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users who disregard backup policy

users who disregard backup policy

users who disregard backup policy

(OP)
First and foremost, I have the misfortune of working as a sys admin in a company where data is not centralized. We have a bunch of users who have data on their PC's. All these users have either a secondary hard drive which is used for backup purposes.

We just had a case in which the user's backup drive died. Guess what? We also found out that the user had been storing critical data on that drive for many months, even though this wasn't the purpose of the drive.

How do I deal with this?

Another problem is users who don't get backed up. These are mainly laptop users. They never plug in their external drives. I often run a backup manually when they do happen to leave their laptops in the office.

Again, how do I deal with this?

One way I'm dealing with it is that I will never again work in a company that allows users to keep data on their systems.

RE: users who disregard backup policy

I'm not a sys admin, but I don't think it's the job of a sys admin to persuade users what to do.  If you don't have the infrastructure set up to do what is needed (namely centralized, automatic backups), then don't lose sleep over users not following the rules.

RE: users who disregard backup policy

(OP)
This is as much about me as it is about the users, I guess. I need to get rid of this need to be Superman.

RE: users who disregard backup policy

You're buying trouble if you get involved.  It's your job to act responsibly and advise users and superiors of any flaws in the system, such as poor/disastrous back up policies.  Once you've told those in charge about the issue, and advised all concerned of best practice, you can (and should) do no more.

Are you going to police every hard disk drive in the company?  Are you going to get involved, and thus make yourself the ideal scapegoat when things go wrong - imagine the conversation "well, the sysadmin said he'd take care of it, so I just left it to him" etc.  The loss of critical data is sadly one of the few ways to get managers to listen.  Next time you have to make a business case for some controlled backup system, just point to the cost of the lost data - Q.E.D?

Regards

T

RE: users who disregard backup policy

Yeah, there are technical solutions to this and then there are personnel solutions to this.  On the technical level, the users should never have been allowed to store critical data on local PCs.  There should be a centralized, secured, fault tolerant and backed up file repository.  That's just basic IT 101, and with multi-terabyte low-end NAS devices available for $1000 or less, there's really no excuse to NOT have centralized storage.  The use of centralized storage can be enforced with user folder and profile redirection if necessary.

Now for the personnel issue.  You need to clearly make the case for centralized storage to your superiors (manager, owner, whoever).  Many times it can be difficult to persuade your employer (especially if it is a smaller company) to spend money on hardware for things to prevent a loss down the road.  In your case, there is a glaring example of what happens when you ignore IT best practices, so it should be easier to persuade the boss to take action.  This kind of incident can be a powerful catalyst for change, and you would do well to take advantage of it.

In the event that your employer decides that they don't want to spend money on a solution to the problem, I would seriously start looking to move elsewhere if possible.  This is really something that is so fundamental to basic IT best practices that if they're unwilling to take that step, then you are very unlikely to have their support with any other important initiatives.  I mean, we're talking about the IT equivalent of wearing a seat belt here.

 

________________________________________
CompTIA A+, Network+, Server+, Security+
MCTS:Hyper-V
MCTS:System Center Virtual Machine Manager
MCSE:Security 2003
MCITP:Enterprise Administrator  

RE: users who disregard backup policy

Well said.  I would add that you should put your concerns in writing.

Susan
"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.
Then, when you criticize them, you are a mile away ...
and you have their shoes."

RE: users who disregard backup policy

I just remind users that local drives are not backed up, and I am not responsible for that data.  If they refuse to put stuff on the server, it is their own lookout.

RE: users who disregard backup policy

sstoppel, While I agree with the sentiment, part of being a good IT administrator is to protect the company's information assets.  I don't work for the end-user, I work for the company.  If the end-user ends up shooting themselves in the foot, that's on them.  Unfortunately though, the company also can be hurt by the end-user's shortcomings, and it's part of my job to prevent that from happening.

Think of it another way...you could say that if a user gets a virus on their machine it's their fault.  But instead we put antivirus software on all of the PCs to protect the company (and the users) from the users.  The same goes for setting up malware blocking proxies, and for installing unknown software, and every other "issue" that's fundamental to good IT.  Backups are just another one of those issues where we, as administrators, have to take steps to protect assets because the users, left to their own devices, will not.

________________________________________
CompTIA A+, Network+, Server+, Security+
MCTS:Hyper-V
MCTS:System Center Virtual Machine Manager
MCSE:Security 2003
MCITP:Enterprise Administrator  

RE: users who disregard backup policy

The solution is pretty straight-forward.

It's IT's job to make sure that data is:
  a) Backed up
  b) Secured from those who shouldn't have it.
  c) Accessible to those who should.

That being said, it *is* your responsibility, because the data is company property that you are paid to back up, secure, and make accessible.

One solution would be to re-map the "My Documents" folder to a network drive and share for that user.

Or, you can map a drive (either a batch file, manually, or through Active Directory) and tell users "Your files *will* be saved there".

But first, you need Management's backing.  Explain the situation, explain the liability, and present the solution.  Then tell them that you'd like to implement this change, however you will need management's backing.

Then help the users to set it up... don't mandate without willing to help.

At my last job, it was understood you didn't save ANYTHING on your local hard drive.  I had Ghost images of all models of PC's and Laptops, and it only took a couple of times of me saying "Gee, I'm sorry, but you were warned, then your hard drive failed.. here's your newly-ghosted machine" before people started saving their stuff where they were supposed to.

Re-mapping "My Documents" is the easiest as far as the end user is concerned, because to them it's transparent.  They can still save stuff in "My Documents"... it's just that their "My Documents" is actually on a backed-up server.

 

Just my 2¢

"What the captain doesn't realize is that we've secretly replaced his Dilithium Crystals with new Folger's Crystals."

--Greg  http://parallel.tzo.com
 

RE: users who disregard backup policy

One other thought.... the topic, "Users who disregard backup policy" has an important word in there.

If, in fact, it is a POLICY (and by a policy I mean a management signed printed sheet of paper that says "Policy" on the top of it), then you certainly do have recourse to bring the offenders to the attention of their supervisors.

If it's not an actual company policy, printed signed, etc., then read my post before this one. ;)

 

Just my 2¢

"What the captain doesn't realize is that we've secretly replaced his Dilithium Crystals with new Folger's Crystals."

--Greg  http://parallel.tzo.com
 

RE: users who disregard backup policy

(OP)
The good news is that it looks at least 90% of the data is recoverable.

As far as a centralized data storage system is concerned, if anyone here wants to buy one for a company, please feel free to do so. I am an administrator. Every purchase I make has to be approved.

RE: users who disregard backup policy

While I understand the situation that you are in (i.e., no purchase authority) you also need to take seriously your obligation to the company.  Believe me, I've run into plenty of small businesses who take that same attitude.  And unfortunately it's the small businesses that can be most severely affected by a data loss.  I guess the question is this:  is it more important for you to save a few bucks for the company today, or is it more important to save the data created by the effort of the company's employees?  In many cases people who don't understand IT are more than willing to save $500 today even though it could potentially cost them thousands of dollars in the future.

I mean, I could see your point if we were talking about some sort of expensive and exotic data protection scheme where you had two SANS in redundant data centers that were replicated across WAN links, but we're not.  We're talking about a file server.  It's not new, it's not exotic, and it's not expensive either.  The backup strategy that your company employs was very common 20+ years ago when sneakernet was the networking standard.  But I'd say it's high time that you dragged your company kicking and screaming into the 1990's.

________________________________________
CompTIA A+, Network+, Server+, Security+
MCTS:Hyper-V
MCTS:System Center Virtual Machine Manager
MCSE:Security 2003
MCITP:Enterprise Administrator  

RE: users who disregard backup policy

Throwing in an entirely different remark:

What is the nature of the data and why is it distributed? If they do not have network access, they need their extra hard disk. But then the company might provide those machines with some backup software.

If it is program code that should not be "in each others way", use a source code control server, like Subversion, Git or whatever. This requires a network. You can also use this for, say, CAD drawings.

Whatever went wrong, the best thing you can do with it is to learn. Policies are nice, but humans are, ehm, human. So they do not abide to a policy if they do not know it, not see a value in it, have too much work enforcing it or do not know how to abide it.

So you might come up with a better solution to help the users make backups. And off course the users should have learned by now how important it is to make them.
 

+++ Despite being wrong in every important aspect, that is a very good analogy +++
   Hex (in Darwin's Watch)

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