Tag Archives: solution

Choosing Backup and Recovery Solutions for the Virtual Environment

One of the least popular action words in computing – perhaps not the runaway leader – but it’s up there – backup. 

One of the most expensive undertakings in computing – perhaps not the most expensive – but it’s up there – the painful crisis following a system failure without a – backup.

There’s no need to remind regular readers of the inevitability of a hard drive crash and of the necessity of running with a proactive backup strategy – they get it (I think   Smile  )

But, given the accelerating pace of change in the small business market – most particular in the use of  virtual machines, small business owners may well need a quick refresher in how to implement a strategy which ensure both physical and virtual environments are actively protected.

Here’s a timely guest article from Michael Krutikov, a Product Marketing Manager over at Symantec, in which Michael explains how to get it right.

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imageIn a virtual environment, each host server has the potential to become a single point of failure for business-critical applications. Because of this, businesses need to invest in practically invulnerable backup and recovery solutions that have been specifically designed for the virtual environment – as well as the physical environment.

You could, of course, use one backup and recovery solution for your physical environment and purchase a second for your virtual environment, but that can introduce a whole host of problems that you may not have the time or resources to handle, like the need to manage a second interface, the disruption to your team – who has to learn it – and the cost for a second set of backup hardware and licenses. Instead, most experts recommend streamlining your backup and recovery needs by finding a single solution that protects both environments and will:

  • Provide granular- and application-level recovery. To ensure that you can restore what you need, when you need it, make sure that your backup and recovery solution offers all levels of recovery, including full virtual machine, individual virtual disks, virtualized application & database servers, as well as files, folders and even individual emails. That way, you can get your most critical business components back up and running quickly.
  • Deduplicate (data deduplication is a specialized data compression technique for eliminating duplicate copies of repeating data), across both physical and virtual environments. When you deduplicate data across both the physical and virtual environments, you’re able to not only save large amounts of disk space as compared to compression or single-instance storage, but you can reduce backup storage costs and backup window times, as well.
  • Include storage efficient backup. This improved form of data backup will exclude deleted blocks from a backup to increase your storage efficiency.
  • Automatically convert physical backups to virtual machines. By choosing a backup and recovery solution with this feature, you’re able restore physical servers to virtual machines, and it eliminates the need to have an already-configured, physical server ready to go in case of a failure.
  • Offers physical server and multi-hypervisor support. Because many organizations are running multiple hypervisors, finding a solution that supports them all will simplify your backup complexity, and management – and help reduce your licensing costs.

To ensure that your backup and recovery solution keeps even new virtual machines protected, be sure to look for one that will automatically detect new machines as they come online. That way, your team won’t have to spend time and energy searching for new machines – or editing backup up policies when new applications move to different hosts.

Michael Krutikov is a Product Marketing Manager, supporting Backup Exec since joining Symantec in 2007. With a 14 year career in IT, he now works on marketing partnerships and programs built from thousands of meetings with partners and customers in a constant learning mission to deliver Symantec solutions that can better address their needs.

2 Comments

Filed under Backup Applications, Guest Writers, Symantec, System Recovery Tools

Rip Your Commercial DVDs With Free MakeMKV Beta

imageCDs and DVDs are not indestructible – they seem to attract scratches, cracks and sticky fingers – at least around here. As a result, I’ve developed the habit of backing-up my DVDs by ripping them to a Hard Drive – and often, to additional storage devices. This, despite the fact that it’s generally prohibited by laws that protect the “Greed Is Us”  entertainment industry. An industry which has been slow to react to changing technologies.

As I see it – it’s my Disc – I paid for it. If I buy something, it becomes mine. As for the law – I don’t give a rat’s ass what this particular law says. I will not be coerced by a government that holds a clumsy club over my head to protect an industry which continually shows little regard for the paying customer.

Since the majority of commercial DVDs are protected by a digital lock – CSS, CPRM, or AACS – should you decide, that it’s appropriate to safeguard your investment in commercial media – you’ll need a format converter capable of decrypting, and preserving, the media content.

MakeMKV is the best one-click free solution to convert owned video that I’ve found, to date. This is a very impressive application – straightforward, and easy to run –  even for a relatively new computer user.

A quick walkthrough:

For this post, I’ve chosen to backup one Disc from my collection of the HBO series – The Pacific – a 10 part series which cost me $90 – including tax. So yes, given the cost involved, I feel more than justified in protecting my investment.

Any of the following screen captures can be expanded to the original, by clicking.

On application launch, you’ll see the following. Be sure to expand the menu from which you’ll have an opportunity to select a variety of customizing options. Then click on “Make MKV” and……

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sit back and relax.

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Converting video is time intensive and your CPU will get a real workout. In this test, the job took approximately 30 minutes to complete.

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The following screen shot shows the save location, and the relative sizes of the files. The first title – “00” represents the first episode. Similarly, the second title “01” represents the second episode from the DVD. Title “02” represents both episodes combined. Additional content from the DVD is also noted.

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Finally, I’ve included the following screen captures in order to give you an idea of the just how perfectly MakeMKV has completed the task. BTW, VLC Media Player is my preferred application for running media on a PC. It is an outstanding application which offers a huge range of control functions. For example – if, I had forgotten to uncheck “Subtitles” while processing this test task – no big deal. VLC Media Player provides an option to “not show” subtitles while running.

Running in a Window.

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Running in full screen

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MKV File Format Fast Facts:

MKV is open and free. No one holds patents or licenses and anyone can implement it freely. As a result nearly every software player and many hardware devices support it. The best software players out there ( VLC, MPlayer ) have full MKV support and are absolutely free.

MKV files do not have evil features attached.

You can play them on any capable hardware. No need for HDCP-certified video card or any “trusted” environment.

You can copy them to your laptop and watch anytime, even if your laptop lacks DVD or Blu-ray drive, or any drive whatsoever.

One file is one title. If you don’t want to watch dozen trailers before the movie, you don’t have to. And fast forward button always works, too.

There are no restrictions where to play the file. There are no region-based restrictions. You have control over the content you’ve paid for.

MKV files are easy to change. Want to remove unneeded audio track from the file? Thought about converting MPEG-2 video into H264 to make the file 5 times smaller? All of it can be easily done with free software.

MKV files are compact. For exactly the same content MKV files are about 10% smaller than DVD files and roughly 40% smaller than Blu-ray files.

System requirements: Windows Vista, XP, Win 7 (tested here on Win 8), Intel-based Mac OS X 10.5 and above, and Linux.

Download at: MakeMKV

Restrictions you need to know:

Program is time-limited — it will stop functioning after 60 days. You can always download the latest version from makemkv.com that will reset the expiration date.

MakeMKV is currently still in beta and during the beta phase it will rip both DVD and Blu-ray for free. However, the DVD ripping functionality will always remain free.

After 30 days if you want to continue ripping Blu-ray discs, you’ll need to purchase a license.

HD-DVD support is limited – some discs may fail to open and not all audio and subtitle tracks will be preserved.

Blu-ray and DVD discs are fully supported.

6 Comments

Filed under Beta Software, Digital Media, downloads, Freeware, Linux, Mac OS X

The SOPA Controversy – A Reader’s View

imageReaders’ comments are an integral part of this Blog. Comments not only have the potential to expand a topic but, often provide a learning opportunity for other readers. How cool is that?

The SOPA issue has drawn huge numbers of comments, not only here, but across the Internet. One of those comments, from regular reader John Bent, lays out a solution to this Gordian Knot quandary.

See if you agree:

Re: A better SOPA: Create Silicon Valley jobs in Hollywood, give Washington the boot.

Following the outpourings of outrage against government censorship of the web, it’s good to see someone suggesting positive ways to combat online piracy. This issue, which is (allegedly) what started the whole thing off, still needs to be addressed.

A good start, IMHO, would be for the copyright laws to be amended so that I, and others like me, are not branded criminals for making copies of material I have paid for, for my own use. This would go a long way to removing the excuse for piracy, that the big players are trying to rip off the poor consumer.

I am firmly of the opinion, that there is no valid excuse for downloading and using copyright material without paying for it.

Another way of reducing the likelihood of this is for publishers to make available, more in the way of “trial”, “lite”, or “time-limited” versions of their products. This would help to prevent people using the excuse that they are pirating copies so that they can “try it out before paying”.

I am extremely cynical about people’s honesty when they make this claim, and providing trial versions would remove that excuse. Yes, it may have a cost implication – but so does piracy.

After the SOPA debacle, perhaps governments will understand that the copyright laws need to be brought into first the 20th and then the 21st century. Then there will be a much clearer view of who the real offenders are. I’m afraid I’m not holding my breath though.

John Bent is a UK based “super user” and, a long time reader here. John’s well considered comments always advance the conversation. Thank you John.

12 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers, Opinion, Point of View

Free GmailDefaultMaker – An Email Default Handler Solution

Webmail can handle pretty much all of my email needs, except one – when I need to contact a business, or product developer, and no contact web page exists. For example, in the screen shot below, in attempting to contact the webmaster at OpenOffice.org ….

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I get this frustrating message. Here’s why – in Windows 7, Outlook Express is no longer available.

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Frankly, I got a little tired of performing the necessary dance to complete the task, so I looked for an alternative. And, I found one – GmailDefaultMaker, which despite it’s name works with Yahoo Mail, AOL, and Hotmail.

Note to developer: Business 101 – the product name should reflect the function. Change the name.

Install this tiny application in the language of your choice –

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Choose your default email service provider –

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And, your done.

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With GmailDefaultMaker installed, instead of the “you’re out of luck” message shown earlier, now when I click on “webmasters@openoffice.org” …….

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the application automatically opens up my Gmail compose pane as shown in the following screen capture. Pretty cool, no?

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System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0

Download at: the developer’s site (GmailDefaultMaker).

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

10 Comments

Filed under downloads, Email, Freeware, Gmail, Integrated Solutions, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Gmail and Firefox 3.6.12 Are NOT Necessarily Compatible

imageSince updating to Firefox 3.6.12, just a few days ago, I had been struggling with all my Gmail accounts while running Firefox 3.6.12.

I could not compose new emails, reply to any of my received emails; could not make any adjustments in settings, and a host of other problems. Virtually any command was followed by the “Loading” notice, which simply sat there.

To continue to use Gmail I was forced to switch to basic HTML, which allowed me some functionality. If you have made a comment in the last few days which I have not replied to, or you have sent me private mail and you are still waiting for a reply, please bear with me.

The Gmail help forums are full of users looking for a solution to this aggravating problem, and to this point Google, operating with it’s usual “F*ck You” attitude, is essentially ignoring the issue. Google’s best advice is as follows – Please try clearing your cache and cookies (instruction below) or using a different browser.

If you are dealing with this compatibility issue, then don’t bother with this pointless advice. Instead, proceed as follows and the problem should be resolved. This procedure worked for me – after a huge amount of trial and error, and wasted time.

In Firefox type “about:config” (do not use quotes and there is a semicolon after about).

Ignore the “This might void the warranty” message.

In the filter bar, type “dom.storage” (do not use quotes – there is a period after dom).

In the “dom.storage.enabled”, you will see “value” – “false”.

Double click on “dom.storage.enabled” – the value will now read “true”.

Restart Firefox.

Finally, here’s a message for Google – Stop thinking like a Government, and pay some attention to the people who are responsible for your success – THE CUSTOMER!

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

48 Comments

Filed under Bill's Rants, Browsers, Firefox, Gmail, Google, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Handy Backup Contest – And the Winners Are…..

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I’m happy to announce the 2 winners of a free license for Handy Backup, a  superior backup application that is easy to setup, customize and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

Congratulations to the winners:

Susan – entered the contest on October 29, 2009.

Marie Elena – entered the contest on November 14, 2009.

The winners have been notified by email. If you weren’t one of the lucky winners, you can test drive this great application for 30 days by downloading Handy Backup at Download Handy Backup.

After reading the following review of Handy Backup, which has been referred to as the “Swiss Army Knife of backups”, I’m sure you’ll agree, this is a backup application worth checking out.

Handy Backup Review:

image Your computer setup is a reflection of you. Sure, everyone has their documents folder, their pictures folder, their office applications – but that’s where most similarities end. Think about it, your Photoshop settings, IM tweaks, browser preferences… everything is set up just the way you like it.

Most backup software treats your data like big, faceless chunks of memory. They perform brute backups of your hard drive without regard to the fact that you did, really, truly, have things just the way you liked them!

Handy Backup includes plug-ins for all of the popular programs (such as Outlook and Windows Mail), and if you don’t see what you need, you can actually create your own plug-in (as an XML specification) for that special app.

Out of the box, Handy Backup is ready to go to work safeguarding your data, documents, photos, browser bookmarks, and email messages – either in a run-once situation, or as scheduled event. Your options include the ability to backup to local media, such as a CD, or to offsite storage on a secure FTP site.

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As if backing up to local media, local servers, and offsite locations weren’t enough, all users of Handy Backup can also take advantage of the Novosoft Remote Backup Service. Think of it as super-duper-remote-always-on backup, with unlimited storage in a highly secure web server that’s fortified against technological and natural disasters, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Handy Backup lets you:

Perform run-once and scheduled backups of your entire hard drive or selected directories.

Use free plug-ins that backup and restore the unique profile settings of the most popular applications.

Backup to local media, local servers, offsite servers, or the Novosoft Remote Backup Service.

Who Needs Handy Backup? You do if you’ve ever:

Had to recover data from backup, but then had to manually reset all of the settings for your applications.

Wanted to take advantage of the larger storage capabilities of DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD media.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows 2000, Windows XP

You can download a full-featured 30-days trial by clicking the following link:

Download Handy Backup

Stay tuned – in the next few weeks we will be reviewing the enterprise version of this application – Handy Backup Server. At that time, a free license (retail value $599), will be offered in a similar contest give away.

Update – November 16, 2009: The winners have responded as follows

Maria Elena – Gotta be a joke or scam cause I am 62 years old and never won a thing in my life!  If not thank you ever so much.

Susan – Wow! Fantastic news! Your blog is extremely valuable all on its own, so this is truly icing on the cake.

Another comment from Maria Elena – 🙂 :p Thank you thank you thank you. I really could use this as I have never been able to back up my system with the back up that is on the computer. I hate formatting my hard drive. Thank you my first prize!

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

11 Comments

Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, downloads, Online Backup, Software, Software Trial Versions, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

6 Days Left for Handy Backup Professional – Free License Giveaway!

image As part of our recent “backup your data, crusade”, we have arranged with Novosoft, the developers of  the award-winning backup application Handy Backup, to give away  2 licenses (retail value $99), for the Professional home version of their award-winning backup software. There are now only 6 days left until we pull the names of the lucky winners, but you still have time to get your name in – so, go for it!

To enter the contest, simply add a comment at the end of this article. On November 16, 2009, all comments will be added to the online List Randomizer, and the first 2 names that come up, will win a free license for this terrific backup application.

After reading the following review of Handy Backup, which has been referred to as the “Swiss Army Knife of backups”, I’m sure you’ll agree, this is a contest worth entering.

You don’t need to write a paragraph – “enter me in the contest”, or similar, is enough. Good luck!

Handy Backup Review.

image Your computer setup is a reflection of you. Sure, everyone has their documents folder, their pictures folder, their office applications – but that’s where most similarities end. Think about it, your Photoshop settings, IM tweaks, browser preferences… everything is set up just the way you like it.

Most backup software treats your data like big, faceless chunks of memory. They perform brute backups of your hard drive without regard to the fact that you did, really, truly, have things just the way you liked them!

Handy Backup includes plug-ins for all of the popular programs (such as Outlook and Windows Mail), and if you don’t see what you need, you can actually create your own plug-in (as an XML specification) for that special app.

Out of the box, Handy Backup is ready to go to work safeguarding your data, documents, photos, browser bookmarks, and email messages – either in a run-once situation, or as scheduled event. Your options include the ability to backup to local media, such as a CD, or to offsite storage on a secure FTP site.

image

As if backing up to local media, local servers, and offsite locations weren’t enough, all users of Handy Backup can also take advantage of the Novosoft Remote Backup Service. Think of it as super-duper-remote-always-on backup, with unlimited storage in a highly secure web server that’s fortified against technological and natural disasters, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Handy Backup lets you:

Perform run-once and scheduled backups of your entire hard drive or selected directories.

Use free plug-ins that backup and restore the unique profile settings of the most popular applications.

Backup to local media, local servers, offsite servers, or the Novosoft Remote Backup Service.

Who Needs Handy Backup? You do if you’ve ever:

Had to recover data from backup, but then had to manually reset all of the settings for your applications.

Wanted to take advantage of the larger storage capabilities of DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVD media.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows 2000, Windows XP

You can download a full-featured 30-days trial by clicking the following link:

Download Handy Backup

Stay tuned – in the next few weeks we will be reviewing the enterprise version of this application – Handy Backup Server. At that time, a free license (retail value $599), will be offered in a similar contest give away.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

9 Comments

Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, Contests, downloads, Free Full Versions, Hard Drive Imaging, Software, Software Trial Versions, Windows Tips and Tools