|Catastrophe Averted: Things Found During Network
Chris Geiser - firstname.lastname@example.org
In my time at PCS
and with the help of our illustrious systems engineers, I€ve participated
in hundreds of network health assessments. Today, I€ll take a look back
and share some of the common and some of the bizarre findings these
assessments have revealed over the years.
Backup and Disaster
old saying in the IT world: There are two types of people in the world,
those who have lost data and those who will. If your company is lucky to
be in business long enough, one day you will need to need to restore data
from an IT services catastrophe. It€s a sort of an IT Judgment Day. The
bad news for many small businesses is that their IT Judgment Day will also
be the first time they get to validate their backup process (fingers
crossed!). Here are some very common backup and disaster recovery mistakes
we€ve observed and help businesses correct:
Backup - Backing up to the same hardware as production machine?
So, if the server fails or gets damaged, won€t you lose all of the
backup data too?
||Let€s Get Cooking
- Storing backup data in the same building, but in a €fire safe€?
Most fire safes will protect paper through a fire, but try cooking a
data tape or hard drive at 1,800F. Nothing is backed up until it
exists at two distinct geographic locations.
||Bad Tape Monkey -
This common (and derogatory, I might add) phrase is often used to
describe an employee who dutifully changes backup media every day.
Trouble is that these employees sometimes become so hypnotized by
their routine that they neglect to notice that the backup job has
failed (every night) for a period of days, months, or even years.
Forever! Sounds great because it makes backup jobs smaller and
faster. But come IT Judgment Day, you better be ready to produce the
base backup and every incremental backup file since then. Any break
in the chain (backup file lost, overwritten, or damaged) and your
entire restore effort is shot.
||To The Cloud€ The
€cloud€ gets backup data off-site and is usually very inexpensive.
But relying solely on cloud backup often proves dangerous. Cloud
backup works great for single file restorations, but when a company
suffers a more catastrophic loss of an entire server, the restore
process leaves employees and customers twiddling their thumbs for
longer than the business can bear. For example, say your server has
500 GB of data. Now let€s urgently request all of that data from the
fairly anonymous 3rd party provider cloud backup provider (who€s
under no obligation to work quickly) and pour that down your 3
Mb/sec Internet connection. 500 GB x 1,000 MB/GB x 8 bit/Byte =
4,000,000 Mbits / 3 Mbits/sec (Internet speed) / 60 sec/min / 60
min/hour = 370 hours to accomplish the complete download!
||Data Only - What
about server settings? Without server settings, not only will it
take much longer to restore services, but the servers will never be
the same, meaning there€s going to be unpleasant IT surprises staff
in the days ahead.
There€s no question that balancing
security versus functionality is difficult. Yet at PCS we€ve never found a
network that couldn€t stand to benefit from a tweak or two, without
impeding employees€ ability to work, of course. Here are some common
||A Tunnel to
Nowhere - VPN between offices? Yes. But that doesn€t guarantee
that interoffice traffic is running through the tunnel. Finding out
(in private) that you€ve been passing sensitive data clear text
through the public Internet is certainly better than having an angry
customer point that out.
||No Lockouts -
Think that forcing complex passwords will suffice? A good tech
support provider can pull a report that shows the disturbing amount
of failed login attempts to your publicly accessible server. It€s
quite easy for hackers to automate millions of attempts on networks
without lockout policies. Given enough attempts, they€ll eventually
||SETI@home € A few
zany IT administrators have been known to donate their companies€
afterhours computer processing power to a noble cause. Yes, that€s
right; the computers are enlisted in a nationwide program that
analyzes space signals in the Search for ExtraTerrestrial
Administrator! Sounds like a company culture on the verge of
utopia, right? Most companies who allow many employees unfettered
access will someday suffer a malicious or unintentional
configuration change or breach of confidential data that will come
back to haunt this decision. Only those who need admin access should
have it. All Administrators should have their own admin login so an
audit trail eventually leads to an actual person, not just a list of
Alas, this is but a
few of the more severe security and recoverability assessment findings
we€ve observed over the years. There€s dozens of other common
misconfigurations and oversights to do with the stability/reliability of
the computer network as well. System maintenance is a technical field
where it€s easy to hide one€s tracks. That€s why having checklists and an
occasional second set of technical eyes can easily save the business from
an embarrassing and/or expensive event.
If you are ready to
take advantage of the opportunity for a complete network assessment,
please call Databranch today, to speak with an Account Manager.