Friday, October 19, 2007

NZ brewery offers beer for laptop

Well thats one way to deal with a data breach, [BBC NEWS] The Emergent Chaos folk will be happy.

It is not clear if the issue here is confidentiality or loss of the data. Since the information is almost certainly only useful to another brewer, if then I would guess the issue is that the files were not backed up.

Not exactly a security concern but a major concern for pretty much every computer user. Hard drives are cheap but reliable backup mechanisms are difficult to configure, tedious to use and expensive to maintain.

Microsoft and Apple keep missing the ball here. They are still stuck in the era of nightly backups to tapes held on site. Thats a 30 year old obsolete model.

Much better is active mirroring. At this point the only practical backup medium for a hard drive is another hard drive. Tape storage capacity has not moved since the mid 90s. A 500 Gb disk drive selling for $150 would cost five times that amount to back up to tape.

If you are using another hard drive you don't have to do backups in batch. Make the updates in realtime and do it transparently. The backup system should never be more than a few minutes behind the master. If the user needs to recover a lost file they use versioning (which Vista does support).

And this should be sold at commodity prices to consumers. Consumers need RAID5 as well. They just don't know what it is, nor should they, consumers don't really know how plumbing works either.

The user experience should be as follows. The consumer buys a home storage center at a store. They take it to their brother's house and plug it into his network. The storage system gives them an activation code. They then go home and log into the machine they want to back up, they start the storage wizard (perhaps this was distributed on a CD with the storage box) and enter the activation code. From now on their photographs are safe even if the house burns down.

If they run out of backup space they go round to their brother's house and slot in an extra drive. The RAID array rebalances itself transparently and automatically. If the brother gets nosey or the array is stollen the data cannot be read because its also transparently encrypted.

In a slicker version, the consumer and brother buy a box each for use as a local file store. Each box is used as a local NAS device and mirrors itself transparently to the other.

I now a LOT of consumers who would happily pay $500 to $1,000 for a box of that sort if the user experience was as simple as I describe. If however they have to grovell round configuring their NAT box or configuring drives then they won't buy it.

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