After I lost 2 months of mail of Outlook I started thinking on the root causes of the problem on why I didn’t push the button to backup and it brought me to a wider problem/gap in the household IT landscape.
Within most enterprises there is a complete large department “operations”, they operate according to process frameworks like ITIL and they use advanced software to govern the installed software base, backups, security and much much more.
Of course one household is much too small for such an overkill on tooling and processes but still what we can learn is that apparently there is a gap between total chaos and full control since a household still is faced with doing these backups and having to do a restore once in a while and in need of operational information.
The reason that most households live in chaos around backups, security and operations of their “IT environment” is that the knowledge is not out there. It’s simply for some strange reason not on the Internet. Households are left totally on their own.
If you Google or surf the Internet for software you will find a gazillion websites which will show you the FUNCTIONAL description of software and how cool it is to use it. E.g. most all sites on http://populair.eu/software. but for MANAGING your software you have to go out and try to gather stuff from forums, discussions lists, faqs, and so on.
Let’s take “firefox” for example: you will find a gazillion websites and weblogs on what kind of cool things you can do with Firefox. When you look for backups you will need to actively go and look for a product specific for Firefox (e.g. the profiles information on the wikipedia help pages) which will do “backups” (e.g. a well known extension/add-on). However when you want a backup solution for your household you do not want to install for all the dozens of pieces of software seperate backups tools. Since you do not want to run or even spend the time and energy to find backup products for all you single pieces of software. You want something simple, just 1 backup tool that finds you stuff and can also handle disaster recovery and recovery of older version of your installed base.
Furthermore knowledge on what to backup is scattered or sometimes not even out there. E.g. what do you actually need to backup from Firefox? (profiles directories, profile.ini, more?) or from Total Commander (ini files, key, extensions) or from Active Sync? or from Google Earth? or from Outlook? It will take you a long time investigating each product or even sandboxing each product and go out hunting for registry keys, configuration files, data on so on.
This does not stand on itself. Households are left on their own when it comes down to “a way to manage all those zillions of passwords”, “a way to manage licenses and keys”, “a way to govern security”, “finding out yourself how to create a how network”, “creating a central software repository”, “finding out what to backup”, “finding out how to and what to restore”. Everyone is doing the same thing for themselves over and over again and shared at the coffee machine in individual bits and pieces. For the less computer minded people: they call up their “technical friend/nephew/collegeau) to help them with operational aspects.
So I have started with some basic ideas on the governance on this. I make an “application directory” (to distinquish it from the /program files directory for practical needs) and an “data dir”, which should contain the bulk of stuff to backup. I also began giving out id’s to the things that are installed in most cases and to describe against those numbers, where the installation software is located (e.g. firefox but also each extension and theme and plugin) and how backup and recovery is handled. I also started writing a batch file which works according to these numbers so I can see what it backups (in some cases a merge/sync is needed instead of a backup). Against those same numbers I have added chapters in our wiki.
In time I will put this information under an “operational” chapter on the household framework (http://www.householdframework.org). It’s really missing out there.