Macrium to speak and exhibit at IP Expo London

sm-ipexpoIt has been our pleasure to attend a number of IP Expos now, from the inaugural IP Expo Manchester to the long standing IP Expo Europe in London. So this October, our Sales Director Stephen Macpherson will be gracing the Backup and Availability Theatre stage with a talk entitled, Backup: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

From the number one reason for data loss to some cringe worthy data disaster stories; we will share our latest reseller research. Stephen will also cover end-point data security through backup, software appliance and innovations in cloud backup. The presentation will conclude with a demo of the exciting new Macrium Reflect central management console which allows IT Administrators to deploy and manage large numbers of backups across the enterprise.

Lots of our staff will be on hand on our exhibition stand to demo our latest product updates and answer any questions you may have. We will also have some fun giveaways to share with you so watch this space!

Visit the IP Expo website to find out more about the event and to arrange your free badge, we’d love to see you there!

Techie Tuesday: Macrium Rapid Delta Clone (RDC)

TechieTuesday

As with Rapid Delta Restore (RDR), which we looked at last week, the concept of RDR has been something that has been thought about for quite some time here at Macrium Software. We wanted to build a clone solution that would effectively and rapidly copy only the differences between the source and target file systems. The advantage of this is obvious, RDC offers similar a performance increase as an Incremental disk image offers over a Full image and enables regular clones to be a viable and fast DR solution.

How does it work?

The NTFS file system resident on the clone source is compared with file system on the target disk. The two file systems are first verified that they originated from the same format command and then the target NTFS file system structures are analyzed for differences. All the NTFS file system structures are copied to the target disk and any that do not exist or have been modified on the target disk cause the data records for each NTFS file or object to be copied as well. The result is an ‘Incremental’ clone applying only file system changes detected between the source and the target.

Note: RDC works with NTFS file systems only. All other file systems will perform a full clone

Note: RDC is not available when shrinking partitions during a clone.


See also New in Version 6 and New in Version 6.1

Techie Tuesday: Macrium Rapid Delta Restore (RDR)

TechieTuesday

The concept of RDR has been something that has been thought about for quite some time here at Macrium Software. We were aware of competing technologies that offer fast restore capabilities but wanted to build something better…

Known state restore
This method performs a restore of an incremental image to a file system at a known state. The problem with this method is that the the ‘know state’ must be prepared before hand and the target disk cannot be accessed before the final ‘rapid’ restore. This means that the target disk for the restore cannot be the original ‘live’ disk and a previous restore of the same backup set must have been performed beforehand and the disk taken offline. Not very flexible.

Snapshot restore
Another method is to rely on an open Microsoft Volume Shadow copy Service (VSS) snapshot and use this to restore back to the state when the snapshot was created. Very quick, but only allows restoration back to the same disk and the image must have been created with VSS. Again, not flexible enough for real world DR.

Macrium RDR
Where Macrium RDR differs is that it isn’t dependent on VSS and a delta restore can be perform to any disk that has a previous copy of the imaged file system, no matter what it’s current state. This means that you can restore quickly back to the original disk (similar to the Open Snapshot) method, and have the flexibility to restore to a different disk that contains the same file system on it in any state.

How does RDR work?

Unlike ‘Known State’ and ‘Snapshot’ restore, the only dependency for RDR is that the target file system contains a formatted  NTFS file system that is the same file system as was originally imaged.  When the restore starts the disk image is loaded, again this can be an image taken at any time, and the target NTFS file system structures are analyzed for differences. All the NTFS file system structures are restored to the target disk and any that do not exist or have been modified on the target disk cause the data records for each NTFS file or object to be restored as well. The result is an ‘Incremental’ restore applying only file system changes detected between the image and the target.

Note: RDR works with NTFS file systems only. All other file systems will perform a full restore

Note: RDR is not available when shrinking partitions during a restore.


See also New in Version 6 and New in Version 6.1

 

viBoot Released!

Macrium-viBootToday we release a new update to our popular Macrium viBoot product. Macrium viBoot has been created to allow you to answer some important questions about your disaster recovery plan… Will my backups allow me to successfully boot into Windows if I needed to restore from them? Are new applications or updates safe to install? How long would it take to recover data should a disaster strike?

Macrium viBoot not only ensures that you have an incredibly effective disaster recovery tool, but also that your live environment is free from risk.

Create a replacement virtual machine in minutes

Macrium viBoot provides a simple and efficient route to creating a Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machine from one or more Macrium Reflect image files. Within minutes you will have an almost identical replica of the computer from which the image was taken; allowing you to continue working as though you were sat at the original computer. When coupled with Macrium Reflect, all of the changes made while the viBoot virtual machine session is running, can be added to the existing backup set or a new backup set can be created.

Verify the integrity of your backups

In addition to its disaster recovery capabilities, Macrium viBoot can also be used to test the integrity of your backups. By creating and starting a virtual machine from your image file(s), you can demonstrate that your backups will function correctly if the need arises to restore to new or existing hardware.

Test upgrades before deployment

Macrium viBoot can also be used to test application and system upgrades before deploying them onto real hardware, without the risk of contaminating your live environment. Some customers have even performed a full upgrade of their Windows 7 environments to Windows 10.

Main Features

  • Start a Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machine from any bootable Macrium Reflect full, incremental or
    differential image file stored locally or on a network share.
  • Mix and match drives from various image files to ensure access to all of your data.
  • Eliminate business downtime caused by lengthy physical to virtual conversions or restore processes.
  • Supports UEFI and drives over 64TB in size.
  • viBoot is completely FREE.

Minimum System Requirements

An AMD64 compatible computer running Microsoft Windows 7 or Microsoft Window Server 2008 or later, capable of running Microsoft Hyper-V.

Macrium Reflect is required to save any changes that are made while the VM is running, but not required to launch a viBoot virtual machine.


Download viBoot now:

http://www.macrium.com/viboot.aspx

Best boot forward in Estonia

We talk to Rando Sui from Skywish OÜ in Estonia about how he recently discovered our backup and recovery solution, Macrium Reflect.

Best boot forward

Rando had been looking for a new backup and recovery solution to sell onto his clients. Something that was fast, reliable and worked effectively. After some research Rando discovered Macrium Reflect.

“I was pleasantly surprised to discover Macrium Reflect and the great features it bought to the table. By far the best feature offered was not needing to prepare a boot menu in advance and being able to get the image straight from the network, it certainly did the trick!”.

Sawing off time

Rando’s client is Cambimill Sakala who operate in timber sawing in Estonia. They needed a full backup and recovery solution that could easily restore images.

“Our client needed to backup their production and desktop computers and wanted to feel confident that the backup was working at all times.”

Before using Macrium, the client had been using tape based backup and sadly this had led to data disaster. A secretary had been using this tape based solution for a couple of years and had been diligently changing the tape each morning. Sadly it wasn’t until something went wrong and they needed to restore that they realised the backup hadn’t been working for all that time!

Rando is confident that Macrium is the right backup and recovery solution for all their reseller needs.

“We’ve been so impressed with the solution that we intend on selling into all our customers in Estonia!”.

Techie Tuesday: Protection Strategies Against Ransomware

TechieTuesday

This post provides some general advice against protecting your systems and backups against a class of threats commonly known as Ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malware which restricts access to the computer system that it infects, and demands a ransom paid to the creator(s) of the malware in order for the restriction to be removed. Some forms of ransomware encrypt files on the system’s hard drive (cryptoviral extortion, a threat originally envisioned by Adam Young and Moti Yung), while some may simply lock the system and display messages intended to coax the user into paying.

Source: Wikipedia (March 10th 2015)

The good news is that by having system backups you already have some protection against these (and any other) types of viruses. If a system is infected you can simply restore the system to a pre-infection state from one of your backups.

Unfortunately, these types of viruses can now spread throughout your network and potentially encrypt your backups. This type of attack was popularised in 2014 by a virus known as Cryptolocker.

This article will cover some of the ways you can protect your backups from becoming encrypted and thus allowing you to restore your systems.

Education

Most malware infections originate from suspicious emails, websites and installing questionable software.  Don’t stay too long on websites that have questionable content or are full of advertisements. If someone sends you a link don’t click on it unless you trust the sender. Try to avoid installing software unless you have a business/personal need for it and have read reviews. It is also a good idea to test software in a virtual machine first.

Technical

A good spam filter (local or on the mail server) should also help prevent malware and phishing emails getting through.  A web content filter will help prevent users from visiting websites they shouldn’t visit however, if you are not in a business environment this is likely something you won’t have available (some ISPs in the UK do provide a content filter). A good parental web filter or modern antivirus should help detect malicious and compromised sites. Sophos offer a free AV with web filtering for home use. A good firewall that has IP reputation features should help protect your network (more relevant for business). Most malware “calls home” to function or install its payload. Blocking the access to these IPs help prevent further infection. Firewalls appliances from Sophos, Untangle and ThreatStop are good choices.

Installing an modern antivirus is also a must. Some vendors are now targeting ransomware specifically and are worth a look.
Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware
HitmanPro
Keep you computer and installed software patched. Especially browsers and use ad-blocking extensions if you can.

Minimising Impact

Log on to Windows using an account without administrative privileges, if you do get a malware infection this should limit the effect. For example If you logon as a domain administrator and get infected, the malware will have full access to all your systems where, if Bob from sales gets an infection it will be limited to the areas he has access to. Take regular backups and have backups stored offsite. Log file/folder changes on a network share.

Write-once Media Backups

The simplest way to protect your backups is to use backup storage that can only be written to once. These are usually optical media such as CD-R, DVD-R and BD-R. These discs can only be written to once i.e. at the time of backup and so even if a virus has access to the disc if it is still in the disc tray it cannot alter the data on the disc.

Be careful using re-writable (RW) backup media if you wish to protect against this kind of threat as the backups contained on the disc could be altered if attached to the computer when the virus strikes. In general, as long as the discs are removed immediately after backup and stored offline then they should be okay but the write-once media is generally preferable for backup.

Advantages

  • Cost-effective – With the exception of Blue-ray discs, optical media is generally very cheap when compared to other storage formats
  • Physical protection – Write-once media physically prevents alterations to the data which means it is fail-safe and not reliant on users following backup procedures

Disadvantages

  • Speed – Optical media is considerably slower than other backup media
  • Capacity  – Storage capacity of optical media is much lower than the average capacity of SSD & HDD storage and so multiple discs will often be required for backups
  • Delicate – Optical media is prone to scratches during handling. This can lead to data becoming unrecoverable which generally makes optical media an inadvisable choice for backups, especially when using incremental backups as one broken backup affects the rest of the backup chain.

Summary

Whilst write-once media is a quick and simple solution to protect against these kinds of threats it is not a method we can particularly recommend except in very trivial circumstances such as for the occasional full home backup. In all other circumstances you will want to be taking regular incremental/differential backups as part of a wider rotation scheme and optical media is ill-suited to these kinds of backup schemes.

Offline backup storage / Archiving

As mentioned earlier: ransomware often spreads throughout a network. Therefore a solution is to keep backups off the network. This presents a problem, however, as to backup an organisation you will generally have your storage available over a network connection.

The key to offline backup is to backup to a location inaccessible to any virus that may get onto the system. This can be achieved with Macrium Reflect by creating backup scripts that can copy a backup to another location via FTP / SCP once a backup completes. This is made easier in Macrium Reflect Version 6 with the introduction of Powershell scripted backups, in addition to the existing options of VBScript and Batch file backups.

Advantages

  • Flexibility – As this involves scripting, you can tailor the solution to meet the needs of your network/system. It can also be incorporated into existing backup schemes you may already employ
  • Capacity – Compared to optical media, discussed previously, you can use traditional HDDs for your backup. Allowing you take advantage of RAID arrays, SAN / NAS devices etc.

Disadvantages

  • Technical Requirements – The use of scripting is not a solution that is readily available to non-technical users. However, as long as you have a technical person to create the scripts you can often automate script execution through scheduling to deploy this across an organisation

Dealing with an Infection

You only have two option when dealing with modern ransomware:

  1. Pay up (not recommended)
  2. Restore from a backup.

Summary

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it gives an idea of what can be done. Hopefully it is clear that this solution is the recommended approach. Although it has clear technical barrier, one of the core aims of Macrium Reflect Version 6 was to improve our scheduling and scripting options to give our users maximum flexibility to create a backup scheme that works for them.

Techie Tuesday: Restoring emails with Mailbox Restore

TechieTuesday

In Macrium Reflect Server Plus you can use Mailbox Restore to restore individual emails from a backup of Microsoft Exchange. This is useful if your backup contains some vital emails or attachments, but you don’t want to have to restore the whole MS Exchange server in order to access them .

Mailbox Restore can restore emails, appointments, contacts, journal entries, notes and tasks in the same way.

Before you begin:

For Mailbox Restore to function, Microsoft Exchange MAPI and CDO must be installed on the server. These are present by default on Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. For Exchange 2007 or later, they can be downloaded from the following link:
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=42040

To restore an email using Mailbox Restore, the edition of Microsoft Exchange running on the target server must be the same as the original server. An email backed up on a server running Exchange Server 2007, for example, can be restored onto other servers running Exchange 2007, but not to a server running Exchange 2010.

Note: A mailbox needs to exist on the target server, with the same name as the original mailbox.

The user running Macrium Reflect must have full access permissions for the mailbox being restored to.

  1. In Restore, select Microsoft Exchange Restore.
  2. Select Restore Exchange Mailboxes.
    The Exchange Mailbox Restore Wizard appears.
  3. Select the required message store / database to restore from and click Next.
  4. Select required folder, or click appropriate folder to select required individual email to restore.
  5. Click the filter button to filer the email list by Sender, Recipient, Subject, Between dates, or whether there are attachments.
  6. When you have made all the required selections / deselections, click OK.
  7. Click Restore.

Macrium Reflect Server Plus is available here.