Book Reviews

Backup To Disk Now Cover

Anyone looking to decrease the insanity of their backup systems should get ahold of this book and read it! I run a data center in S. California and we are constantly struggling with the massive amount of backup space we continue to chew up. We operate a good sized multi head robotic tape backup system designed around LTO tape units with fiber gig connection between our main tape unit library and most of the servers that we back up.

We are using a very well rated, expensive and very well known tape backup software that everyone has heard of today. One of the major issues is that we run backup all the time. By that I mean that we are running all tape units 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to keep up with all of our backup requirements.

We can continue to grow utilizing the system we currently have in place, of that there is no doubt. It has never failed us, but it has its drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is the need for tape media. Tape does not have an unlimited life span, it has to be replaced…..sometimes at the worst possible moment it would seem. Second, if a client deletes something off of one of our web servers and he needs it back, we have to shut down the entire backup system, load which ever tape library is needed, spool his data back off of the tape, reload the tape libraries and restart he backup job, making sure everything goes smoothly. Sometimes, you recover files you have been asked to recover, only to find out that the customer needed different files ! Needless to say, I am always on the prowl for new and better ways of doing things.

With that in mind, a very good friend of mine tells me about a book he is writing about backing up to hard drives utilizing software called “Backup for Workgroups” as opposed to tape media. At first, I listened to what he had to say, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking….hard drives..? That sure sounds expensive! But Bill and I have been friends for almost 15 years, and when he suggested that if I looked at the overall cost of a tape infrastructure and more importantly – engineering time and time for systemwide backups, I may find that it would be cheaper in the long run to backup to hard drives instead of disks, that is what I did.

So as a proof of concept, Bill and I sat down and designed a 10TB backup system utilizing 500GB SATA hard drives in a RAID 6 configuration. After looking at all the costs including hardware, software licensing, design, testing and deployment, I was amazed to see what the cost was. I was amazed because it was a lot less than what I was expecting to see!

Next, Bill and I spent quite a bit of time discussing data center specific applications and how we could use the backup software his book talks about in our specific environment including Linux, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Solaris. While “Backup for Workgroups” does not have specific clients for Linux and Solaris, we did conceive a great workaround using SAMBA . We have (for years) ran windows spacific data warehousing projects on Linux boxes running SAMBA. Generally becuase we don’t have to get additional windows licensing, and also because it solves a lot of problems, mostly on the performance side of the house – in the end, a Linux box running SAMBA does a far better job as a windows file server than Windows 2000 or XP does. Now before we spark a religions debate, I am a firm believer in using Windows for what Windows does well and using Linux for what Linux does well. In this case, we found Linux and SAMBA to do a far better job warehousing our Windows based accounting application than Windows could do.

Since Bill had written a book on the subject, I got my hands on a copy and read it. Its a fantastic book, written at a level that allows someone not familiar with the software or the concepts to easily understand both, but more importantly, it enpowers them to make informed decisions when it comes to their backup situation.

Since I have a facility in LA, one of the things I was interested in was offisite replication as well as using the software to backup customer’s equipment as a service. I suggested that Bill look at VMWare and I understand he is working on testing the deployment of “Backup for Workgroups” under a VMWare server running under Linux. Each “server” would be a different customer, guaranteeing total privacy and security of customer’s data.

Overall, I think Bill did a fantastic job with his book and getting his knowledge across to the readers. If you are having problems with your backups, I highly recommend getting a copy of Bill’s book from his website or from Amazon. You will not regret it!

Night Fall Cover

Night Fall is a book about TWA Flight 800. I know what some of you may be thinking, but read the first few lines by Nelson first:

“This is a work of fiction, based on fact: the crash of TWA Flight 800 that occurred off Long Island, New York, on July 17, 1996….”

We start with John Corey, a rough and gruff ex-NYPD hero turned contract FBI investigator, who is roped into attending the 5 year memorial of the TWA crash by his FBI wife (and crash investigator at the time of the TWA 800 crash) Kate Corey. John joins Kate and is moved by what he sees at the memorial, but more interesting, he is intrigued by the fact that the FBI takes the time to tell him to back off any investigating he may want to do.

Later, Kate asks him to “look into” the crash as she is not satisfied about the “official conclusion” that was reached in the crash. From there, the story grips you and takes you for the ride of your life with an ending that I never saw coming. I don’t really want to tell you more about the story as doing so gives up some of its great values. But if you like suspense, who-done-its, mystery and government coverups, this is a must read for you.

You may ask why I read this book – its simple. As a pilot with almost 20 years of flying under my wings, I never really accepted the “official” story about TWA Flight 800. I spent time reading about it and wondering why so many eye witnesses saw the same thing only to be told they didn’t “really” see what they thought they saw. We have many acknowledged experts in the field of accident (military and civilan) investigation that have lawsuits filed against the government (CIA, FBI, NTSB), and even more I wonder – if a spark in the center fuel tank caused the explosion, why does the government still have information classified as “Top Secret” involving this crash…?

So what do I think happened…? I am not sure, but I do not think TWA 800 was brought down by a spark in the center fuel tank.

Will we ever know what really happened to TWA Flight 800…? I don’t know, but someday someday it might be nice if we actually find the truth.

If you are interested in more information about TWA Flight 800, Please visit – you may find yourself wondering what really happened to TWA 800.