I have a bit more technology background than many B&B owners. Ruth and I started a small ISP (waaaaay back in 1996, when the internet was almost all dialup), and took it national. I did all the IT, system administration, and all that geeky stuff. Later I worked for a giant software company as a hands-on technical consultant and later taught customers how to customize and use the software.
As a result of this background, I’m not overly impressed when I read articles about the important but not-very-interesting computer tasks that most people don’t do, but should, and that I do routinely. I’m talking about keeping up-to-date with your antivirus software, and backing up your systems.
Recently I have had reason to re-examine how I do both of those things, and the point was driven home even more directly by my friend, Heather Turner, in her blog (we’ve actually never met, but social media is a wonderful thing – follow Heather on Twitter as @forfeng), where she discusses both issues. Despite my efforts, I’ve recently had both bad experiences occur.
As a tech person, I use Linux (Kubuntu, actually, which is an easy to install and manage operating system) on my laptop, but must use Windows on my desktop PC for the Property Management Software we use at the B&B. I have always kept the Windows antivirus software up-to-date, and it does automatic scans. Both the Windows PC and my Linux machines automatically back themselves up daily to a large hard drive on another Linux PC.
If your eyes glazed over just now, let’s try that once more: Better?
The Anti-Virus Tale
Having multiple computers, I sometimes browse the web on any machine that is handy. I was browsing using the Windows PC (using Firefox, with the latest security toolbar from the antivirus company), when I came upon a site selling area rugs (we needed one for the B&B). Suddenly windows would pop-up saying I had a virus and asking me to click to scan (this was NOT from my antivirus software, but was a scam to get the user to click to install a virus).
It turned out that it was a very new virus, implanted by browsing, and the daily updates from the antivirus software hadn’t caught up with it yet.
I closed the browser and ran an antivirus scan – found something and corrected it. Opened up the browser and the same thing happened, but on every page I went to. I uninstalled Firefox, rebooted, and re-installed Firefox. Same problem. This was a really pesky virus!
After doing some research online (with my other computer!), I found some people who had dealt with this. I tried all the solutions I could find, including removing certain values from the Windows registry. No matter what I did, the popups were still there.
Finally, and regretfully, I restored the entire Windows operating system, formatting the hard drive. Thank goodness for my backups!
Of course that meant upgrading Windows to the latest versions and security patches, then re-installing my software (I made a list first!). The only thing that didn’t install correctly from my backups was the database for our Property Management Software, but the vendor helped us get that restored, and we only lost a tiny bit of data. I still have a couple of things that aren’t quite right, but basically it was all working properly within a couple of days.
The Backup Tale
Things went along well for a few months, all the machines humming along, and backups working as they should. Then yesterday I awoke to find that my backup wouldn’t start. It turned out the PC that holds the backups wasn’t connected to the network. It appeared to have rebooted during a power blip (I should note that in Maine we have these (usually brief) power failures with great frequency – a reason to have a Power Backup (I have one, but it had burned out, and the replacement hasn’t arrived yet!).
No matter what I did, using both Linux and Windows tools to recover the hard drive with the backup, nothing worked. The good news was that the machines that are backed up to that one were undamaged. The bad: I had also used the backup PC to store some files so that other PC’s could access them – these were gone, too, and without a backup!
The Moral of the Stories
As Heather says in her blog:
I recommend a three pronged approach as well. Back up online, through a good site like Mozy, back up to a large external hard drive and also back up to thumb drives. I don’t recommend backing up to CD, the jury is still out on whether information degrades on CDs after a few years, but I would rather not take a chance (plus they scratch).
My backups saved the day for the virus problem. The backups have saved the day for other computers whose disks failed, or where data was inadvertantly deleted. However, the backup was not protected by a backup. That didn’t matter for the data being backed up there, as I still had the originals. Where it did matter was for the files that I was storing on the backup server – they were not backed up. If I had backed them up to a thumb drive or online (or both, to be safe in case of a problem locally), I would still have my files. As it is, I have no choice but to try to re-create what I can, and make do without those files.
So, am I disappointed by losing the data? You betcha! But it also provides a good lesson, and a good incentive, to start backing up the data more effectively, and an opportunity to share this lesson so maybe others can avoid having this problem!
Do you have a story where a backup or antivirus saved your bacon? Or would have? Please post it in the comments!