Where does data come from: Laptops & desktops

The datacenter is no longer the center of data.  Data that needs to be protected comes from a variety of sources, most of which are not the datacenter. The first one I’m going to talk about is laptops and desktops.

There was a time when personal computers were used to access company data, rather than create it. In my first corporate job, I remember using a 3270 terminal to use Lotus 123 or Word Perfect.  Documents created in that terminal were not stored on that terminal; it had no hard drive or floppy drive!

(From IBM 3270 on Wikipedia)

Documents created on that computer were stored on the company’s servers in the datacenter. Then I was responsible for backing up those servers. I remember backing up hpfs01, or HP file server 01, where all that data was stored.

If you wanted to create data, you came to the office and you used the 3270 to do so.  No one took their data home.  No one created data at home.  Even once we added the ability to dial in from your home PC, you used a terminal emulator to telnet into the Lotus or WordPerfect server to do your actual work.

Enter Windows, stage left

I still remember the first time I saw Joe (his real name) using Windows in the office, and I remember they were using some new thing called Microsoft Word. I remember fighting the idea for so many reasons, the first of which was how was I supposed to back up the data on that guy’s floppy drive?   We forced that user to store any data he created in his home directory on hpfs01.  Problem solved.

We weren’t in danger of having Joe take his work home.  His PC was strapped to his desk, as laptops just weren’t a thing yet. I mean, come on, who would want to bring one of these things home?  (From http://www.xs4all.nl/~fjkraan/comp/ibm5140/ )

Enter the laptop

Once laptops became feasible in the mid to late 90s, things got more difficult. Many companies staved off this problem with corporate policies that forced employees to store data on the company server.

For a variety of reasons these approaches stopped working in the corporate world. People became more and more used to creating and storing data on their local PC or laptop.

A data protection nightmare

The proliferation of data outside the datacenter has been a problem since the invention of cheap hard drives.  But today it’s impossible to ignore that a significant amount of data resides on desktops and laptops, which is why that data needs to be protected.

It must be protected in a way that preserves for when that hard drive goes bad, or is dropped in a bathtub, or blows up in a battery fire.  All sorts of things can result in you needing a restore when you have your own hard drive.

It also must be protected in a way that allows that data to be easily searched for electronic discovery (ED) requests, because that is the other risk of having data everywhere. Satisfying an ED request for 100s of laptops can be quite difficult if you don’t have the ability to search for the needle in a haystack.

My next post will be about why portable hard drives are the worst way you can back up this important data.

Check out Druva, a great way to back up this data.

----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.