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Web host says sites are unrecoverable

It's every web administrator's worst nightmare -- your online presence is totally destroyed in a service outage.  That's precisely what happened when Australian domain registrar and web host Distribute.IT was attacked.

Over 4,800 websites were reportedly lost when the hackers struck last Saturday, as four servers were reportedly left unrecoverable.  The company comments:

The overall magnitude of the tragedy and the loss of our information and yours is simply incalculable; and we are distressed by the actions of the parties responsible for this reprehensible act.

At this time, We regret to inform that the data, sites and emails that were hosted on Drought, Hurricane, Blizzard and Cyclone can be considered by all the experts to be unrecoverable," it said.

While every effort will be made to continue to gain access to the lost information from those hosting servers, it seems unlikely that any usable data will can be salvaged from these platforms.

In assessing the situation, our greatest fears have been confirmed that not only was the production data erased during the attack, but also key backups, snapshots and other information that would allow us to reconstruct these servers from the remaining data.

The company promises to help customers "transfer your hosting and email needs to other hosting providers."

For large site owners that likely won't be a problem as they likely have save backup copies of their homepage.  For smaller operators, though, this could be very bad news, as many of them don't have the resources to save backup copies. 

Writes one customer in a local forum, "[The hack] has probably killed my business."

The question remains why Distribute.IT was penetrated so easily and thoroughly.  It is also baffling why they chose not to back up their data off-site as most hosting firms do.

As the potential for abuse of the stolen private information of website owners is great, these factors may play a key role in possible future legal proceedings by site owners against the company.

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RE: Dude, where's my data?
By Etsp on 6/22/2011 11:38:21 AM , Rating: 2
Desktops can be reinstalled, usually with clones. Servers can be reconfigured. End-User data can NOT be rebuilt. Customer data can NOT be rebuilt. It's fine to be selective of what you put into an offline backup system, but it is in no way OK to NOT HAVE ONE, and in no way is it OK to NOT TEST IT REGULARLY.

As an aside, what kind of a moron designs a backup system to backup end-user desktops? That's a waste of resources if I've ever heard it. Have users save their data on a network share that gets backed up. Have a clone of their PC configuration ready in the event of a hardware failure. Now, suddenly, there is no need to include end-user PC's in a regular backup. (Upper Management/Executive PC's are a different story... CYA there.)

RE: Dude, where's my data?
By amanojaku on 6/22/2011 12:36:47 PM , Rating: 2
@greylica, no executive in a large company is going to do what you described. Yes, it is inexpensive. No, it is not simple for a c-level or VP with a head like a box of rocks.

@Etsp, I agree that you must have a backup solution, and that it must be tested. I have a NAS and I've pulled drives hot, added larger drives to resize the volume, pulled power cords, etc... just to see what happens.

As to desktop backup being unnecessary... That depends on the company. Yes, a NAS or SAN should be the default location for user data. This way the desktop/laptop/thin client becomes a generic processing node, and backup is typically (but not always) done at the array level. Centralized storage is the default model in VDI environments running Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View, as well.

However, offline and/or remote users cannot work with this model. A person on a plane does not (yet) have access to company resources, and low bandwidth to remote locations restricts file transfer and modification over the WAN for large files. Worse, these users tend to have sensitive data, so backup becomes a necessity. Small brokerage firms with offices across the globe fall into this category, with a total head count of 100 folks, 40-50 in NYC, 10-20 in London, 10-20 in Hong Kong or Singapore, and 1-5 person-offices everywhere else. Worse, these organizations don't have or want to spend the money for an enterprise NAS/SAN, which usually starts at $250K.

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