ComTech: IT Support Stirling
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Dropbox


Today I am going to introduce you to a different way of sharing files.  That way is Dropbox.  Dropbox is a piece of software that allows you to store all your files, securely, online.  With your files stored online  you can then access them from anywhere with an internet connection.

How does Dropbox work?

Dropbox installs a folder onto your computer during initial set up.  Anything you store inside that folder is then automatically synchronised with the Dropbox online servers allowing you to access your files from anywhere.  It is that simple.  You can run Dropbox on Windows, Linux and Mac which allows easy set up of a cross platform network.  It can also provide a solution when accessing network resources from tablets too.

How much does it cost?

Personal

You get 2 Gb free.  It costs $9.99 for 100 Gb or $19.99 for 200Gb.  All these prices are per month.

Business

For business Dropbox charges $795 for 5 users with additional users costing $125.  These prices are per year.  For this you get 1 Tb of storage space with 200 Gb added for every user.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages

1. Folders are synchronised automatically.

2. Allows file sharing across multiple platforms.

3. Files can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

4. Very easy to set up.

5. You get 2Gb free!!

Disadvantages

1.. Bandwidth.  If you upload large numbers of files or big files then you are going to use up your ISP allowance very quickly.

2. Your data is being stored off your premises and looked after by someone else.

Personally I use Dropbox as a sharing and backup solution and in both cases I am very impressed by it.

About the Author

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Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Backup Strategies


Most people know about the need to backup your data but what is the best way to do it. Today we shall take a look at some different strategies and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Having a Server

Using a server to backup your data has long been established as a sound way to store your backups and for good reason – it keeps all your backups in one place and is easy to manage. You set up the scheduled backup and leave it to it.  It is not all rosy though.  There is the price of the windows software (unless you set up a Linux server) and if the server crashes you could use everything.

Pros – easy to manage, backups all in one place.

Cons – price of Windows software (although can be set up on Linux), backup is on site so if the building catches fire (for example) then you lose everything.

External USB hard drives

External hard drives are a good way to back up your data especially as they can be taken off premises (or at least placed away from the main system).  They are cheap too which makes them very attractive.  One big downside though is lack of automation.  Yes you can still schedule a backup on your computer but you need to remember to plug in your hard drive at the specified time.  If you have more than one system then this can take up valuable time. If you chose not to schedule a backup but instead do it manually, you have to remember to do it everyday and how many people would be able to remember that (yours truly included).

Pros – cheap, can be taken offsite.

Cons – not automated, brings the ‘human factor’ into the backup strategy where things get forgotten, can be lost.

DVD / CD

There was a time when everyone was using these (me included) but as amounts of storage increased the shear number of DVD’s / CD’s required to backup all your data just got huge.  For example it would take 24 DVD’s to backup 100Gb of data!!

Pros – cheap, can be taken off site.

Cons – numbers involved to backup your data will just become huge, can be scratched and lost, not automated either.

Cloud Storage

The cloud is one of the buzz words floating around the IT world at the moment and one of the main points is online storage.  You upload your data to servers located somewhere else in the world.  The main advantage of this approach is that your data is stored away from your premises.  You are able to access your data at any time and you save in hardware costs.  The main disadvantages are that that you would have no control about the security that your data will receive (although these companies will have loads of security protocols that they must follow) and the monthly subscription to keep your data safe.

Pros – no extra hardware or software costs, data is kept away from your premises, automated.

Cons – possible security issues, monthly subscription charges, someone else looking after your data

NAS boxes

NAS stands for Network Attached Storage.  These are boxes which can hold two or more hard drives that are attached directly to your network.  They basically act like file servers without the expensive software costs.

Pros – relatively cheap, hard drives can be easily swapped and taken off site, backups can be automated.

Cons – additional hardware costs, if hard drives are not changed then your data is still on your premises.

So which one is best.  As usual it depends on what you are after and what your budget is.  I would recommend the following (remember this is just my professional opinion):

Business: Implement a NAS box but make sure that the hard drives are swapped either everyday (lots of data changes) or every couple of days (not a lot of changes).  Check outNovatech for deals on NAS boxes.

Home: Again you could use NAS boxes but I would be tempted with online storage coupled with external hard drives. This way your data is safely stored online but as I am paranoid about losing data I would still back up everything to an external hard drive (every couple of days or so) and store it in a different location within the house.  Check out dropbox for deals on online storage.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris the owner of ComTech. I provide IT Support and Computer repairs to both personal and business clients in and around Stirling. For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find my blog, testimonials, services and much more.  Start supporting a local business today so I can start supporting you.

If you found this blog useful then why not sign up to my RSS Feed for news, tutorials, views and general techie stuff!!

FreeNAS Tutorial

I have been playing around with old hardware recently and one of the things I have done is install and set up FreeNAS NAS storage. This tutorial will show you how.

Before we do anything you must first find out your network configuration.  In windows open up a command prompt and type ipconfig /all. In Linux open up a terminal and type ifconfig. Write down your IPv4 address, default gateway, subnet mask and DNS servers as we will be using this information later.

Now we need to get our hands on a copy of FreeNAS. The most recent version is 8 and you can get it here.  Once downloaded burn a copy to CD.  The next thing you have to do is decide where you are going to install it.  I chose an old computer I had lying around (thanks Rob) but you could just as well install it within a virtual machine. The computer had 10Gb of storage and I installed another 1.5Tb.  FreeNAS can be installed on a USB penstick thus saving your hard drive for network storage but since I had the 10Gb disk I used that instead.


Insert the CD into your computer and allow the software to install.  Once installed you will arrive at the console setup which will give you the URL to access your installation via a web interface.  For example mine was 192.168.1.12.

Open up your browser of choice and enter your FreeNAS URL.  When prompted the default username and password are:

admin and freenas (we will be changing this later)

You will then be faced with the FreeNAS interface where you can configure your server.

Network

The first thing you need to configure is your network interface and you do this by using the network tab.  Click on the network tab and you will be presented with more settings.  In Global Configuration choose a hostname, enter your default gateway (e.g 192.168.1.1) and your nameserver (usually the same as your default gateway).  Once done press ok.  Next click on Interfaces and then add interface.  You need to set your IPv4 address as static so it doesn’t change. So for example my network goes from 192.168.1.1 – 192.168.1.255 so I chose 192.168.1.3.  When you set this the web interface from now on will always be the address you enter so mine is now set to 192.168.1.3.  Also set your netmask.  Mine was 255.255.255.0 (so /24).

Users

Next thing we need to do is set the users who will be able to access our shares.  Click on Account (left menu) and go to Users – add user.  Add a username and a password (make sure this is the same as the user on your computer that will be accessing the shares).  Now expand Account – Groups – add group and add a new group who will be able to access the shares. Final thing is to add your username to the new group.  Click on Account – Groups – view all groups and then find the new group and click on members.  Add yourself to the new group.

Storage

Now we come to adding your storage.  Click on the storage tab and then add volume. Choose volume name, disk and filesystem type (use ZFS).  Once done click add volume.  The disk should now be visible with ONLINE next to it.  Next we need to set the permissions.  Click on Change Permissions and then chose who owns the file (should be set to your username). Then in owner group add the group you set up earlier and then set the permissions as required.  Once completed press save.

Sharing

We will now set up the shares.  Click on the sharing tab.  If you will be sharing to Windows machines click on Windows, Apple for Apple and Unix for Linux.  Add the share and set up as required.

Services

We now have to make sure that we can see the shares over the network.  Click on the services tab at the top of the screen.  For windows turn on CIFS and for Linux NFS.

Your FreeNAS server is now set up.

Accessing Shares over the network

For windows: right click on computer (Windows 7) and select map network drive.  Browse for the share.

For Linux: enter the following line into the fstab file

192.168.1.3: /mnt/MyDisk1 /media/dev/MyDisk1 nfs hard, 0 0

where:

  • 192.168.1.3 is the static address of your FreeNAS server
  • /mnt/MyDisk1 is the path to your FreeNAS storage
  • /media/dev/MyDisk1 is the mount point
  • nfs is the filesystem

One final thing is to change the default password to the web interface.  To do this expand Account – My Account – Change Password and enter your new password.  Do not forget this!!

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Linux and Mac based IT Support to small businesses throughout the Stirling, Falkirk and Alloa areas.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

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