Things fall apart, are you ready with a backup and repair plan?

New Motherboard

I’ve never been a fan of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, but that doesn’t make the title any less true. Are you ready with a backup and repair plan?

This is especially true when it comes to the technology we count on in our daily lives and at work. Anyone worth their salt in the IT field know it’s not a matter of “if” but when will things break. We can help you prepare to handle it with no sweat. The sooner we work out a backup and repair plan for you the better your options will be and the less painful the repair and upgrade process will be.

To prove that I’m not trying to scare you here I’ll share my own stories from recent weeks:

The System’s Down

In my personal life I enjoy playing video games either solo or with friends. Two nights a week are scheduled for online gaming with my friends, so a Thursday evening rolled around and I started up my desktop gaming PC that I built but it didn’t start up. Yikes! Gratefully, I own other platforms like Valve’s Steam Deck, a Nintendo Switch, and a PS5 that we were able to play a different game on together. But all this came about a month after one of my friends, Lee, had his gaming PC die on him in much the same fashion.

Don’t get it twisted, I know this is a first world problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

So over the weekend after that I began troubleshooting my PC and it allowed me to clean up and dust inside. The problem was that it was having trouble POST’ing (Power On Self Test). The light would come on and the system fan would spin and then it would go completely off before it even output the BIOS or Windows 10.

Cleaning the old PC motherboard is a part of any good backup and repair plan and it extends the life of components already in use.

So I went through testing parts and narrowing down what was and what was not working inside. The Power Supply can often be an issue when you see these symptoms, so I used the jumper test to confirm that it was still working. RAM is also another possible cause of the problem, so I tried testing each module one by one and those seemed to work. There were some issues with the way I re-seated them, but ultimately I was able to get one to work and the PC back online. Then I tried all of them and got the whole PC to boot up.

The Problem that Almost Wasn’t

“We’re back in business!” I thought with only a little bit of time working on it and no new parts needed. So I went on about using it some for a while and made sure that the data backup that was set to run finished then shut it down after the weekend. If you are worried about your PC, contact us and ask about a backup and repair plan that works for you! No problem feels that bad when you’re confident in your backup solutions.

When it Rains it Pours

Meanwhile I got the itch to play a retro game on PlayStation 2, so I plugged mine in and found that the DVD-ROM drive was not working there and while it would start up it made some clicking sounds and acted like there was no game disc in it. Again, not that big of a deal, but a bit discouraging nonetheless.

Then the next week I had another online gaming night and went to turn on my PC to play and the same problem happened. Except this time I was unable to get it to start no matter what I did. Given the working Power Supply Unit (PSU) and the working RAM, the situation must be that the motherboard was no longer working. Rest in pieces, old gaming PC.

We Can Rebuild Him. We Have the Technology.

But from those pieces I was able to reuse a lot of the PC itself and put a decent but not exorbitant bit of money to repairing the PC. The final price tag was just over $500 and the repairs came with some great upgrades. I took my time to deliberate and plan what to get, and what I could keep.

The components that needed replacement were the motherboard, CPU (with cooler), and RAM. All other components I tested and worked so I kept them: the case, the HDD’s (Hard Disk Drives) and SSD’s (Solid State Drives), the Graphics Card, the monitors, keyboard, mouse, and DVD-RW drive.

The Best Backup Plan is Knowing Who to Ask

My gaming buddies were also a big help in asking about certain part of the upgrade plan considering Lee and another friend Nic had both done similar upgrades and repairs. I wanted to switch to an AMD processor instead of using Intel this time around and there are differences. Both brands are good, but I wanted AMD and needed to know about their current line the Ryzen series.

Additionally, manufacturers tend to be confusing about RAM and it’s difficult to be sure that you get modules that actually work with your motherboard. Many list OC or “Overclocked” speeds, likely because it sounds faster, but if you don’t go by the JEDEC standard it may not work in your system. Nic helped me remember to triple-check for RAM compatibility which is a great practice for us all to have.

Finally, there are some motherboards for AMD CPU’s that either are not compatible with certain processors or some that require a firmware update out of the box before you can use them. I wanted one that would work as soon as I assembled it and ended up finding a good option for a bit more money from MSI. It also has built-in WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5, two features that I use and appreciate having.

Down Goes the Laptop

One of the days while I was planning the repair and upgrade, I came home from a long appointment and decided to log in to my laptop just to see where my emails stood and catch up on other work. Much to my chagrin, my laptop didn’t boot up. If you work with me a while you’ll hear me repeat the British WWII era slogan: Keep calm and carry on. Part of what keeps me calm throughout this process on my own devices is knowing I have a backup and repair plan for everything I use.

My laptop did POST so there’s a start there. But it complained about the fans not working with a Dell diagnostic program that loaded automatically. While I had been dusting and cleaning my desktop, I also did my laptop and was worried I bumped something inside. So I opened up the case again and re-seated some of the plugs like the power and the fans. Then I restarted it and ran the automatic diagnostics.

It cleared the tests and worked this time. Whew! Following that I booted to Windows 11, and ran Dell’s SupportAssist, and updated any drivers in the system. I usually use Linux in a dual boot, but the system hardware updates work better on Windows with Dell.

Live in your world, play in ours! PS2 Repairs

With one bullet dodged, I got a bit more confidence and looked up repair and replacement options for my PlayStation 2. Being an older retro game console there’s not as many clear backup and repair plans out there. It’s a bit costly to get a replacement part so I decided to try a repair.

Naturally I voided the already expired warranty to get inside the case of the device and begin to repair it. I started cleaning and dusting, though it wasn’t too bad overall. Well that didn’t fix it. It wasn’t until later that I was able to find a gear that is used to calibrate the disc spinning mechanism and by fine tuning that, the discs and games ran again.

On disc-media, the discs themselves are the backup. Thanks YouTube tutorials for helping know how to plan repairs on the PS2! Oh there you are Zone of the Enders The 2nd Runner, now for a second chance…

It’s Always Something…

Once the parts came in for my desktop PC I began to repair it. There was a surprise while I was installing the new motherboard: the power connectors. The new one has an extra plug for a 4-pin ATX power cable in addition to the ones it requires. Thankfully online forums clarified that you only need those to overclock your PC. I typically don’t, so I went ahead and powered it on.

The power came on this time, so we’re definitely getting somewhere. But there wasn’t anything on the screen at first. The new system requires using a discrete graphics card. So I made sure everything was wired up with mine and plugged in the main monitor. I was able to determine the manufacturers’ hotkey to boot into BIOS and now we’re really cooking.

Making progress in BIOS

After that I configured what I thought needed to happen and restarted the PC. But nothing happened. Oops! In BIOS I reconfigured the boot settings to Legacy mode, since my previous build was installed on rather old hardware.

Okay now we’re really getting there, Windows 10 booted up and automatically updated to run with the new parts.

The backup was a good precaution when Windows automagically setup most things after the repair, which was nice.
After the backup and repairs: The RGB lighting is kind of cool even if I never asked for it.

Who Broke the Internet this time?

As if that wasn’t enough, when coming home from a busy day out I found that my Internet was down. And it just so happens another hobby of mine, fantasy football had two league’s drafts that night.

You may recognize that’s AT&T logo on my modem, and they are my ISP (Internet Service Provider). I’m not blaming them for this one down-time incident, because this is the only incident I can ever remember. Every other time they have been providing high speed reliable Internet service. Your provider may not be as reliable, but even the best sometimes have problems. Outside of the event, I highly recommend their fiber service to anyone who has the option.

Be aware that a backup and repair plan for an ISP is inherently different and requires cooperation. If necessary you can purchase an enterprise network connection which will usually guarantee uptime as part of your contract.

The light’s on but nobody was home on the other end…

Instead of complaining, I ended up packing it up and heading over to Panera Bread. I ate dinner and used their WiFi to do my fantasy drafts. Things worked out well overall. I was able to check and see that the Internet connection was working before I left the restaurant.

Not too shabby considering some of the picks at the end were auto-drafts due to Internet connection issues. Aside from some injuries, no backups nor repairs needed to this roster!

Things fall apart, are you ready with a backup and repair plan?

Whatever you do in life for work, for fun, or for your family are all now inextricably tied into the digital world. We’ve helped many clients who’ve experienced similar problems. Like an old PC breaking down, a PC infected by malware, crucial data recovery, and restoring connections of printers. No matter what your life throws at you, you can count on things falling apart. Are you ready? We can help you setup a backup and repair plan or suggest replacements to upgrade and get you back online.

Trust us, because we’ve all been there and learned lessons to minimize your downtime and get you back to doing what you love doing best!

Oak City IT Tech Shorts 04: Cost of Lacking Backups

Do you know the cost of lacking backups?

During the pandemic the only spreading more rapidly than the virus might be ransomware. Call hackers bluffs when you have a bulletproof backup plan.

cost of lacking backups

In early 2020 organizations paid an average of over one hundred thousand dollars for ransomware demands. You can’t afford to waste that on false promises from bad faith hackers. We can help you setup a backup strategy to keep data and systems online. Even if you lose computers in a natural disaster, your business will be fine.

More than just ransomware, your hardware will break some day. We have already helped clients with both of these underlying issues recover their data, repair or replace their devices, and get back online. A lot of the downtime, pain, and costs can be avoided by having a backup plan in place now for the inevitable problems that will occur.

That’s why we are encouraging new clients to join our flexible subscription plans where we include backup plans, virus protection, and remote monitoring with our support. Our plans offer you a 30 days cancellation policy. We want to earn your trust through reliable work that addresses your core concerns, not contractually obligating you to trust us.

Do you know the cost of lacking backups? Sign up to claim your free quick start discovery today!

FlexGen PC Data Backups

pc backup icon

FlexGen Power Systems provides energy storage solutions with their revolutionary FlexGen HybridOS platform. Oak City IT worked with FlexGen to create an agile PC Data Backup solution.

“One size fits all” is the biggest lie. It should read as “one size someone, somewhere, probably.” And just like a comfy sweater, your organization’s IT needs may fit a bit differently than others.

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Unique Background, Unique Needs

Oak City IT consulted FlexGen during rapid growth as a startup pivoting into leading as a provider of green energy storage solutions. As an agile engineering company FlexGen needed agile solutions for their IT systems. Keep in mind you may need something different. We partnered to develop a system that allowed rapid deployment of new PC’s to employees in only 5-15 minutes!

Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel

We used existing systems that FlexGen already owned, were trained, and trusted. FlexGen’s leadership aimed to stay agile by streamlining any on-premises infrastructure and relying on cloud technology for flexibility.

Employee Data

Understanding our goals, we developed a robust while lean and agile system. Data on individual employee PC’s were treated as ephemeral working copies. We safely did this by having all employees sync important data to their company Dropbox, securely stored in the cloud. For the computer engineers we worked with the DevOps team to establish github repositories migrating from the dated subversion repositories.

Software and Configurations

After taking care of the data, what about the PC’s software? Did we really want to manually re-install every app every time? In fact we couldn’t do that. We worked with another IT service provider that had an Acronis backup solution in place. Acronis provides wonderful tools for backups, but they weren’t flexible enough for FlexGen’s needs. FlexGen employees echoed: “It works for everything else but there’s that one program we all install manually because it’s easier.”

Compare the manually setup PC’s that took around 4-8 work hours and occasionally longer. FlexGen would often require agility to hire a new employee and have them start work in a couple weeks. It’s hard to carve out a day of our work time for each PC setup. Cloud systems tend to bottleneck when deploying large amounts of data. Thus we became convinced that there would need to be an on-premises solution for our software and configuration deployment.

New Life to a Trusty Old Server

FlexGen had an existing server that ran an aging version of Windows Server. We could have upgraded, but we decided to save that cost and headache. Instead, we found robust FOSS solutions for no additional license fees. FOSS stands for Free Open Source Software which is free as in freedom and free as no cost.

We found a great system that was capable of deploying images and prepared several template images ready to go. Images are a snapshot of all the software on a PC including installed apps and configuration. We built images for each their different job roles. FlexGen uses mostly Windows PC’s. Microsoft’s Volume offered a fraction of the cost and we could deploy images to all PC’s. This system aided updates for Windows 10 when Windows 7 was approaching EOL (End Of Life).

Unique Needs Meet Unique Solutions

We refurbished FlexGen’s Windows Server and installed linux and FOG Project for the imaging. The FOG server can deploy images with the latest version of Windows 10 and everything already installed. And it runs fast! For example on FlexGen’s network the server can deploy an image at speeds over 4 GB/min. Many images we created ranged in size from 20 GB to 35 GB. In summary we could deploy a fully installed and configured system in about 5 minutes!

FlexGen PC Data Backup Solution Results

Let me repeat that: we got new PC setup from 4-8 work hours down to 5 minutes! That’s a 99% reduction in real-world time to complete a new PC setup!

Added Benefits

Employees regularly synced or pushed any business critical work data to Dropbox and GithHub. Whenever there was an issue on their PC that couldn’t be fixed quickly, we could deploy a fresh image. Their PC was ready before they could finish a coffee break.

FOG server image multicast

If anyone been compromised by ransomware, then we could have used the multicast option on the FOG server and deployed all the PC’s then syncing up with cloud data. The whole process for the organization could have easily completed within one hour or less. Though it never happened, we were ready in advance to recover from such disasters which are increasingly common. Thanks in no small part to our cybersecurity plan implemented for FlexGen, but that’s a story for another post. Check out more posts about our security consulting work.

Need help with PC and Data Backups? Contact us today for your free initial consultation!