COMPAMERICA TAKES THE FEAR FACTOR OUT OF THE PC...™
VERY FAULT TOLERATING
Probably the most difficult thing about
personal computing is making certain that critical data and other assets
found on one's hard drive are backed up in the event of system
failure. The weakest point of any PC is it's hard disk drive, which
if it fails, can cost a user all of their data. No other component
failure in a PC can wreak such unbelievable havoc on an owner or user's
business or personal life.
CompAmerica introduced VFTA™ High Reliability PCs in 2004 and as a charter member of the VFTA Consortium, immediately certified it's product, called "CompAmerica FailSafe", with the VFTA.org standards committee. Because it is so well designed, VFTA once and for all closes the “backup gap” and "hard drive failure blind siding" problems commonly associated with PCs. It also allows the enterprise to rethink the notion of "distribution" of function, data and application, since once certified VFTA™, PCs provide continuous, automatic, up to date backup of all files on the hard drive(s) 24x7x365 days a year. That insures that you can safely distribute data and applications without being forced onto large scale servers for anything other than SHARED DATA. VFTA also provides immediate restore upon failed hard drive without immediate replacement, something that works with little or no intervention.
VFTA™ also provides full secondary archival capability and deleted file retention (generation data sets): archiving features that the average layperson can easily configure. Remote archiving is accomplished by selecting a checkbox and naming a target drive anyone on a network. VFTA™ can also provides full “critical path” redundancy where 99% of all common points of failure simply won’t prevent the PC from being capable of operating, even with slightly reduced capabilities. Best of all, VFTA™'s backup process is both continuous and instantaneous, operating at all times without slowing the PC down, and through generation datasets, can be made to remember files inadvertently deleted by the user, an added safety measure that doubles as a security measure.
Last but not least, VFTA™ actually improves PC performance, by using a greater drive buffering architecture to stream data at rates traditional single drive solutions can't attain. Compatible with all forms of hard drive, High Availability VFTA™ is presently available on CSS PCs, CSS Servers, and CSS Laptops, along with a version called "Enhanced Availability VFT™" that is designed for non-CSS branded PCs, such as IBM, Compaq, Bell, and Gateway (with slightly reduced functionality, yet still providing users of those "other brands" greatly enhanced availability, allowing users to retain their investment in commonly purchased branded products).
To compliment the VFTA™ PC, CompAmerica introduced CASA™ in 2004, the Enhanced Computer Accountability and Security Appliance for "keeping your security House in order". What good is having a backup copy of corrupted or scrambled data? CASA is a package which blocks viruses, spy and mal ware and unwanted access, using powerful software components, so that critical data will not become corrupted. Preventing viruses and spy ware from introducing "Garbage In, Garbage Out", or GIGO. Further, the CASA™ makes certain that VFTA™ "backing stores" (the device holding the backup images of your data and programming, your Hard Drive(s)) have integrity and function correctly and can't be attacked by hackers. CASA™ updates itself automatically to reflect the latest virus and spy ware signatures, and to include updates to it's firewall and mailwall™ components.
Any computer manufacturer, in the
writer's opinion, who fails to implement and certify their own VFTA
solution, is behaving irresponsibly, and is inviting dangerous data loss
to it's customers' premises. For that reason, CompAmerica also
certified it's own VFTA solutions for the computers manufactured by it's
competitors: IBM, Bell, HP, Compaq, Acer and Micron, and any white box
manufacturer wishing to enhance it's products.
VFTA ™: AND IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
It was 1999 when CompAmerica began developing VFTA™. We wanted to fill the need for higher reliability Personal Computers, addressing the major issues of “backing up” all users face. With Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 2000 and XP, backup became more complex. These newer Windows OS's deal with data in magnitudes far greater than Windows 98 and 3.11 did. In reaching out to our customers in the government, business and at home, we had discovered some very interesting observations.
These discoveries led CompAmerica to conclude that if we could find a way to provide at a low cost, capability to automatically back up an entire system without hampering its performance, we could eliminate much of the "climate of fear" that Corporate, Government, Small Business and Home users would likely be faced with using a PC with a large amount of vital business data on it.
After three years of testing and
R&D, CompAmerica released VFTA™.
A rather unique product: “the Very Fault
Tolerating Architecture™”, or “VFTA™”, service registrata, provides our customers
"88% Redundancy" --a marked advantage over competing backup
and data integrity solutions, thereby eliminating the “fear factor”
associated with the typical Enterprise, Small Business, Government or Home
user’s Personal Computing experience. It's almost like having Two
PCs doing the work of one, if one subsystem goes down, the other takes
over, leaving the User smiling and thanking their lucky stars they'd
decided to go with a "Very Fault Tolerant Architecture PC"....
HARDWARE IS HARDWARE...
YET: YOUR DATA IS PRICELESS...
LOSE THAT AND ALL ELSE IS USELESS™
-- I came to believe that VFTA provides the PERFECT, LOW PRICE, LOW OVERHEAD WAY to back up every PC in the entire Enterprise, solving the foremost weakness in the original IBM implementation of my original ideas for a Personal Computer, a problem I'd been unhappy with since 1979.
The eleven key objectives for VFTA's™ initial release were as follows:
a) Minimum Power Consumption with 100% Up to the Moment System Backup 24x7x365 !!
b) Zero Data Loss with full and partial restore capability.
c) 100% Data Restoration and 100% Archival Capability
d) Full Hard Drive and Operating System Redundancy
e) Ability to also back up deleted and modified files
f) Secondary Archiving Capability with a distinctly "Virtual Storage Hierarchical Migration" capability that equals solutions normally found on only the largest IBM mainframes.
g) 100% compatibility with Windows and Servers
h) Minimum Performance Impact, no need to run Windows Setup or apply Windows Updates upon full restoration form backup.
i) Minimum Cost and Simple Operating Interface, very low cost per PC (less than $100).
j) Full CASS Security and optional System Thermal Management Enhancement™ (STME™)
k) 100% Network compatible and 100% Network and Device independent
· If the C: Drive Fails, reboot the system from the F: Drive. Downtime after drive failure? 2 Minutes max.
· If the O/S becomes corrupted, restore it from a Recent Safe Store Copy using Archive O/S Restoration.
· If a PC is running from the F: Drive, the user has lost no data and can run from F: until service personnel arrives. To COMPLETELY RESTORE their system: they simply have the service person plug in their new C: drive. Then one then simply boots one more time form the F: Drive and press the “Restore” feature from the F: drive in My Computer. RESTORATION TIME? 3-5 Minutes to replace the broken C: Drive, then 1 minute to boot up and about 5-15 minutes to label/partition the drive and press "Restore" to re-synchronize the C: Drive. During the restore, you can continue to use your PC.
· Once restored, one need simply reboot from the new C: drive and resume normal function. The C Drive needs to be large enough to receive the "backing store" contained on F, however the "F" drive, which is write protected from users, can be larger to hold additional files saved from extinction by the "save deleted files" function. Total downtime to completely recover? About 21 minutes to completely restore all files, data, and the O/S to the exact state the PC existed in prior to the Drive Failure. NOTE: Compare this with the average recovery operation (best case): 60-80 minutes to reload Windows, 15 minutes to reactivate by phone (if needed), and then anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to apply Windows Updates, followed by an uncertain number of hours to retrieve backup copies of your Data and and uncertain number of hours to reinstall your applications all over again, reconfigure your network interface, security, additional users of your PC, all with uncertain outcome, faced by the average business PC owner. And then there's the likelihood that even doing so with a conventional backup solution, you'll end up with a PC with problems needing debugging, and data that's either out of synch or stuck sometime in the past the last time your company backed it up...
· ALL FILES, including those open within Windows, are backed up and/restorable, unlike conventional backup agent schemes that can not backup files that are open for update… And backup does not require any noticeable time. As files are updated, their backup copies are as well. And we optionally provide a "generation dataset" feature to keep prior versions of files around, in the "backing store".
It is estimated that downtime for the entire process is about 5-21 minutes, and that no data or programs or O/S or O/S registry items are ever lost.
Secondary Archiving Capability achieves the following goals:
· User can set the system to automatically back up a duplicate of the F: drive backing store to a remote drive on a Server or Network Attached Storage System
· User can set the archive up to write to a local tape or DVRW Carousel
· User can set the archive to bulk store any deleted files for emergency recovery of deleted data, even if deleted intentionally using Windows Explorer
To insure that the
would not be down for long in the event of OTHER failures, we also
included within the specification several low cost redundancies,
providing for a reduction in the time knowledge workers would have to
wait for their PC to get back online, to under 5 minutes, as follows:
Altogether, we are very happy with the VFTA™ PC's standards for redundancy. We utilize very heavy gauge casings and heavy duty main logic board designs from companies such as Intel, to insure the maximal reliability of the overall VFTA™ PC's approach to High Reliability.
We started shipping VFTA™ solutions early in 2004. From field experience, we can guarantee our customers that our VFTA™ solution accomplishes all 11 of my key objectives completely and unflinchingly.
Naturally, we also wanted VFTA™ to be environmentally sound, so we have insured it's compatibility with the Energy Star standards certified by INTEL, ACPI 2 and APM 2. A VFTA PC use very little additional power, drives are constantly managed by ACPI and APM in a mode that echoes how mobile hard drives in Laptops work (and yes, we do support VFTA™ in our Notebook Computers). VFTA™ Drives are kept in idle mode when the PC is not being heavily used. That insures that no power is wasted, by design. In testing, we discovered most enterprises do not activate Drive Spin down, as it can be harrowing.
We included in our VFTA™ software a "rapid spin up" feature that keeps the drive ready yet spins it down to save power. Even though all data is continually duplicated right along with the running O/S, temporary and work files, even the Swap File can be mirrored (unless that is not desired), we take advantage of system idle time to check consistence and to take unused drives to the "offline, ready to spin up" state to insure minimization of power use.
Right now, Microsoft Windows XP and 2000 do not support un-mounting the System Drive during operations. However, in a future Windows OS we hope to add to VFTA the capacity to switch to the "backing store" of the System Drive ON THE FLY when the C drive Fails, without the 3 minute reboot, and using Caddied "hot swap" drives, allow the user to simply unplug the failed drive ON THE FLY, plug in a blank drive ON THE FLY and it would then be automatically synchronized and Windows switched back to use it as the C: drive.
This, while clearly possible, will require us to influence Microsoft’s decisions at some time in the future, since they will have to implement a symbolic system drive root which the user can change from his C: drive to his F: drive system mirror and back again. Scheduled for evaluation in January of 2005, this feature "Hot Swappable Backup System Mirroring" depends upon how far along Microsoft comes with it's LONGHORN replacement for Windows 2000 and XP. We are requesting features allowing this capability from Microsoft.
Some customers have asked us: "Can I use VFTA with my CompAmerica Servers?" VFTA also works fine on large multi-drive servers, and does not require expensive or complex Raid accommodations, yet it is compatible with RAID and NAS.
It can back up RAID arrays or independent large disk drives in large number, in real time, both within a Server and to other Servers or NAS systems, without complex provisions. And, the Server’s SYSTEM DRIVE can be backed up in real time and restored in real time, without loss of work or data. The same features used in our VFTA™ PC are available in our VFTA™ Server, bringing the kind of recovery technology ordinarily found in Mainframes and large scale eServers, down to even the simplest, most entry level Windows Server.
In all instances and releases of our VFTA™ User Interface, there is a simple “continual backup” checkbox, and choices that are used to target any drive to it’s mirror, and a simple “restore backup” button is provided when restoring. The VFTA™ Driver Software is designed not to overwrite existing content without special confirmation unless set to overwrite. VFTA™ can also be backing up a drive while restoring it’s mirror, allowing it to be used to move images from one drive to a second while copying the second drive to a third, as a convenience to Enterprise IT technologists with more sophisticated goals.
At a conference on Drive Storage Integrity last week, we were asked: “What is the cost of your solution, it sounds expensive?” It’s really not.
The fundamental client cost is approximately $15-35 (per seat) for software which enhances Windows slightly to implement the VFTA™ solution, much less in volume purchases.
The cost per-computer to add the mirror disks, ranges from $75 to 200 per drive per computer. This actually is less than the cost of a Tape Drive and tapes, and it is a one-time purchase, and works more reliably, since it is the only solution that provides a 100% Current Backup of all Data and O/S software.
While a single Tape Drive solution may be able to back up an entire enterprise, we believe our VFTA™ solution is superior in every other way. For example, every single PC in the Enterprise is constantly backed up without any Network Overhead, and all may be randomly repaired without requiring system reloads, or exhaustive searches of Tape Cartridges, in under 10 minutes per system. Such can not be said about the Tape only solution. The hidden power of underutilized PCs is automatically put to work making certain no data is lost. And catastrophic losses only effect the zone in which such occur.
While we can (and do) obviously offer both methods, Tape Archiving and VFTA (which supports Tape Archiving of it’s mirror images of system drives), this solution is really something where you would remove the Tape Archive from your premises each day and keep it in safe storage against catastrophe. And VFTA does backup to Tape Devices, or can be used to create images on NAS or Server drives, of the backed up data in a "secondary archive" backing store. This can then be conveniently backed up to large tape storage, if needed by the Enterprise or Government IT department.
The biggest single advantage in VFTA™ is it’s real time up to date image of ALL FILES (open or closed) from the system drive maintained in it's "backing store". Time consuming reloads of Windows are not necessary. In field tests, CompAmerica discovered that no matter how frequently or how long users used our VFTA™ PCs, ZERO DATA LOSS was an absolute guarantee.
Because we implement a ZERO TOLERANCE fire wall around the backup volume, viruses are unable to gain write privileges to the backup volume. CASS provides added enhancement by protecting the DATA WITHIN your system so corrupted data is not written in the first place, leading to a remarkable end to outsider interference with your system... not only are you backed up in full, you lack any sensitivity to such virus attacks!
In May of 2004, we will start offering VFTA™ HAZMAT PC Options, a unique feature for government and industry where 'hazardous duty" is the daily routine. For the VFTA™ HAZMAT, CompAmerica came up with some very interesting enhancements, namely:
We offer VFTA™ as an option on all CompAmerica PCs
starting at around $99. We support field installable expansion of nearly all HP,
Compaq, IBM, Gateway and Acer Personal Computers with a CompAmerica
Reliability Upgrade to VFTA solution for non-CompAmerica PCs, something we
distribute to buyers who have a particular brand they always buy, but
want CompAmerica to weed out the "fear factor"
NOTE: For additional technical details, please READ this technical white paper about VFTA at the American Computer Science Association website: http://www.acsa.net (click the link "A New Kind of PC for Small Business"...)
small business, corporate and government
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