Backup! Backup! Backup! (Part 1)
File backups are an essential part of every companies digital ecosystem. Unfortunately you never think about them until you have an incident. I personally have been very good backing up all my documents on all my computers for years. I will do a backup onto a separate hard drive locally as well as offsite backups using Carbonite and Amazon S3. Unfortunately one of my coworkers was not doing backups regularly and the most recent that she had was from April of 2014 (roughly 7 months old). So I was pulled from my normal job duties and set to work on recovering her files.
Usually when a hard drive fails, it is a simple write error and running a program like SpinRite will solve it. SpinRite has recovered hard drives for me at least 5 or 6 times in the past 10 years. SpinRite excels when you see a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) as it scans the hard drive at the sector level and when it finds a bad sector, it moves any data there that is recoverable to a new sector and flags the bad one so that the hard drive no longer uses it for storage. SpinRite unfortunately would not help in this instance because it was the partition on the hard drive that was lost.
Seeing this issue before I immediately jumped to using TestDisk which scans the hard drive to try to try to recover lost partition. After running a deep scan on it, this was not going to be useful because the partitions mounted so according to TestDisk, everything looked fine other than 1 invalid boot sector which wasn’t used for booting into Windows anyway and not of any concern for recovering the files on a separate partition.
This is a spot where I hate being in. All tools that I routinely use are not going to fix the issue and this what I was able to determine with TestDisk was that it was the partition table that was corrupted. A partition table is stored on the first sector of a hard drive and stores information on how big the partitions are and where they are located on the hard drive.
Next I looked into file recovery software and landed on Mini Tool Data Recovery to do a file recovery. Since the partition table was corrupted I had to use this program to look at the raw data on the hard drive and hope that it could find file types like .doc/.docx, .xls/.xlsx and .pdf. These are the most important files to this co-worker. Luckily I was able to recover roughly 500 documents that were located on this hard drive and give them to her. Unfortunately, they were all named “recovered-file.#####.extension” (extension being the ones listed above) so she has to open them up individually, see what the file is and then save it with the proper name. A little work, but less than having to try to sort through all of the 7 month old backups and try to remember what needed to be updated in each.
This brings me to the next part of this post that I will be writing shortly. Because it is obvious that everyone here is not doing backups on their own anymore, I am going to be adding a NAS (Network Attached Storage) to our network to automatically back up every computer’s files. It took me about 35 hours of work to recover those 500 or so files. It would have been much easier for me to format her hard drive, reinstall all her software and then pull the files off a NAS (or any backup) to copy them into place. Unfortunately for me in a company of, because no one is in charge of doing this it is now my responsibility as being the most well versed computer “expert” here in the office.
I have purchased a DiskStation DS1513+ made by Synology which is a 5 bay NAS that I will be setting up over the next week on our network. This will allow me to automatically back up every computer in the office without user interaction, cloud storage and syncing on PCs as well as phones. Also, I can also link multiple devices together if we even outgrow just 1 of them. My next post will walk through what I have done to setup and configure it as well as my take on DSM 5.1 (DiskStation Manager).