The wrong time to realize you need a backup plan is when you need a backup plan!
I have so lived that phrase a few times but it still took me a few cycles before I finally established a good backup plan. In its initial stages it was an external hard drive and using Windows Backup to make sure our document directories were off the machine. That was inconsistent though and it had issues being an automated process so it required a lot of manual intervention to catch up when I discovered backups had not occurred.
My backup plan really started to have teeth when I installed the first version Windows Home Server (WHS) on an old machine. Like clockwork every night it woke up each machine on our home network and backed the entire machine up – the whole setup no matter how many disks were in there. If for some reason a backup did not happen it let me know via an alert on my main machine and I could sort things out immediately. That first edition of WHS saved my documents on more than one occasion. The feeling of being able to boot from a Restore CD on a down machine, access the WHS to select the most recent backup of my machine and then have it restored via the home network was perfection.
These days our home networked machines are backed up by the latest version of WHS 2011. Same process applies – each night the machines get woken up over the LAN and then backed up to the server. Any issues are brought to my attention on my main machine with an alert through the WHS 2011 Launchpad so I can address them immediately. It is truly a fire and forget system – it just works.
Well it proved its worth again today. While performing a couple of different tasks on my main machine (burning music to a CD-ROM and streaming music from my WHS 2011) the machine blue screened and rebooted. It never recovered and just kept up that BSOD and reboot loop. The error, 0x000000F4, is fairly generic and refers you to boot with your installation media to fix your systems start up files.
The process seemed to work but the machine was still getting that BSOD and rebooting. Now I have been having a network card issue and the replacement NIC arrived on Friday but I had not been able to get it installed. I suspect the card was part of the problem that caused the BSOD and reboot loop.
Well since none of the standard start up repair options worked that left me with my final step prior to a complete flattening of the hard drive and reinstallation of everything – a restoral via WHS 2011. I was able to create a USB Key on my PODCAST PC and that allows you to start up the restoral process without needing a Restore CD. That is a new feature in WHS 2011.
Bottom line is that the system was restored from this mornings WHS 2011 backup and it is up and running without a hitch. Of course the first thing I did after it was back up was replace the bad NIC!
Do you have a Windows Home Server story? We would love to hear about it in the comments.