Providing mobile IT pros with remote access to all business apps may put a company’s vital information at risk. Read Security in the Wireless Revolution to find out about today’s available wireless systems and the type of security you need to avoid costly and dangerous security concerns.

If you are like most IT professionals, you either cannot
live without your handheld device or are supporting users who feel the same
way. Handheld devices have rapidly become an extension of our everyday work
lives and so it’s no surprise that data backup is a critical exercise.

Within the confines of a company’s network, data stored on
desktops and network devices are generally backed up routinely, but how do you
guarantee the ever-changing data stored on the multitude of mobile handhelds
you are supporting is getting backed up?

Ongoing education is necessary to ensure that users
understand how volatile their mobile information is and how regular backups will
help guarantee that sensitive or critical data is not lost.

The first step

While the old adage of backing up data to a tape drive or
additional hard drives is still a tried and proven technique, it does not fully
address handheld devices and our need for more mobility with our networks.

Without a wireless connection, handheld devices are not
directly connected to the standard “backup” system (see Figure A) and can be lost in the
overall scheme.

Figure A

This is the standard backup approach in which data from a desktop is saved
to a network server and typically onto a tape drive.

The standard “backup location” for handheld
devices is a user’s local hard drive. Yet this creates a problem when data is
swapped back and forth from the desktop to handheld devices. If it was not for
the standard “syncing” program that most handhelds feature even the
basic address book and calendar information might never get properly saved.

The problem lies in the storing of applications and data
files on handhelds, which may not be covered by the standard sync programs, and
the data being stored only on the user’s local PC. Remember—in the world of
handhelds—your backup information is only as good as the last time you
synchronized it. An even greater challenge is the syncing and backing up of
users who are away from the office for extended periods of time.

Backing up Tablet PCs

Tablet PCs have created a new chapter in support for most
organizations. Whether directly connected or truly wireless, backup
requirements do not fit into the standard model like Figure A.

Your company may deploy Tablets but if they’re
“gone” from the network connections for extended periods, you need to
pay attention. With the extensive mobility of handhelds, and their unique “part-time”
(see Figure B), indirect connections
to the user’s PC, you can use a process within Windows called “Offline
Files” that allows for the backing up of data to the server storage areas,
which can then be backed up regularly. This is an extremely important and
useful tool to combat lost mobile data.

Figure B

In this scenario, data from a PDA, such as a Tablet PC, must be connected
to the network for backup of data.

Dale Priddy, director of engineering services at Absolute
Networking Systems, has provided a helpful, downloadable document
for using the Windows Offline Files
feature as a backup approach.

According to Priddy, the Offline Files feature allows users
to keep using network files, folders, and applications when disconnected from
the network (Figure C).

“To users, this is transparent; offline, they’ll have
the same access permissions to the files and folders that are available when
they’re connected to the network,” he explained, adding that “best of
all, when they reconnect, all the changes they’ve made to those files will be
made to the files on the network, via offline file synchronization.”

Any file or folder that is shared on a Microsoft network can
be made available offline, as long as the computer on which it’s stored
supports SMB-based file and printer sharing. (This includes all Windows
9x/NT4/2000/XP computers.)

Please note, while the downloadable guide document uses XP
as its example, the steps and procedure are basically the same with Windows
9x/NT4/2000/XP computers.

Figure C

This diagram illustrates the ideal flow path data will take in using
Offline Files to ensure that the handheld device is fully backed up.

Backing up away from home

road warriors or home-based users you may need to set up an entirely different
backup scheme. Some quick solutions include:

  • Using portable, small
    USB memory sticks and multimedia cards to transfer data for additional
  • In a jam, an MP3 player
    can be used to back up vital data.
  • Using external Zip
    drives along with inexpensive auto-backup software.

In today’s high tech, global world, data is the new form of
currency and value—it can make or break a company. It is a commodity that is
irreplaceable and can destroy a company or put it ahead of its competitors.
Downtime due to loss of data, recovering data, or rebuilding outdated files can
cost thousands of dollars a day or in some cases, thousands of dollars a
minute. That’s why it’s critical that no matter where your data is stored you
need to know how to best protect it by backing it up.