Staging an update

Or take the case of the clients I visited last week. Lovely chaps, big tape drives doing daily backups. Everything was running fine, with the backup tape taken offsite nightly, until I asked the obvious question about whether they had a brand-new tape drive on which to test their tape recovery, to which the answer was no. And just how hot had the tape got in the car yesterday evening while parked outside the restaurant?

Staging an update

Mains supplies

During another recent server room visit, I knew some of the staff were coming over from the client’s US office, and I’d heard email rumours that they were going to bring along a server with them. Quite why this was necessary wasn’t explained. Naturally, no-one thought to ask the obvious question about 240V vs 110V supplies. Fortunately, I’d thought ahead – in my lab, we often have to power up 110V equipment, and those dinky little blocks you can buy from a high-street electrical vendor are no use for anything more power-hungry than an electric razor. Put a laser printer on one and watch it catch fire.

What we needed in the lab was a serious autotransformer, one that could take in 240V and deliver 110V at a goodly current, sufficient to run a big laser printer. Fortunately, I found a vendor for such a beast, and it isn’t too expensive all things considered, although it’s neither small nor light. But it does the job without complaint. The maker does have a website at but, as with many small engineering firms, it’s largely content free. I think we bought our 3KW units from RS Components, and their stock number is 436-8883. At a cost of just £100, this device is a monster, and the large handle on top isn’t just for show. It comes with a flying mains lead terminated with a standard UK plug, and the box itself has two US-style sockets. It has no problem handling a large laser printer, so a bunch of rack-mount servers wasn’t a problem.

Having one of these boxes in your machine room – even if it spends much time propping a door open – isn’t such a bad idea. You never know when some 110V equipment is going to arrive on site.

Lots of moral fibre

I suggested to some clients recently that they might like to think about installing their own rack in a managed control room in Docklands. It would be a decent distance from their headquarters, and they could use it as a secure offsite backup farm from which operations could be run in the event of a disaster, such as a building fire. Naturally, the question then arose about the bandwidth required. They have a lot of data, and quite a bit of it changes often, so even an ADSL MAX line would be somewhat constraining given the business need to keep a copy of everything offsite.

A few phone calls clarified the matter wonderfully: there’s now so much spare connectivity in London that getting a fast pipe from one place to another isn’t expensive. Not many thousands of pounds per year will get you a 10Mb pipe, which is more than enough to move large chunks of data around.


Have you given any thought to IPv6 – the next version of the internet protocol – within your organisation? I accept that IPv6 has been so long coming that many people might imagine it had been overtaken by events, superseded and replaced by IPv8. Unfortunately not, as IPv6 is very much alive and kicking in the Vista version of Windows. Yes, Vista’s client TCP/IP stack is implemented on both IPv4 and 6. Now, you might need to do nothing about this fact other than ignore it, or you might want to shut down the v6 side of things. You might grasp the v6 implementation and pronounce it to be manna from heaven and the answer to all your prayers. Whatever. What matters is that you’re aware that it’s there and it needs thinking about. What action you take is of secondary importance and will vary from site to site. Take ten minutes to think about it.

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