Highly Reliable Systems: Removable Disk Backup & Recovery

Monthly Archives: July 2012

High-Rely.com Hits Number 2 on Google for Removable Drive Backup Systems

July 26th, 2012 by

Highly Reliable Systems announced that their website has moved into Google’s coveted #2 slot behind HP for the term “Removable Disk Backup Systems”.

“Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and natural search is important to any business. We wanted our customers to know we were leaders in removable disk backup systems.” said Kelley Kirtley, Head of East Coast sales at Highly Reliable Systems.  “For a small manufacturer to achieve this search position in the US is a big achievement”.

In working on the Search Engine placement, the company wrote blogs, released software tools, and focused their product page content.  Using WordPress was also key.  They noticed that for users who display 100 results per page, the search position was 60.  But for the vast majority of users with the default Google settings, they are in position number 2 across the United States.   Kirtley said the company did not use an SEO consultant to achieve the results, but did attend seminars from one to formulate their strategy.  Darren McBride, the company CEO said he is willing to speak to others who want to move up the search engine rankings but says there is no magic bullet and things could change tomorrow.  “No one has Google’s number.  Whether you rank well depends on being extremely relevant to the customer, something we work hard to do.” said McBride.

Highly Reliable Systems makes removable drive backup systems that attach either to the server or the network.  They are often used by customers who have large data, highly secure data, or those who don’t have the bandwidth to use cloud backup strategies.  Many of the products have automatic mirroring so that each backup produces two copies of data for additional protection.  For more information visit http://www.high-rely.com or call 775-329-5139

Posted in Blog

BNAS platform featured on StorageNewsletter.com

July 23rd, 2012 by

This press release is from storagenewsletter.com

Highly Reliable Systems Shipping Backup and DR NAS Appliance

With removable drives, starting at $1,889


Highly Reliable Systems, Inc. is shipping mirroring backup NAS appliances based on Windows Storage Server called the BNAS 401 Series.The units are intended to allow customers to create their own Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) system by adding their choice of backup and virtualization software.”Adding software such as ShadowProtect and VirtualBox gives the end user a combination NAS and emergency server that can spin up virtual backup images if the primary server goes down,” said Tom Hoops, CTO.

Designed to keep it simple, each removable drive bay houses a single 3.5″ (up to 4TB per bay for 8TB total).

The drives can be connected via iSCSI or standard network shares and can be used with most backup software. A third bay is provided to restore older, archived drives that have been stored off-site. Thus, restoring old data doesn’t impact the ongoing backup regimen.

Darren McBride, CEO, says that mirroring solves problems caused by drive swaps because the backup software isn’t aware when secondary drives are replaced. “One drive can be kept online and continuously updated (incremental backups), while the copy can be transported off-site or used to seed the remote location.

Available with i3 or Xeon CPUs, Windows Storage Server Workgroup or Standard, and varying amounts of RAM, the pricing on the 3-bay BNAS 401 starts at $1,889 MSRP.

Removable drives
 in  protected and transportable aluminum trays are used to populate each bay and start at $180 each.

Linux versions of the products with similar features are also sold under the  family name.

Posted in Blog

SMART hard drive failure status – “OK (Prefail)” may simply mean “old”

July 19th, 2012 by

Modern SATA hard drives have internal counters for soft errors, number of hours run, power cycles etc.  These counters were originally intended to help predict hard drive failure.  The SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) data  can be accessed through our NetSWAP interface and may be available using various open source software for direct attached drives.  Sometimes SMART status or logs cause concern simply because a drive has been power cycled or run a certain number of hours.  While it’s true that a drive with lots of hours has a higher percentage chance of failure than a newer drive, it is not a reason that a drive can be replaced under warranty.  Specifically,  I wanted to document a message seen by some of our customers: OK? Prefail  (See nearby screen shot)

One of my favorite articles on this is from Robin Harris.  Robin discusses a Google study that provides insight into drive failures.  I highly recommend the article, which you can find here.  Robin points out SMART isn’t very smart.  “as Google found, and many in the industry already knew. SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) captures drive error data to predict failure far enough in advance so you can back up. Yet SMART focuses on mechanical failures, while a good deal of a disk drive is electronic, so SMART misses many sudden drive failure modes, like power component failure. The Google team found that 36% of the failed drives did not exhibit a single SMART-monitored failure. They concluded that SMART data is almost useless for predicting the failure of a single drive.”

So sometimes SMART misses predicting drive failures and sometimes SMART gives an alarming message like “OK (Prefail)” when the drive is simply old and has been “on” for a certain number of hours.   To me, it’s a bit like having a big red warning light in a car that says “100,000 miles Prefail”.  Which would try to tell the user something like “This car has 100K miles so may be more prone to failure – consider buying a new one”.   It would be better if the red light were telling us to perform some sort of routine maintenance.  Unfortunately, there is no maintenance to perform, and as far as I’m aware, this SMART data can’t be reset by an end user (in my car analogy the red warning light can’t be turned off).

Using the NetSwap “Smart Info” button we can drill into the counters of the drive – shown in the screenshot nearby.   The counters are somewhat cryptic (To learn more I recommend this article), but  what we can easily see is that for this 750GB drive, the reason for the “warning” is primarily that the hard drive is considered old and has had certain number of soft errors.  Yet the drive continues to work and does not cause problems. Such a drive can’t be replaced under warranty, extended warranty, or dynamic support contract because the SMART counters are simply saying the drive is old, not that there are specific prefailure indications.  When in doubt, We recommend you run a diagnostic on the hard drive that verifies that data can be written and read back with no errors.  If the drive fails the diagnostic, it’s time to replace it to retain reliable backups of your data.

Posted in Blog

See us at CompTIA Breakaway 2012

July 13th, 2012 by

Come see us at CompTIA Breakaway 2012 in Las Vegas July 30-Aug 2nd .   See our new NetSwap Plus Mirroring NAS platforms used to supplement your cloud strategy with an on-site mirrored removable drive. Also on display will be the new BNAS 401C roll your own BDR platform.

Posted in Blog

Product & Company Overview – Backup to Removable Disk

July 13th, 2012 by
Select your removable media type

Select your removable media type

High-Rely Corporate Overview
Removable Disk

Highly Reliable Systems is a hardware company making equipment that backs computers  up to removable disk.  We are based in Reno, Nevada USA and spun out of computer consulting firm Sierra Computer Group in 2003.  All of our Backup products use removable hard drives and provide an alternative to USB drives, tape, and “cloud” backup.    Systems are available to attach directly to a server (DAS) or to the Network (NAS).  Products are largely software agnostic, allowing you to choose backup software for your needs. Combine our hardware with any modern backup software (file or image based) for a complete solution.

Key Value Propositions:

  • Provide high quality hardware based on removable drives for backing up servers.
  • Provide viable alternatives (or a supplement) to cloud backup when cost, security, or bandwidth won’t allow for sending data over the Internet.
  • Provide low cost alternatives to USB drives starting at $225 for very small clients so that resellers can move their low end customers to professional on-site backup solutions.
  • Provide high capacity media (8-12TB RAIDPacs) for clients with too much data to practically backup via the cloud.
  • Work with our resellers and customers to provide the best backup value.
  • Allow customers to use their preferred backup software.
  • Allow resellers to configure BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery) solutions using software of their choice.
  • Provide U.S. based tech and warranty support.
  • Solve backup speed, reliability, and redundancy issues for our customers by providing hardware unlike anything else on the market.

Our 4 Product Families:

3 of our product families are directly connected (eSATA or USB3 ports) and are named based on the type of removable media they use:  MPac, High-Rely Classic, & RAIDPac.  We sometimes refer to them as Small, Medium, and Large removable media.  The fourth family are products with motherboards, intelligence onboard, and ethernet cards (Network Attached Storage or NAS).

  1. Mpac Family Small up to 2TB per removable cartridge
  2. High-Rely Classic FamilyMedium up to 4TB per removable cartridge
  3. RAIDFrame Family Large up to 12TB per removable cartridge
  4. Smart Family – Network Attached

Our MPac Removable disk product line offers high performance and reliability in a small form factor. The MPac cartridge is made of durable sheet metal, protecting the drive(s) inside.  Available with 1 drive or two,  the controller inside the MPac can be set RAID 0 (drive spanning) or RAID 1(Mirroring). All of this is done in hardware and is transparent to the host.  Maximum capacity is currently 2TB.

Our High-Rely Classic Removable Disks house industry standard 3.5″  SATA hard drives. By fully enclosing the hard drives in aluminum trays, we make them portable and hot swappable. The connector on the back of the high-rely classic tray is designed to withstand being inserted and removed thousands of times.  Contrast this with a bare SATA connector, which is rated for about 50 plug/unplug cycles. The durable aluminum casing can support up to 600lbs, and hard drives inside can be upgraded or replaced using 4 screws in minutes.  The vivid blue LCD screen for each tray displays tray diagnostic information: temperature, and hours in operation. These removable drives are used in the High-Rely product family and in many of the Smart Family products as well.  Maximum capacity is currently 4TB.

Our RAIDPac removable disks are perfect for jobs that require large capacity, speed and reliability. Each individual RAIDPac is a 3 drive RAID array with the controller integrated in.  In RAID 0 mode RAIDPacs are capable of storing up to 12TB of data.  With RAID 5 turned on the maximum capacity is 9TB, but the RAIDPac can sustain the loss of one drive without losing data.  Each RAIDPac monitors the health of the SATA hard drives it contains. In the event of drive failure, the RAIDPac will show the failed drive. For convenience, dead drives can be swapped live from the front of the RAIDPac. Maximum capacity is currently 12TB.    Now shipping 4TB drives in 12TB RAIDPacs.

The Smart family is network connected (NAS type applicances) and may use several removable drive types (media).  The NetSwap products are Linux based appliances whereas our WBA (Workstation Backup Appliance), and BNAS are Windows based.

Advantages of our Removable Drives Compared to:

  • Tape – We are less expensive, easier to restore single files, and do faster more reliable restores.
  • USB Drives – We are faster, have better connectors & software hot swap support, and are easier to transport.
  • NAS – We create 2 data copies per backup for better redundancy, and have fully enclosed transportable drives.
  • Cloud – We have no monthly fees, are much faster, provide better security (physical control over data), and don’t require high speed Internet. Many customers supplement cloud backup with our local drives.
Posted in Spotlight

Removable Drive Backup Appliances Released

July 13th, 2012 by

Highly Reliable Systems announced today Friday July 13, 2012 on PRNewswire that they are shipping 1, 2, & 4 bay mirroring backup NAS appliances called NetSwap Plus.
“Most Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances try to be all things to all people. The NetSwap Plus is a removable drive backup NAS with focus on transportability of drives as an alternative or supplement to tape or cloud backup.” said Tom Hoops, Chief Technology officer. Designed to “keep it simple”, each removable drive bay houses a single 3.5” (up to 4TB per bay for 12TB total). The drives can be connected via iSCSI or standard network shares and can be used with most backup software, including imaging products like ShadowProtect, True Image or Symantec.

Darren McBride, the company CEO, says that each removable drive pair can be mirrored in hardware. “When mirroring is turned on, neither the server nor the backup software are aware when secondary drives are swapped. The primary volume can stay connected all the time to support incremental backups. Removing only the mirrored volume avoids software issues associated with changing drives.” McBride said that once drives are synched, one of the pair are typically removed for offsite storage or as seeds for cloud backup.

The NetSwap Plus family can be configured and managed with a standard browser and can be monitored with standard RMM tools such as Labtech. The company says the NAS products include industrial grade components, custom cooling controllers, and knowledgeable U.S. based tech support.

Based on Linux, pricing on the 4 bay NetSwap Plus is $1559 MSRP. Removable drives in fully protected and transportable aluminum trays are used to populate each bay and start at $180 each. Windows versions of the products with similar features are also sold under the BNAS family name (Backup Network Attached Storage). For more information visit http://www.high-rely.com or call 775-329-5139


Posted in Blog

Backing up Hyper-V Virtual Machines with Windows Server Backup

July 9th, 2012 by

Saving money on backup software is always a welcome idea.  The backup that comes with Windows Server 2008 can work for some people and can create a “snapshot” of your server hard drive to standard .VHD files.  The software works well with either our DAS or NAS equipment but if you’re using Virtual machines on Hyper-V make sure to take the extra steps outlined below.

Microsoft uses something called Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to make sure that running software is quiet (quiesced) to insure a good image.  If you are backing up Virtual Machines (VMs) you need to be aware that by default the Microsoft Hypervisor Hyper-V is not registered with VSS.  That’s right…. if you made a backup now, the VSS service inside those virtual machines would not be used.  To correct this issue, just register the Hyper-V VSS writer with Windows

How Microsoft VSS provider works

Server Backup.  Microsoft Knowledge Base article 958662 shows you the extra steps you need to take to protect your data.  The instructions are summarized below:

  1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
  2. Locate the following registry key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion
  3. Right-click CurrentVersion, point to New, and then click Key.
  4. Type WindowsServerBackup, and then press ENTER.
  5. Right-click WindowsServerBackup, point to New, and then click Key.
  6. Type Application Support, and then press ENTER.
  7. Right-click Application Support, point to New, and then click Key.
  8. Type {66841CD4-6DED-4F4B-8F17-FD23F8DDC3DE}, and then press ENTER.
  9. Right-click {66841CD4-6DED-4F4B-8F17-FD23F8DDC3DE}, point to New, and then click String Value.
  10. Type Application Identifier, and then press ENTER.
  11. Right-click Application Identifier, and then click Modify.
  12. In the Value data box, type Hyper-V, and then click OK.
  13. On the File menu, click Exit.

If you are going to do this more than once, you will probably want to export this key into a .reg file. There is no need to reboot. Windows Server Backup looks for VSS registrations every time it starts.

These steps aren’t needed when using state of the art imaging software like StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect.  You may also find that inexpensive products like BackupAssist do some of this configuration for you.

Posted in Blog

One Product for both Storage and Backup

July 6th, 2012 by

One question we get with mirroring products such as the 2 bay High-Rely, the FirstRAID, or the Netswap Plus is whether they can be used for both storage and backup.  The answer is a qualified “Yes”.  The idea is one drive or volume can be used as “primary storage” and then the mirrored drive is removed for offsite protection.  We have customers that use this arrangement successfully for “softwareless backup” because the mirroring replaces the need for conventional backup software and scheduled jobs. Tom Hoops talks more about Softwareless Backup here

Although our products are designed and intended to be used as backup devices, if the customer has a small workgroup (say less than 10 users) that primarily uses server storage for files that are accessed by only a few users this configuration will work.  Examples of typical single user files include documents, spreadsheets, drawings, videos, and the like.


The order of server storage from Fast to Slow would be:

  1. Fast SSD drives
  2. 15,000 RPM SAS drives connected to server bus controller
  3. 10,000 RPM SAS drives connected to server bus controller
  4. iSATA or eSATA external 7200 RPM SATA or USB 3.0 drives
  5. NAS or Network connected storage via Gigabit Ethernet (Note: the speed will be highly variable and depends on factors such as CPU speed of NAS, protocol and drive format used, etc.)
  6. USB 2.0 connected devices

As you can see, #4 and 5 represent the position of High-Rely DAS and NAS products.  While they are slower than server storage, they can be considerably less expensive and have higher capacities.  You should use #1-3 for Microsoft Exchange or heavily used databases but you can “mix and match” your storage and save money by buying smaller high speed RAID drives for your server, and using High-Rely products for larger, more static, and less mission critical storage.

Mirroring products can be used as primary server storage, but are not recommended for multi-user database applications.  Heavily used database apps such as Exchange and Accounting applications often get sluggish with multiple users.   For these application you will get better performance and manageability when using higher speed drives directly connected to hardware controllers.  Choose Solid State Disk (SSD) or higher RPM hard drives (10,000 or 15,000) and  multiple drives (RAID5 or RAID6) for multi-user databases.  You can use our TandemFirstRAID or one of our NAS mirroring products if speed is not critical but size and effortless backup without the need for software is.

Just make sure to regularly swap the mirror drive and take it off-site to maintain copies of critical data.


Posted in Blog