Highly Reliable Systems: Removable Disk Backup & Recovery

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Top Tradeshows for VARS and MSPs

September 30th, 2012 by

During 2013 we will be exhibiting at some of the top tradeshows for VARS and MSPs. Come see our newest backup products including the RAIDFrame Plus, Netswap Plus, and and Windows based “roll your own” BDR platforms used to supplement your cloud strategy with an on-site mirrored removable drive.

We will  be at the following Shows and Summits:

April 10th, Channelpro SMBForum Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Ctr 
April 14-20 Varnex Orlando, FL
April 17-18 Ascii Success Boston Ma Doubletree Boston North Shore
April 24-28 OPDA DelRay Beach Fl (then Tampa)
May 3-5 SMB Nation Microsoft Campus Redmond, Washington
May 14-16 Ascii success summit  Chicago (Marriott Chicago Schaumburg)
June 3-5 Automation Nation Orlando,FL 
June 12-15 Ascii Success summit Baltimore, MD (BWI Airport Marriott)
July 17-18 Ascii Success summit Atlantic City NJ (Caesars Atlantic City)
Sept 18-19 Ascii Success summit Austin, TX (Hilton Austin Airport)
Oct 10-12 SMB Nation Fall Las Vegas, NV
Nov 13-15 Connectwise IT Nation Orlando,Fl
Nov 17-20 Varnex San Diego, CA (Marriott Marquis)
Nov  OPDA Chicago, IL

More details & Specific addresses for the shows above are as follows:

ChannelPro SMB Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center  701 West Ocean  Boulevard, Long Beach, California 90831
ASCII Success Summits BOSTON AREA Wed, Apr. 17 & Thurs, Apr. 18, 2013
Doubletree Boston North Shore 50 Ferncroft Road Danvers, MA 01923


ASCII Success Summits CHICAGO AREA  Wed, May 15 & Thurs, May 16, 2013
Chicago Marriott Schaumburg 50 N. Martingale Road Schaumburg, IL 60173

ASCII Success Summits BALTIMORE AREA Wed, June 12 & Thurs, June 13, 2013 BWI Airport Marriott 1743 West Nursery Road Linthicum, MD 21090

ASCII Success Summits NEW JERSEY/NEW YORK AREA Wed, July 17 & Thurs, July 18, 2013 Caesars Atlantic City 2100 Pacific Avenue Atlantic City, NJ 08401

ASCII Success Summits AUSTIN AREA Wed, Sept. 18 & Thurs, Sept. 19, 2013 Hilton Austin Airport 9515 Hotel Drive Austin, TX 78719

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New Largest Hard Drive Will Contain Helium

September 15th, 2012 by

HGST, a division of Western Digital, announced what experts expect will be a 5.6TB 3.5″ form factor hard drive sometime in 2013.  The new largest hard drive will contain helium rather than air and will have 7 platters.  Helium is 1/7 the density of air, which much less drag on the spinning disks.  It also reduces the “fluid flow” forces which buffet the heads and arms.  The story is interesting enough that it’s being picked up by magazines such as SMBnation.

Disk platter wobble or vibration is a significant factor in limiting hard drive storage density. The spinning motion causes air turbulence, which in turn disrupts both the platter and the read/write head’s ability to remain on track. With helium the turbulence is reduced, allowing the drive to pack more bits onto the platter while still allowing precise head positioning.

HGST also plans to pack 7 platters into the enclosure rather than only the 5 used for current 4TB drives.  The helium inside will lead to less power usage and cooler drive operation.  The company says power usage is lowered by 23% by using helium and that the drive runs 4 degrees Celsius cooler.  Using helium along with heat-assisted magnetic recording may lead to 60TB drives by 2016.

Helium is becoming a scarce commodity, as only 6 companies in the world refine and supply it.  It is extracted in small percentages from certain natural gas deposits. Once Helium is released (as when a balloon pops) it escapes into the atmosphere and is gone from earth forever. Today there are only about 15 known sources of helium in the world and 10 of these are in the United States, largely controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Planned and unplanned outages throughout the world along with changes in a U.S. law called the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 (HPA) have impacted these limited supplies.   20% of the entire world’s output of helium is used for MRI machines and about 17% is used in welding.  Another chunk is used to manufacture LCD screens.  Helium price and availability could become an issue in manufacturing although it is unknown whether the small volumes used in hard drives will significantly impact the supply chain.

HGST plans to concentrate initially on the enterprise and data center market. This, along with the Helium discussion above, suggests the drive will come at a price premium above the desktop drives shipped today.

As for reliability of this new technology, we’ll have to put our trust in the engineers and then see how they do in the field.  Very sophisticated and tightly controlled seals will be needed since the molecules are very small and will leak out of the smallest openings easily. We wonder if drives will ever need to be “refilled” to maintain and freshen the helium as is the case with some air conditioning systems.   We’ll also have to wait to see whether the drives are robust enough to be used in removable drive backup systems like the RAIDFrame.

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How to Find Backup in Windows 8

September 12th, 2012 by

Hit Windows and X, then Select Control Panel

Windows 8 includes a new File History program that automatically backs up user content.  Microsoft says this program was included as a way to protect and backup users files since users never seem to setup their backup program.  Unfortunately this new gem only backs up files stored in the Libraries, Desktop, Favorites and Contacts folders.   You can specify which external device or secondary hard drive you want to backup to.  By default the program updates every hour. The program only copies changed files and retains version history of your personal files over time.   To set this up hold down the Windows key (It’s the one with the Windows logo located between Ctrl and Alt in the lower left) and “X“, select Control Panel and the System and Security, then File History.  The instructions for this program are on several other blogs so I’ll leave the detailed setup discussion out of this post.  Instead I’d like to switch gears and discuss how to access the old “Full” Backup and imaging program.

While File History is great as far as it goes, anyone who has been around computers for a while can tell you, imaging the entire system including programs and the operating system is a better way to make sure you don’t spend hours reloading. So if you want to create a full system image, how to find backup in Windows 8?   The same program that was available in Vista is in Windows 8.  Since it’s not easy to find  I suggest pinning the program to the Start Metro screen.  To do this hold down the Windows Key and R.  In the Run box type “C:\windows\system32” and hit OK.  Now Browse for the program sdclt.exe (your explorer may not show the .exe extension depending on your settings).  You can run it by double clicking but I suggest you Right Click it and select “Pin to Start“.   If you prefer to just quickly start the backup program you could alternatively hit Windows R and then type “SDCLT.EXE” in the Run dialog. Now you can access the default Microsoft backup program, which will allow real bare metal restore if you have a complete hard drive crash.

Accessing Windows File History From Control Panel

Hold down the Windows Key and hit “R” to bring up Run dialog

Browse and Right click sdclt.exe and select “Pin to Start”

The cryptically named Sdclt program will appear on Metro screen

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Largest Removable Hard Drive Replaces Tape for Backup

September 7th, 2012 by

4 Bay RAIDFrame Plus NAS with RAID 10 Mirroring between RAIDPacs provides up to 48TB of backup

With the release in Oct 2012 of a 4 bay Network Attached RAIDFrame Plus, another nail will be put in the coffin of tape.  RAIDFrames use the largest removable hard drive on the market called a RAIDPac.   When we started the website tapesucks.com back in 2004 we actually thought tape would die more quickly.

According to the Santa Clara Consulting Group’s recently released “Backup Tape Tracker Report” tape sales were at $169.1 million for the second quarter of 2012, a reduction of 10% over the first quarter.  It’s hard to say if that 10% drop is a trend but it’s clear tape volume is dropping off.  The lion’s share of the tape backup market is in LTO tape, which represents 91% of the total sales.  LTO-5 was 41% of the dollars and LTO-4 was 36% of the dollars.  The older formats (LTO 1-3) make up the rest of the market.

DDS/DAT tapes are a minor percentage of the market at $6.6 million with HP having 71% of the market share.  HP also led the DLT-S market.  Sony led the AIT media market, selling about 300,000 tapes. The old QIC tapes are still out there too, selling about $1.57 Million, mostly by Imation. Other tape formats still selling in small volume include 8mm particle (only 10,000 tapes sold) and 8mm metal evaporated (10,000 tapes sold).

For more information see the story here

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Multiple pass wiping of hard drives is unnecessary

September 4th, 2012 by

With security concerns of our data ever more important, the question of securely erasing data from hard drives that are no longer being used occasionally comes up. This topic is also known as multiple pass wiping of hard drives.  This is a separate question from whether to use whole disk encryption for your backups, or whether to turn on encryption in your backup software.  Encryption is a definitely a security “best practice” for removable media in environments where sensitive data is stored on the drives.    I’ll address the evolution of encryption and it’s importance in an upcoming blog post.

The purpose of this article is to address the urban legend that multiple write passes (up to 35!) are needed to prevent someone with an electron microscope  [AKA  magnetic force microscopy (MFM) or  scanning tunneling microscopy (STM)],  from being able to read ghost bits from your hard drive, thus recovering data you carefully overwrote.  Note that overwriting bits is different from simply deleting.  It is true that conventional deletion on rotating media simply marks the file as deleted, allowing recovery of the file with special software.  For SSD the story is a little different because they support TRIM commands. When an operating system deletes a file from an SSD, it sends a TRIM command to the drive, and the drive erases the data. On a solid state drive, it takes longer to overwrite a used sector rather than writing data to an unused sector, so erasing the sector ahead of time increases performance.

But I digress.  Let’s go back to hard drives.  Deleting files and overwriting files on rotating media file is a different thing.  The myth is that due to magnetic remnants a sophisticated forensic investigator can recover data on a drive.  As drive density has increased and encoding methods have changed, I’ve become increasingly skeptical that such forensics are possible. I personally doubt that anyone can recover any reasonable amount of data on a 2TB drive or larger drive after being overwritten even ONCE. Many experts are more conservative than I, recommending two or three overwrites “to be sure”.

The science behind the claims above comes from Dr. Craig Wright.  I recommend starting here as a good overview to the topic.  The mathematics are complex but the bottom line is that reading the value of an overwritten single bit (zero or one) reliably is little more than a 50/50 proposition (guesswork) and reading multiple bits reliably is simply preposterous, although Dr. Wright is certainly more scientific in saying so.

Government standards for data erasure have evolved and they no longer recommend multiple passes for writing data.

In the comment section of a blog post about all this someone named Keith claimed to have personally recovered some data after 35 writes.  I say hogwash.   In fact, I will issue this challenge:  I offer $2000 to anyone who can recover with 98% accuracy the unencrypted text characters in a 300 page document saved on a 2TB hard drive that has been fully over-written with 1 pass of pseudo random characters.  The testing protocol must be agreed to in writing ahead of time, have independent 3rd party experts present, and all results are subject to publication.  I’m not offering to pay for time, travel, or expenses.  In fact, I suggest the test be performed at an industry trade show in front of an audience.  The sound of crickets chirping is heard….



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