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Backup maintenance: Five key points to consider



Backup maintenance: Five key points to consider

If organisations depend on their data, then they need robust backups – but making sure backup is effective is a challenge. Backing up business data has become easier over the past decade, through improvements in backup technologies, better-performing storage systems and the option to backup to the cloud. Firms no longer rely solely on cumbersome and potentially fragile physical backup media.

But these developments have added complexity at the same time, as firms face ever-greater volumes of data. To keep to recovery time objectives (RTO), IT teams need to ensure backups actually work. And to ensure that, backup infrastructure needs maintenance.

In its 2022 data protection survey, supplier Veeam found that organisations plan to increase spending on backup and disaster recovery by 5.9%. This is unsurprising: the previous year’s survey found that 37% of backup jobs, and 34% of recoveries, failed.

First of all, organisations need to understand where their data is, and its size and format. Structured data held in a database on an on-premise server is fairly easy to manage, for example.

Unstructured data, split across local NAS devices, private and public clouds, is much harder to track. And firms also need to consider data in software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, in virtual machines (VMs) and potentially in containers, which can be much harder.

Staff planning backup and recovery also need to consider file and volume sizes. This applies to backup locally and to the cloud. Impacts here may include time constraints on backup windows and being able verify backups, but it also includes recovery. A cheap, cloud-based backup will be a false economy if it takes too long to recover files.

This links back to the organisation’s recovery time objective and recovery point objective (RPO). If recovery plans are not checked, they might not operate as planned. And if backup systems are not maintained, growth in data volumes, the size of VMs or even the number of containers could make recovery within the RTO impossible.

Ensure all data is backed up

Backup procedures often fail, not because of a technical fault or data corruption, but because a critical piece of data or even an entire application or VM is missed.

“For a backup strategy to work, and be both efficient and effective, an organisation needs to understand the data they’re working with, where it is, and the size of the datasets,” says Stephen Young, a director at AssureStor, which sells backup technology into the IT channel. “Taking time and resources to compile a comprehensive data map will help with your backup strategy.”

He adds that firms need to think about where data is backed up. On-premise backups are quick, but do not protect against disruption at the local site. Cloud backup will, but it relies on internet connectivity.

And, although companies now make more use of automated backup management and even artificial intelligence (AI), these are not infallible. “Unfortunately, there is no backup tool that detects infrastructure components that are not backed up,” says Alex MacDonald, chair of SNIA EMEA.

Failures can happen because resources are installed but not included in the backup policy, or because a new resource is installed and the owner does not consider backup. To fix this, all new systems should be covered in the backup policy by default.

Maintain and optimise backups

Up-to-date backup software is generally dependable, and solid-state storage is reliable. But spinning disk media can fail, tape has a recommended number of times it can be rewritten, and even SSDs have a finite lifespan.

IT departments should monitor hardware lifecycles and plan for replacements, but they should also use monitoring and reporting tools to maintain a view of the backup system.

“Backup technologies have gone a long way in reliability enhancements, and the move from tape to disk, including deduplication platforms have improved backup reliability tremendously,” says SNIA’s MacDonald. “Failures may still occur, but it is very unlikely to be attributed to storage.”

Reporting will give teams details of the last successful backup, and of any errors. They can then use this to pinpoint any areas of risk. Firms can use the ITIL Incident Management process to track failures.

SNIA is also seeing a move to use AI in backup applications, “to relieve administrators from reviewing thousands of backup jobs nightly”. Making multiple copies of important data further reduces the risks.

And effective maintenance needs to extend to virtual environments, including VMs and containers, too. If these services have changed since the backup software was installed, they might not be backed up properly.

“Nowadays, when it is so easy to spin up virtual machines, things can be missed from the backup,” says Adrian Moir, principal engineer at IT management firm Quest. “Provisioning methodology that automatically picks up new sources and includes notes on notifying whoever is responsible for a backup can improve backup efficiency.”

Organisations should keep the volume of data they backup under review. For on-premise systems this is important when optimising and upgrading hardware. It is even more important with the cloud. Cloud storage’s elastic nature allows firms to store ever more data. This adds to costs, and can make restores impractical.

Last, for physical backups, consider access to media. Where are tapes held, and how quickly can they be retrieved? Firms should assess the security of off-site and main site locations. 

Test, and test again

No backup and recovery plan is effective without testing, and testing is a key part of the maintenance cycle.

IT teams need to test that backups work and, critically, whether they can recover from them. This includes restores from and potentially to the cloud, for example, by spinning up not just storage but compute instances, too.

“Some organisations perform periodic test restores to ensure backups are working correctly, while others track production restores and validate that each production instance or resource is restored at least once a year,” says Alex MacDonald at SNIA.

Testing is the most effective way to spot configuration errors, faults, corrupted backups and failures in the backup plan. Testing can be disruptive, especially to production systems, but it is worth it.

Even though backup software is generally reliable, misconfiguration, including files being open during the backup process, or a firewall between a client and backup server, does cause failures.

“Companies must create a backup and recovery testing policy, to make sure that everything runs and restores smoothly,” says Adrian Moir at Quest. “If a backup solution is not set up to notify you about it automatically, then only testing can reveal that.”

Plan for backup product upgrades

Finally, although not strictly a maintenance issue, IT teams should plan for backup software upgrades.

Backup systems do need maintenance and patching. Firms need to deploy supplier updates, as well as operating system updates and patches. This is even more important given the prevalence of ransomware. Ransomware will seek out vulnerabilities, including in backup tools.

Vendors are adding new capabilities, too, including ransomware protection with support for immutable backups, better support for VMs and for containers.

Backup tools, like any other software, is prone to “technical debt”, becoming less efficient over time. Older software might be slower, less robust or have poorer reporting. This is in addition to security patches.

IT teams should keep on top of supplier upgrade cycles, so they can plan updates around their own workloads and ensure there is enough time for testing.

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5 reasons you should buy a cheap phone over an expensive one



5 reasons you should buy a cheap phone over an expensive one
Moto G22 face down on top of a wall

The Moto G22 on a wall.
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking for a new phone, a key consideration is always budget – you want to buy the best phone you can afford. But maybe, even if you’ve got the money for a premium device, you should still opt for a cheap phone.

“Wait,” you’re probably thinking, “are you asking me to spend less than I’m able on my new phone?”  Yes, I am – you’re absolutely right.

You see, despite budget phones being weaker than premium ones in quite a few ways (obviously), there are a few departments in which they actually beat top-end models.

So we’re going to run through some different areas in which cheap phones actually trump their pricier rivals. 

1. It costs less money

Okay, we’ve got to start with the really, really obvious point. A cheap phone is – you guessed it – cheaper than an expensive one.

If you spend less on your phone, you’ve got more to spend on the best power banks, phone cases, charging cables, and so on. Plus, you’ve got extra for non-smartphone things. Y’know: bills, food, transport, and so on.

Smartphones operate on the rule of diminishing returns: a $400 smartphone is not twice as good as a $200 one, and a $1,200 phone isn’t twice as good as a $600 version or four times better in any way than a $300 one.

So if you want the best bang for your buck, a budget mobile will get you there.

Moto G9 Power

The Moto G9 Power has a massive battery. (Image credit: Future)

2. Much better battery life

Phones don’t have great battery life sometimes: when you factor in features like 5G, high refresh rates, top-end processors, and so on, a giant battery can get worn down incredibly quickly.

But you know what cheap phones don’t have? That’s right – any of those features. If a phone is 4G-only, has a low-res screen, and only runs with a middling chipset, it uses the battery at a much slower rate. All of the longest-lasting smartphones are budget ones.

That’s doubly the case when you consider that cheap phone makers like to use huge batteries in their phones – plenty have 5,000mAh power packs. Motorola has even used 6,000mAh ones in some phones, and certain Chinese rugged phone brands have gone even higher.

If you want a long-lasting phone, you’ve got to opt for a cheap handset with fewer features. It also makes such devices reliable for more extended periods.

3. Hardier designs

Glass has become one of the most commonly-used materials for smartphones – it adds to a premium-feeling build and looks good from all angles. 

But you know what glass isn’t? Durable. It can easily smash from an impact like a drop. It’s also slippery, making glass phones harder to hold. Because of this, mid-range and premium phones are more susceptible to damage, even if brands slap silly marketing terms on them like ‘Gorilla Glass Victus’ or ‘Ceramic Shield’.

Cheap phone makers generally stay away from glass. This is mainly because of cost, but it’s beneficial for affordable phone fans because plastic is hardier.

A plastic phone is much more likely to survive a drop or hard knock, letting you avoid the experience of having to get your device repaired as often (or ever, hopefully).

Realme 9 Pro Plus

The Realme 9 Pro Plus has a cool-looking, yet plastic, rear. (Image credit: Future)

4. Cooler chipsets

Cheap phones often have cooler chipsets. No, we don’t mean ‘sunglasses and Tommy Bahama shirt cool’ – we mean temperature-wise.

Premium phones get top-end chipsets, which provide loads of processing power for tasks like games. An annoying side-effect of loads of power, though, is that these chips can get incredibly hot if you use them for long periods.

Counter-intuitively, this means that mid-range chips can be better for gaming if you like playing for extended amounts of time, and don’t need the most top-end graphics available to you.

As you can imagine, budget phones often have weaker internals, so they generally don’t have overheating issues, and are fine for gaming. Plus, in this day and age, you rarely find phones that are slow, even in the lower-cost market.

5. A bigger range of fingerprint scanners

There’s a trend in the premium phone market towards in-screen fingerprint scanners, where the sensor for unlocking your phone is embedded under the display.

This is a fine way of unlocking your device for some, but if you prefer a back- or side-mounted scanner, you’re mostly out of luck at the top end of the market.

That’s not the case for cheap phones, though: you’ll find those digit sensors all over the place in the lower end of the market. Some phones have them in-screen, others have them on one or both sides of the phone, while plenty have the scanner on the back.

So if you like tapping the rear of your phone to unlock it, or caressing the side of the device, instead of just tapping the screen, budget devices are, in fact, the best phones for you.

Tom Bedford

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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We’re in love with this leaked Xbox Elite Series 2 controller design



We’re in love with this leaked Xbox Elite Series 2 controller design
An Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 in white

(Image credit: Nicholas Lugo)

The Xbox Elite Series 2 wireless controller looks like it’s getting a brand new color variant with a White Edition.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 has so far only been available in its default black color scheme. But a short clip shared on Twitter (opens in new tab) by leaker Rebs Gaming shows off a new white edition in the flesh.

The clip starts by showing the premium Xbox Series X|S controller’s box. Next, we’re given a look at the controller itself, which wears a clean white-on-black coat.

All the usual Elite Controller bells and whistles are accounted for. That includes the carry case, swappable analog sticks and customizable back paddle buttons. It looks like the genuine article, though we’ve heard nothing from Microsoft to confirm if or when the pad will actually be released.

A sign of pads to come?

Leak: I think this is our first footage of the Xbox Elite Series 2 White Edition controller. A leaked image of the controller was shown by @IdleSloth84 back in March. Source: https://t.co/WfMCEk3FQv#Xbox #XboxOne #XboxSeriesX pic.twitter.com/t97qbaNPCuAugust 8, 2022

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Okay, sure, the White Edition isn’t exactly the most daring design Microsoft could’ve chosen for its Elite pad. But it’s nonetheless eye-catching. I think that keeping certain parts of the controller black – like the sticks and grips – is a smart aesthetic choice. They contrast really nicely with the white center.

The Elite Series 2 is an excellent controller. But it’s lacking the one thing that the regular Xbox Wireless Controller has in abundance: color options. We’ve seen countless bold designs for the standard Xbox controller, including an eye-popping special edition for Forza Horizon 5 and a stunning hot pink design. But the Elite hasn’t really had the same treatment yet.

I hope that this new White Edition not only comes to market, but that it’s also a gateway for more ambitious designs for Xbox’s top pad. Seriously, a purple Elite pad would be an instant buy for me, and probably for many others, too.

Rhys Wood

Rhys is Hardware Writer for TechRadar Gaming, and while relatively fresh to the role, he’s been writing in a professional capacity for years. A Media, Writing and Production graduate, Rhys has prior experience creating written content for app developers, IT firms, toy sellers and the main TechRadar site. His true passions, though, lie in video games, TV, audio and home entertainment. When Rhys isn’t on the clock, you’ll usually find him logged into Final Fantasy 14, Halo Infinite or Sea of Thieves.

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Street Fighter 6 is bringing the ‘80s (and feet) back



Street Fighter 6 is bringing the ‘80s (and feet) back

Here come some new challengers. At the end of EVO 2022’s Street Fighter V tournament, Capcom revealed two more characters coming to the roster of Street Fighter 6: Juri, the “I can fix her” returning fighter, and newcomer Kimberly, an ‘80s-obsessed teen.

Kimberly, the spunky new ninja, and Juri, the sadistic thrill-seeker, join #StreetFighter6 when it arrives in 2023! Spray cans, a portable cassette player, and motorcyles have never looked more fresh. ️ pic.twitter.com/Lnw87p27aP

— Street Fighter (@StreetFighter) August 8, 2022

Student of Guy and successor to the bushinryu tradition, Kimberly is spunky and colorful with an affinity for spray painting her enemies midmatch. Though Kimberly is a teenager and Street Fighter 6 seems to be set in the current day, she’s enamored with all things ‘80s, carrying around a cassette player that some younger players probably won’t even recognize.

It’s like Capcom is aware that, in addition to its younger audience, there’s a certain subset of older Street Fighter players rising from their creaking knees and aching back looking at the ‘80s with fondness. In that way, Kimberly is a send-up, a reminder of simpler times. In other ways, she’s a very rude reminder that those happy days are so far behind us now that current teenagers are adopting the aesthetic because it’s quaintly “retro.” Thanks, Capcom, for reminding me I’m old.

Accompanying Kimberly in the character reveal is Juri, a character first introduced in Street Fighter IV. Juri arrives in flashy style with an homage to the Akira slide that’s been having a moment lately, as it was also used to awesome effect in Jordan Peele’s Nope. Juri seems a bit edgier than Kimberly, stomping all over her enemies in bare feet emphasized in ways that would make Bob Odenkirk click “like.” It’s always neat when companies seemingly embrace the thirst players have for its characters.

We’ll get the chance to see more of Juri and Kimberly’s stories when Street Fighter 6 launches on Xbox, PC, and PlayStation in 2023.

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