Tough Lesson – There are TWO sides to system backup

By | September 18, 2013

The aspect of this blog post that I hate the most is that with regards to issue I have recently suffered from, I really should know better.

Sidebar: I have agreed to not name and shame the provider as a compensation deal has been struck and a term of the comp is for me not to publicly bash the provider, let’s just say that they’re well known and trusted in this space and I’m still going to use their services as the problem is not entirely their fault.

I have been a happy customer of a Cloud based backup service for some time now and have been relaxed in my laptop based life as I know that things are being backed up and I can recover them when I want, where I want.

Until now.

Over the weekend I was in the USA and on my return was dismayed to have a “laptop won’t even beep” startup issue with my shiny new Dell M4700.

Calling Dell I got the (as always) pretty awesome support service we pay for (4hr same day) and an engineer rocked up with (amazingly) all the parts he needed to replace; the motherboard, 2 SSD disks, the LCD panel and 2 of the 4 SODIMMs in the machine.

He spent a good hour doing all the work and did a pretty meticulous job of ensuring everything was spot on (Precision keyboards are notoriously difficult to get back correctly!) and gave me back a ready to go laptop that was fully working.

Downside – 2 new SSD disks. The old ones would not start when connected to another laptop via a USB interface and wouldn’t even start when inserted into another laptop (my Dell Precision M6700).


Not to worry, thought I. I use the Cloud and have all my data backed up!

After re-loading the OS from USB (speedy) and then installing both the Skydrive and backup software clients, I poked around looking for the most recent backups so I could restore and get back to work.

“13th August 2013” was the most recent backup I had. Very odd. Around the time I switched from my other Dell to this M4700 as my day-to-day workhorse.

Further sniffing around (inside the providers web interface in case the issue was the client) and the same result. Last backup available was from a month ago. Not good.

Calling into their support I eventually got to somebody who was switched on and got to the bottom of the issue. Yes, their software installs onto WS2012 but it has an issue with data transfer. The major part of this issue (if you ignore the fact is does not transfer data) is that it just reports “all ok” whereas everything is actually the direct and total opposite of “all ok”.

I’m pissed about this. Sure. But it is their fault? I’m not sure. Their documentation does not explicitly state that WS2012 is (or is not) supported and most stuff (in my experience) that runs on W8 will run on WS2012. In these cases though, if a known issue is present, the software should at least tell me, right?

I guess where I am most pissed is with myself.

There are two sides to backup. The backup piece and the restore piece.

With no viable restore, backup is just a waste of time and money.

Lesson (re)learned.

more to follow…

4 thoughts on “Tough Lesson – There are TWO sides to system backup

  1. Stacy Draper

    I’ve always preached firedrills where you restore all of your stuff, just to make sure you can restore it. That works great for a company with servers, but even for my own workstation I don’t do it. I copy to a local nas and offsite to the cloud, but I haven’t taken the time or space to figure out if I can restore it. I think I can. I hope I can.

  2. Sean McDonough

    Argh! Sorry to hear about your experience, Seb. This sort of situation COMPLETELY sucks. I’d venture that many folks are in exactly the same situation as you: taking regular backups, thinking that things are peachy, and then discovering that their not once it comes time to restore. I really feel for you.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to add your tale (no details, of course) to the list of those I sometimes relay when I’m out presenting on data protection at conferences. I think it carries a little extra weight when folks hear that someone they know (or have heard of) has seen these kinds of troubles. I tell folks “hey, backups will *ALWAYS* succeed – even if they’re complete rubbish.” This proves that out :-\

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