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Computers, eh?


Last Thursday I glanced at the clock by my desk, flipped my Surface – a fancy pc tablet combo – closed and put it in the squishy travel bag before heading to the station to catch my usual train home. As I commute home early, I usually have lots of space on the train. Last Thursday was no different and I planned to finish off whatever it was I was doing to make good use of the travelling time.

I wasn’t entirely surprised the Surface didn’t wake up from its sleep as, like all computers, from time to time it throws a wobbly and needs a reboot. However, a few minutes later it was still lifeless with not a flicker on the screen or a whir of the fan.

Trying the obvious

I know the various reboot methods off by heart as all our team have Surfaces, as does my brother and father so you just get to know these things. Nothing. Nada. Dead. Even Google couldn’t point me towards a solution at which point I knew it was bad.

A Surface is a wonderful bit of kit but it’s stuck together with glue and if it goes wrong out of warranty, like mine, you’re stuffed. Microsoft offered to sell me a refurbished replacement, via an exchange programme, for £400 but couldn’t make it clear what warranty the new unit would have.  I suspected not a lot!

Researching the alternatives

Other refurbished units are available for around £600 from places like e-bay but there’s always the risk they came via Del Boy down the pub. A brand new one, admittedly the newer spec 4, is about £1,000 and, via john Lewis, has a three year warranty too (against MS’ 2).  The cost of a simple ‘oh it won’t turn on’ has quickly shot up.

As portable access to work is crucial to me I must replace it. I toyed with other brands but the best bit of the Surface for me is using it as a notepad in meetings because the built in stand is absolutely perfect. Nothing else offers the digital pen, the stand, the size and weight.  The Surface also has Windows Hello iris recognition and a magnesium case and therefore holds its own against MacBook users in cafes. Important stuff I am sure you’ll agree.

The extras

I’ve also got multiple chargers, a docking station, a wireless connection to our TV at home (which is brilliant for streaming films) and of course I know how it works. These add-ons would cost hundreds of pounds to replace if I went down the Lenovo or HP route.  I need Windows as an OS, so Apple’s stuff is out of the question before anyone asks.

With some hesitation therefore, I’ve replaced the brick / table mat that is now my old Surface with a new one. I’m not happy about it and can only hope this one lasts more than 26months.  I’ve used it more or less every day during that time, it’s travelled a lot of miles and been an invaluable business tool

I wonder if Mr Gates might read this and send me a credit note?


Recycling – our stats (impressive numbers!)


As you know, we are big fans of recycling here at Gibson Lamb.  We like to do our bit to help the environment.

We have been recycling for many years and are always surprised when Paper Round provide our yearly statistics every January.

The last 12 months have been exceptional and we thought we would share the results with you in the below infographic!

The importance of backing up your data


It had to happen one day. I was driving home from a meeting when my phone beeped to tell me the team in the office wanted to talk. My Windows Mobile phone screens calls for me when I’m driving so I’m not tempted to talk on Bluetooth unnecessarily, get distracted and thus caught speeding or worse.
A few miles up the road I pulled over and called them back.

One of the team had pressed the wrong button at the wrong time and our database was no longer working quite as intended.

‘No trouble’ I said, that’s what we have backups for.

Log a call with support and it’ll be easy to fix.

It wasn’t as easy to recover the data as we expected

I wont bore you with the details but it wasn’t quite as easy to fix as I’d hoped and with hindsight the software house have said their actions and process to recover the data were far from perfect. However, despite it taking longer than we expected, we were able to recover the data and carry on business as usual.
Nevertheless without our backups we would have faced some serious challenges. We have over 1,000,000 client related documents on our server – we’ve been using document management services since 1998 so we’ve built up a lot of information over that time.

How do we backup our data?

They say data isn’t backed up properly unless it’s in three separate places. Therefore we backup overnight using two separate systems (plus the original copy in the office making three copies in total). The first is www.depositit.com which is a cloud based backup. It’s easy to use and not particularly expensive. However it’s limited by the bandwidth of our internet connection so in practice we cannot backup everything to depositit each night.
We therefore also run an old fashioned but robust, reliable backup to tape. The tape is collected by the specialist data security firm Iron Mountain every morning which means a complete copy of our server, emails, databases etc are stored away from our premises by around 9:30am.
It turned out last week we had to fall back on both backups. Initially we recovered a small file from the cloud which worked fine. We had it ready for use within minutes. The software people however decided we needed a lot more files and this was impractical over broadband so we ‘called’ the previous night’s tape back from Iron Mountain which arrived within 2 hours.
The software people then set about rebuilding the system and soon enough everything was running perfectly again.

Test your Disaster Recovery programme

There is nothing quite like testing your Disaster Recovery programme for real. It’s a bit of a nerve shredder to be honest and we could have done without the hassle but all is well that ends well as they say.
Our backups cost us money but, as we have just proved, are an invaluable asset that you hope you never need.
Our advice therefore is not only to back up your data but also to test whether the backups are actually working. We may have been posting a somewhat different blog if we were not so well prepared.