Single points of failure

Single points of failure

In any IT setup there are a number of potential “single points of failure”. By a single point of failure I mean if that one thing fails or goes wrong, everything stops working. In this article I’m going to look at several single points of failure and what you can do to reduce the chance of these failure happening and how you can recover should such a failure occur.

Hard disk failure

Most PCs & Macs have one hard drive. Even if they have additional drives, the operating system is on the main drive. If this drive fails you can’t use your PC.

What you can do

What you do depends on how critical your computer is to you. However unimportant it is, you must run a proper backup system (http://itdonut.co.uk/it/it-security/continuity-planning-and-backup-options/find-the-right-backup-methods) however, it’s going to take at least a day to source & install a new hard drive, reinstall the operating system, reinstall & configure all your applications and recover your data from the last backup.

Get a RAID controller and a 2nd disk. RAID controllers can cost as little as £30. The 2nd disk must be the same capacity as the main disk. Configure the controller for RAID 1/disk mirroring. The second disk is now an exact copy of the first. If either disk fails, the other takes over. When you replace the failed disk, the RAID controller automatically copies everything from the good disk to the new disk. For a more in depth explanation of RAID see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID and http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/R/RAID.html.

Other component failure

Other components in your PC can fail, it’s very rare but if your video controller decided to die, you’re not going to be able to see what you’re doing. Unless it is so critical to your business that you need to replace the card immediately (in which case carry a spare), the only thing to do here is know what sort of video controller you have and where to buy a new one.

Total PC failure

This is quite unusual. It can include having the PC stolen or (particularly with a laptop) some form of total destruction. Have a look at http://www.ontrackdatarecovery.com/data-recovery-press/index.aspx?getPressRelease=61397 for some of the more bizarre ways laptops & PCs have been damaged. To recover from this you need to know where your credit card is, where you can buy a new computer, what software you have to reinstall and how to do it and how to recover your backed up data (you have backed it up, haven’t you?)

Network hub/ADSL router

This is probably the most annoying thing that can happen as you can still work but can’t access emails/web etc. You could keep a spare or you need to know where to go and buy one quickly. Yu may be able to get a replacement from your ISP, but you may have to wait 5-10 days for a replacement to arrive. Talk to them anyway, I got them to credit my account with the price of a new one so that I could replace it in a couple of hours.

Loss of internet access

If your broadband goes down speak to your ISP. It may be them, it may be your phone carrier, they can usually tell you who’s responsible and how long it’s going to take. Make sure you’ve got your ISPs phone number in your contacts somewhere so that you don’t have to rely on getting it from their website. Backup options – dial up (yes you can still get it) but only useful if it isn’t your whole phone line gone. Mobile broadband – get a PAYG mobile broadband stick, get it configured on your system before you need it – you’ll need broadband access to do it and if your signal is weak. There’s loads of packages out there from daily to monthly use. Make sure there’s no contract so that if you start using it you’re not paying for the next 6 months!

You could use your smart phone – many of these will connect to your computer via Bluetooth. Make sure it works before you need it!

Make sure you know where your nearest Costa Coffee or Starbucks is – they usually have WiFi Internet access.

Loss of phone/internet

To get Internet, follow the advice above. For your phone use your mobile. Get your landline provider to redirect your landline calls to your mobile at their expense. One thing to check now is whether your landline provider can redirect calls to your mobile. If they can’t, change provider now.

Power outage

Everything goes off – no computer, monitor, Internet. Make sure all your critical computers are on a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) along with their monitors and your network hub. A UPS is basically a big battery that is charged from the mains. When the mains power goes out it takes over supplying power for a time – anything from 5 minutes to several hours. This will give you time to do a controlled shut down of your systems or for the power to come back on. Just a note here – do make sure that your monitor is also on the UPS otherwise you’ll not be able to see what you’re doing

Anything else?

When I started my business I had three keys for my business – honesty, integrity and copious amounts of coffee. I have 2 spare kettles, one electric and one that can go on the gas hob. If all else fails I can at least offer you a cup of coffee or tea.

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Single points of failure
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Single points of failure
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In any IT setup there are a number of potential “single points of failure”. By a single point of failure I mean if that one thing fails or goes wrong, everything stops working. In this article I’m going to look at several single points of failure and what you can do to reduce the chance of these failure happening and how you can recover should such a failure occur.
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Network Midlands Ltd
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