Wednesday, July 13, 2016

CYA 101 - Protect Yourself

Volume Shadow Copies Viyu

Data backup and protection is a very important part of any network infrastructure, any computing system for that matter.  One of the simplest forms of data protection is often overlooked in new Microsoft file server setup.  This protection is Volume Shadow Copies.  
Volume shadow copies have been available since the release of the now retired Windows Server 2003 platform.  The shadow copies are enabled at the drive level of the server.  It is a simple setup that takes seconds and can provide great relief in a pinch.  It is not enabled by default and is often overlooked by administrators.
Volume shadow copies mark the disk blocks and saves the older versions for as long as the allocated space allows.  It will enable restore of data from the OS level quickly.  The volume shadow copy service is also very beneficial for backup programs to allow for online program and file backup.
To enable Volume shadow copies, you simple go to the properties of the root drive under file explorer and enable shadow copies.  The default schedule will create a copy at 7AM and 12PM daily.  You can add additional times if desired.  You can also setup a maximum disk size to allocate to shadow copies, but the defaults usually suffice.
Enabling shadow copies has the benefit, and curse, of allowing users to recover their own data.  Properly trained users can recover accidentally deleted files without taking up administrator cycles.  Most users have no idea this feature exists, and I have had great success with training key personnel.  The potential for a user to restore an entire folder to a previous version does exist.  You can control this with group policy settings if desired.
Volume shadow copies is not a replacement for a good backup solution.  It is designed to work with backups systems and provides the added benefits of quick file recovery.  I have seen it save hours of restore time from the dreaded crypto malware.  I have also seen it save an administrator from a failing backup system.  An outside the box benefit is immediate drive space recovery.  If your file system runs out of space, you can disable the feature and immediately claim back the allocated space, buying you some time to upgrade.
Viyu recommends implementing volume shadow copies on any servers with user shared folders.  It might CYA someday!
Dax Wiseman – VP Engineering