File Backup and Restore When Working From Home

Data preservation and backup. New IT support challenges in a world of working from home.

File Backup and Restore When Working From Home

Every IT support team has had that phone call.

[phone rings]

“Hello, IT support.”

“Hi. I’ve deleted/overwritten/can’t find an important file. Can you restore it for me?”

“When was the last time you accessed it?”

“Last Thursday, I think… Maybe in the afternoon? Byeeeeeeeee.”

[click!]

Depending on your backup strategy you might first look at Volume Shadow Copies at the location (if enabled, remember its not by default). You could check your backup-to-disk solution or even go searching for the right tape to restore from. This strategy, however, only works if the users are working from a network drive or are based on-premise. If they are saving the file locally on their computer, however, they may be disappointed. This problem has been compounded by events this year, with large numbers of workers all setting up an office from home.

2020 has bought a unique set of challenges to the IT world. One of the more pressing has been the requirement to greatly expand the Working From Home (WFH) capability of their IT environment. The first issue facing Admins was quickly sourcing equipment. Business-class laptops were one of the first things to have availability issues due to early issues in China – quickly followed by things such as webcams and second monitors.

So you’ve got a user who has been working from home for a while, and they’ve just deleted an important document, you could remote onto their desktop to try and find it in the forlorn hope they’ve just misplaced it or its in the recycle bin.  Or you could restore it, and this is where our story really begins.

deeserve was tasked with providing a solution to around 50 laptop users who could all work remotely (this task was all completed just before the first lockdown!) but their files would be housed centrally for backup purposes.

This would require a number of different technologies in order to produce the desired effect:

  • First, a new Windows Server 2019 file server that would host a Distributed File System (DFS).
  • Group policies (GPO) that would redirect key user folders (Documents, Desktop, etc.) to this DFS share (hosted on the new file server).
  • Cisco ASA with a licence to use their AnyConnect VPN software for connectivity from the laptop, back to the central infrastructure, or private cloud.

What this means is that the contents of key user folders are located in two places – on the user’s own device and the file server infrastructure.  When a change is made to a file Windows Offline Files processes this and updates the relevant document to keep the two locations in sync. What this also means is that if a replacement device is shipped to them then when they log in for the first time, their files will be automatically synced to it, protecting files against hard drive failure as well as accidental deletions and overwrites.

Using Cisco AnyConnect, the laptop connects to the VPN as soon as the lid is opened and you are presented with the login screen.

Going back to our earlier scenario: If a user using a laptop in this configuration needs a file restoring then we would restore the file as normal. We would place it in the users own file structure on the file server and the next time their laptop syncs it would then transfer the newly restored file to their machine – or they could initiate a manual sync if instructed to do so.  This gives the user a degree of protection for wherever they are in the world (and within range of an internet connection).

Arguably all of this could be achieved by using Microsoft OneDrive or a similar service (such as Dropbox), but not all clients are keen to rely so much on the ‘cloud’. This solution is effectively a private cloud where all data is held within any company controlled infrastructure.

We’re all about custom solutions and bespoke IT support to make sure our customers get the service they need. If you’d like to know, give us a call to see how we can help.

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