional cloud computing experience.

An example of a cloud API is Representational State Transfer (REST). It follows a SOA (Service oriented architecture) model, which allows for web service development using Object Oriented programming language. Most REST APIs communicate to the system through a web browser or web servers. Since cloud computing is distributive in nature, REST APIs use the web as the ideal solution for the implementation of API on the cloud. These APIs are typically catered towards a certain kind of service model like PaaS or SaaS, which focus on providing software solutions to the customers. Online Maps are a classic example of REST based SaaS API. For users trying to create applications for taxi services or moving services, these APIs can help build the necessary platform with their varied tools! It can help with the dispatch of drivers or movers real-time upon customer request while taking into account the proximity of the service provider.

APIs form an integral part of the cloud ecosystem. Since it plays a critical role in deciding the type of service model a business will require, choosing the right API, is crucial for successful application development!

As a cloud computing, cloud backup, and disaster recovery company, Backup Technology is happy to assist you with your cloud computing needs, including APIs. Contact us here:


Another Month, Another Office 365 Outage

As reported by the Register this week, Office 365 has suffered another outage, resulting many customers unable to log in to their email.

Only a month previous, on December 18th 2015, an outage hit he UK and Europe mainly effecting customers using the Azure platform although there was some impact on its Office 365 service as well.

The current outage seems more serious however as it has been on going for around 7 days. The issue specifically relates to user accessing their emails via Exchange Online or any application that connects via IMAP.

Microsoft admitted that the impact will have hit a “large number of users”. What caused the issue? A Microsoft update that stopped the IMAP protocol that stopped data being loaded from Exchange Online databases. Not great!

Microsoft released the following statement, to address users concerns:

“As part of our efforts to improve service performance, an update was deployed to a subset of code which is responsible for obtaining the subscribed folder list. However, the update caused a code issue that prevented the list from being automatically loaded”.

Despite promises by Microsoft to fix the issue by the 23rd of January, as of the 25th it was still not resolved.

Microsoft, meanwhile, told users: “The deployment process is taking longer than initially expected due to a configuration issue.

“Engineers reconfigured the problematic portion of capacity and are continuing to monitor the deployment to ensure it propagates throughout the infrastructure in a timely manner. Customers will begin to experience service restoration as the deployment progresses.”

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