What’s your backup plan?

scyther5Spring cleaning. Getting a fresh start. Purging. These are all great things to do with your life, as it allows you to focus on what is important. But what about the data on your computer? Old documents, pictures, financial data, family movies, etc. The easiest way to purge this is to not backup your machine and then have the unthinkable happen. Your computer crashes and all your data is gone. It is just like a natural disaster that we all too often see where people are digging through the debris just trying to find a picture or teddy bear, just to hold onto memories.

I have often preached the benefits and requirement to complete backups of  important data. Twenty years ago, it was easy to keep your data intact, as there just wasn’t that much of it. We didn’t have 1,000’s of pictures or even video stored on those personal computers. Financial data, probably, but most of that was also probably printed out on nice green bar paper for cataloging.

Today, our data is EVERYWHERE. Literally, everywhere. If you have more than one computer in the house, which many households do, you have spread it across multiple machines to minimize the loss of data. You have pictures in iPhoto and music in iTunes on your mac. You have work documents on your PC at work and your laptop at home. That next great book you were writing is in word. Yikes. So many devices, so many files.

carbonite-logoMy main machine at home was our Mac. We have moved our data from mac to mac as we upgraded the hardware every three to four years as the machine started to get a little slow as newer technology leapfrogged earlier versions. Over 12 years, and thousands of pictures, songs, movies of our kids, etc. were piling up on that Mac. We had no backups, nothing. I tried to make copies of the data to keep them up to date, but it was difficult as things were constantly being added to that machine, and doing backups were a royal pain. That’s when I purchased a subscription to Carbonite for my home machine. I paid the annual price, loaded the application and let it do its things. Gigabytes of data were pushed into the cloud and were kept constantly updated.

I would say at least a year went by and then it happened. I did a very stupid thing. We were doing major home renovations and the electric in the home office was somehow not working. Not to be deterred, I ran an extension cord across the house to power the computer and monitor. Note, this is not a wise decision, as that afternoon, major thunderstorms passed overhead and then I heard it — POP! Say goodbye to the Mac Pro. It was completely fried, including the hard drive. Of course I didn’t know for sure that the hard drive was fried until we brought it to the Apple store and the tech confirmed it. They were going to try and repair it, as it still had 25 days left of the AppleCare warranty. In the meantime, we purchased a brand new iMac, as it was getting to that three to four year timeframe.

I got home that night, booted up the machine and did all that Apple stuff you have to do and the next thing I did was install Carbonite and begin the restore process and let it run. Two days later, the Mac was completely back up and running with ALL of our data. All the pictures, all my child’s videos and schoolwork. Everything.

To this day, I use Carbonite on my home machine and my office machine. It makes doing backups simple. You really don’t have to do anything much in the setup, it will save your files for you. That is the thing that makes this program work the best, it is transparent.

I will say that Carbonite is my backup solution, but to be honest, I do also take important steps on some of my more valuable information and spread it across different cloud based on-line storage just in case.

So what’s your backup plan? Share your experiences and questions below.
Michael Franchino






Michael Franchino, Vice President, AX ConsultingSr. Network Consultant michael.franchino@customsystems.com



©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Windows Server 2003 Migration: Tasks Part 2 – Planning

Dusit PLANNINGIn Part 1, we discussed taking inventory. Now that we have our inventory, it is time to plan our Windows Server 2003 migration. The planning phase is very critical. This is where you are going to make major decisions that will affect your infrastructure going forward. We could do a straightforward migration going server to server or we could use this opportunity to make needed or desired changes to the infrastructure. Moving from Windows Server 2003 will make news technologies and advancements available. You do not have to create a plan from scratch. There are a number of tools we can use. For instance, Microsoft has the Assessment and Planning Toolkit. The web is full of helpful tools that you will have to log onto. Also, open your favorite browser and search engine to find what you need (say, a blog like this).

For our planning phase, we need to factor in the following:

  • Inventory – We took an inventory of our infrastructure in Part 1. We now need to assess that inventory.
  • Budget – How much we can spend determines what we can do to perform the migration. If we can afford to put up a new virtual environment or build on an existing virtual environment, then we virtualize. If we can only afford to utilize the hardware we have, then this is a rolling migration.
  • Man-power – The experienced resources available to work on this project and how much of their time they can allocate/dedicate.
  • Timeline – Given how long we have to complete this task, we can determine what we can accomplish.
  • Infrastructure and environment – The condition of our infrastructure and the environmental resources may require modifications to accomplish this project. If you are adding new servers, you may need new racks, more space, more cooling, and more power.
  • Symmetrical Projects – Those projects we can get done in conjunction with this project (i.e. virtualization) or those projects going on that could be impacted by our migration project.

Given the factors above, here are the general tasks in creating your plan:

  • Determine the project manager. Make sure you have someone who is dedicated to seeing this project through and can coordinate the plan.
  • Put the inventory into categories that make sense to your team and then prioritize the categories. The inventory facilitates our assessment of what we have.
  • Given the assessment and factors listed above, we can determine our needs, tasks, and what we can feasibly accomplish.
  • Determine the goals:
    • Are we migrating everything?
    • What are we migrating within our deadline? What can be migrated at a later time?
    • Are we trying to migrate and utilize the existing hardware or are we moving to new hardware?
    • Where will the supported applications reside?
      • New physical server?
      • Virtualization?
      • Moving to cloud services?
  • Determine your timing – Take your priorities and determine what can be accomplished within the allotted time frame and what needs to be done at a later time.
  • Map out the target destinations for the items you are migrating (i.e.virtualize, move to the cloud, upgrade, decommission, etc.)
  • Given the priority and desired outcome, determine how much time each task needs. Where possible, leave time for the unexpected. Try not to make your timeframes to tight. (Don’t read this out loud: If you want, use the Engineer Scott method. Give a time frame you know you can beat so you look good.)
  • Map your resources to your task. Determine the best available candidate(s) for each task.
  • Develop your timeline. Take the information and priorities you have gathered and map the tasks with a start date and time, duration, and an expected end date.
    • Include allowances for acquiring new resources. For instance, that SAN you ordered for the virtual environment may take three weeks to deliver. Use other tasks to fill the gaps where you are on hold. Even if they are a lower priority.
    • Include research time for each task. It does not hurt to admit that there are tasks your people are not sure how to accomplish. I would not want someone to try and migrate my DHCP from server 2003 to server 2012 without having experience or at least proper instructions. Within the planning documentation, note where to find the instruction sets.
    • Don’t oversaturate a resource. We all have environments where certain people will wind up being the subject matter expert for multiple tasks.
  • Document everything.

I know that I have greatly simplified the information listed above. The goals of the blogs in this series are to get you thinking, give you a general outline, and help keep you moving. I cannot stress enough that you need to be very detailed with your resulting planning. Your plan is what will be visible to your team and your management. You will most likely be held to the plan you publish. Proper planning will take out guesswork, cut down on surprises, help you handle the unexpected, and keep things running smoother.

In the next blog for this topic, we will look into our next step: ‘Build and Test.’

As always, I welcome your comments or questions. Please feel free to leave them below or email me directly. Also, be sure to bookmark our site for more information from Microsoft.




Sr. Network Consultant




©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Year-End – What to Expect in IT

time to plan Ivelin RadkovIf you look up information on preparing for the end of year in IT, the majority of the results will refer to accounting (which is not the results you were hoping to get). For many companies, the year-end is also the fiscal year-end. For consumer retail and sales companies, it is very likely the busiest time of the year thanks to the holiday season. As I write this, it is still about  week until Black Friday. That means I am writing this using cellular service, on my laptop, in front of a major chain store, where me and my tent are already 50th in line to get in on Black Thursday (previously known as Thanksgiving). Okay, maybe I exaggerate (a little).
So, how does all this affect IT? In many companies, the paradigm for IT changes from the rest of the year. At this point, production systems become locked. There are no further changes allowed to production until January of the next year. Only approved emergency and break/fix changes are allowed. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • For those companies that are busiest during the holiday season, they need IT to be prepared and ready to ramp up for the higher demand. Business hours will probably become longer and after-hours time will decrease. Systems are going to be busy. So busy, that more servers may be needed to supply increased demand. This is one of those places that the investment in virtualization will definitely pay off. This means that ITs primary focus will be on consistent and reliable day-to-day operations.
  • That fiscal year-end mentioned earlier, means the accountants, financial groups, and leaders in the organization are trying to close out the year and prepare for the next. Their highest priority is the next year is tax season. And of course, no changes or interruptions to their resources.
  • That fiscal year-end also means that the IT budget for the year has probably been allocated already (use it or lose it). There will probably little to nothing left for expenditures until the next year (which is a little over a month away). So, don’t expect a new project to be started.
  • IT directors and their staff will now have a stronger focus on next year’s budget and balancing their needs and wants. So more IT time will be allocated to reporting and forecasting.
  • It is the Holiday Season. It is the time that of the year where the greatest amount of vacation time is spent. Of these last five weeks of the year, children are out of school for about three of them. Even college kids are home from school for a significant amount of time. The organizations IT staff is going to be running a lot leaner. The smaller the IT staff, the bigger the impact. Very few places are going to give their entire IT staff time off at once, but they are still going to be running with a smaller crew. Trying to avoid problems while the expertise is not in-house will be a priority. Therefore, no changes until the end of the holiday season.
  • There are organizations that are affected differently by the end of the year. The items mentioned above play out differently for them. Some organizations have a fiscal year-end that is different from the calendar year-end. In most of those cases, they do that because the calendar year end is too busy to allow both conditions to occur at the same time. However, the time-off factor is going to affect almost every organization no matter how big or small.

So where does this leave IT? Those of us in IT need to perform the daily tasks and also prepare for the year-end. The year-end has alterations to backups, daily operations, resource needs and more. Check back here for blogs that are going to discuss the tasks we in IT need to perform to prepare for the end of one year and the start of the next.

Do you have any specific questions, or topic you’d like to us to discuss as it related to year-end planning? Please feel free to email me or post your questions below.




Sr. Network Consultant




© 2014 Custom Systems Corporation

Watching the Eagles game this weekend?

Eagles Next Opponent – Arizona Cardinals – Use Adaptive Insights for Budgeting

Adaptive InsightsThe Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League have successfully employed Adaptive Insights to develop their annual budgets for the past two years.  As a fan of Philadelphia sports teams, I am hoping that the Cardinals will have less success in their matchup with the Eagles this coming Sunday.  But, as a solutions partner for Adaptive Insights, I am excited about the success of the Cardinals organization… off the field.

As reported in a recent article by Dennis Howlett of diginomica.com, the Cardinals have achieved the following benefits by converting from spreadsheet budgeting to Adaptive Planning:

  • The time to complete the budget process was cut in half. Before Adaptive Planning, the process required three to four weeks; after Adaptive Planning, only one to two weeks.*
  • The time required to consolidate each budget iteration for 30 different responsibility centers was reduced from days to hours.
  • Operating managers spend less time on procedural reports and, as a result, have more time for value-added review and analysis of budget submissions.
  • Operating managers also rely less on financial staff to develop their budgets, giving them a greater sense of autonomy and control.

As an added benefit of converting to Adaptive Planning, the Cardinals organization has successfully transitioned to driver-based budgeting, providing more internal consistency to the overall budget.

With estimated annual revenue of $266 million and estimated operating income of $42 million, the Arizona Cardinals are at the upper end of what would be considered a middle market company.  They are organized into 30 distinct budget or responsibility centers that roll up to the total company budget.  Even with this scope and complexity, the Cardinal organization was able to implement Adaptive Planning in three and a half months, and this included time for both extensive system testing and intensive hands-on user training.

Click here for more information about the Arizona Cardinals’ experience with Adaptive Insights.

For more information about how your organization can achieve similar results with Adaptive Insights, give us a call or email me directly.

* This refers to what the Cardinals call the budget culmination process, which I interpret to mean that part of the process required for submission, consolidation, review, revision and approval.  I assume there is additional time required to actually prepare the budget model and develop drivers, assumptions and inputs.  The time to complete these preliminary steps in the process is typically reduced even more significantly by implementing Adaptive Planning.

Lou Butcher

Lou Butcher
Practice Leader




© Copyright Custom Systems Corporation 2014