In-Depth

The Expiration Date That Did Us In

IT people move on; so, who's doing backups?

We run a small Windows NT network and Access database. A different technician set up our server, but I had no information about it. I’d checked it over about 18 months before our disaster and determined that the backups ran fine and everything seemed to work smoothly. After the initial inspection, I checked the server about once a month.

One day, the database was acting strangely, so we checked other files stored on the server. Some wouldn’t open. We tried to reboot the server, for the first time in months. On the reboot we heard grinding, then nothing. The hard drive was fried. Well, that’s OK; it happens, right? So we bought a new hard drive. While we were at it, we got two, since they’re cheap, and it would allow us to set up a mirrored drive.

Also in this issue:

 Get Active Directory Replication Right!
by Andrew Lindley

 Exchange 2000 Upgrade, Times Two
by Cynthia Balusek

 Wireless Meets Mother Nature
by Justin Melot

 Troubleshooting Under Pressure
by James D. Pollock

 Hard Drive Fall Down, Go Boom!
by Christopher M. Roscoe

(Back to introduction.)

We brought the server back up to normal with the new drives. The next step was to restore the data from backup. That’s when we got a nasty surprise: It turned out that the information on the tapes was six months old. This obviously wouldn’t work. We tried to troubleshoot a little more, but with no luck—the new information just wasn’t there. For some reason the backup just quit working after the first year.

We sent the failed drive to a restoration company. A week and a half later the company told us the drive was too badly damaged, and they weren’t able to recover anything. We were out of luck. We lost half a year’s worth of data and were forced to use data that was six months old.

Following this trauma, I was determined to find out what had gone wrong. After checking into it deeper, I found out the tapes we used for backup had an expiration date set when they were initially formatted. Once it reached that date, they quit working.

Lesson learned: Never let somebody else set up your server and backup scheme without finding out exactly what that person did.

The new steps we’ve taken to eliminate data loss include implementing a RAID solution, with a monthly double check of the backups; labeling tapes with their expiration dates; and copying server contents to another computer weekly for additional redundancy.

It may seem less than earth-shaking, but for a small company, it sure was a disaster. We’re still trying to recover from that little incident.

About the Author

Jeremy Dillinger, MCSE+I, does tech support at a local company and for his local school district.

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