Product Reviews

Surviving Server Disasters

Server catastrophes? These two tools can be lifesavers.

Consider this: You’ve just installed new video drivers on your Windows 2000 server and rebooted—and something goes wrong. The computer won’t boot. No problem, you think, you’ll use the Last Known Good configuration. That’s when you discover you’ve deleted some critical files. And, the Last Known Good configuration? Well, it isn’t. Now what? Has your server become a useless, expensive paperweight?

Not if you have Remote Recover. This simple utility fits on a single floppy, and it can be a lifesaver for the systems administrator facing Windows NT or Win2K boot problems.

Remote Recover comes in two pieces. First, you install the Remote Recover server software on any computer in your network. Then, you build a client disk for the ailing computer. This requires NDIS2 (Windows for Workgroups) drivers for the network card in that computer, plus the MS Client files, which, if necessary, Remote Recover can automatically grab from the Microsoft FTP site. Reboot the target computer from the client disk, and it will load up DR-DOS (shipped on the Remote Recover disk), the NDIS drivers, and other drivers needed to get to the hard drives in the machine. Then you can use the Remote Recover server to mount any of these drives as mapped drives from your server computer. This gives you full access, allowing you to edit, add, or delete the files necessary to fix the problem.

Remote Recover works well and includes many nice touches. For example, if you use DHCP on your network, it can be set up to use DHCP to get a network address. You can also set it to require a password to log on and to read from SCSI drives using ASPI drivers. In fact, the only trouble I had in writing this review was finding a working floppy drive on one of my testbed computers, along with a disk that wasn’t full of dust. Ideally, before you need this product you’ll make client disks and check the disk drives on your servers, even if they don’t seem useful in the current world of software on CD. Yet sometimes, as with this useful utility, the best things still run from floppy.

Remote Recover
Remote Recover allows easy acess to all drives and partitions on the target system.

 

ERDisk
ERDisk tracks emergency recovery information for all network systems. Note the size of the software hive here—too large for a diskette! (Click image to see larger version.)

Moving to Aelita’s ERDisk, I found it a useful complement to Remote Recover. ERDisk revolves around creation and management of emergency repair disks for NT and Win2K systems. Of course, you know that Windows has its own emergency repair disk facilities—but are you aware of the limitations? For instance, it’s useful only if all the registry hives you might need to restore fit on a single floppy disk. This often is a problem for servers with much software or many users. The standard emergency repair procedure also requires maintaining individual disks at each computer, which can become a logistical nightmare in large organizations.

ERDisk is designed to streamline and improve the emergency-repair process. For starters, it’s all driven from a single console. You can choose a computer or a group of computers anywhere on your network and capture their emergency repair information to a single, centralized database. Rather than keeping track of dozens of disks, you can simply leave the repair information in ERDisk’s database, using repair disks only when necessary.

ERDisk can restore this information in situations where the operating system’s repair facilities fail. It performs a remote restore of registry hives across the network or, using Aelita’s own Advanced ERD, restores nearly any amount of data from multiple disks or a CD-ROM.

ERDisk also helps you keep your emergency repair information up to date with its scheduling facility. You can select groups of computers and schedule an automatic update of the information in ERDisk’s database, thus automating this often-neglected chore.

Remote Recover and ERDisk are well worth the investment— especially when you consider the hours of frustration and grief they can save you. Both tools should be part of every network administrator’s arsenal.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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