Bravo FAQ: Access Data While Traveling

by Sam C. Chan

Last revised: May 10, 2002

This article is outdated in terms of storage size, etc. How, the concepts and techniques are still mostly the same.

Q: How do you access your own data while you travel?

A: Often, while we're at client sites, in a hotel room, or at the store, we need access to data files. We have an elaborate and massively redundant system of keeping needed information at our fingertips at all times. This system enables us to physically move into any "hot stand-by site" worldwide and resume support operations seamlessly. These access methods cover the entire spectrum in terms of speed and ease of access, capacity, connectivity & bandwidth requirements, client hardware/software requirements, and security. They fall into 4 main categories: 1. Physical Media, 2. Remote Control & VPN, 3. FTP & SSH, and 4. Web Portal access.

1. Key Contacts & Tech Reference in wallet. Electronically generated hard copy, updated monthly. Non-electronic, relative immune to instant catastrophic failure.

2. Keychain USB Drive: (Some refer to it as thumb drive, as it's about the size of a finger)There are 3 drives actually. I carry a 64M drive on my keychain, with all my critical files, plus a 128M drive in my briefcase for transferring clients' files. Vicky carries a 64M drive on her keychain and partially erases files as needed for file transfer and "re-image" the drive upon returning to base. In all cases, we have scripts to synchronize from server to keychain every few days so it's kept up-to-date. Of course, the content of drives is encrypted at multiple levels to protect ourselves and clients from harms in the event of theft or loss.

3. Bravo Ultimate Disc (BUD) in briefcase, which contains network boot disk, diagnostics tools, and core set of install library.

4. CD-R library and CDRW backups in vehicle (or as we affectionately refer to as: the Mother Ship).

5. PDA Palm, and Psion. Synchronized Daily with news and email for reading at restaurant or while waiting in lines at the bank between appointments. Also contain important tech reference files and checklists, and WAP versions of all our business web sites.

6. Notebook PC: docking to LAN for Daily/Weekly replication. Wifi-equipped for real-time Internet access while within service range at various locations.

7. Remote Control: RDC/TS (always on), PCA and VNC (special arrangement) at sites with appropriate client software installed.

8. BRAG (Bravo Remote Access Gateway): Our own portal site allows Remote control from any location with using a web browser.

9. VPN: connect to HQ LAN Windows 2000 Server (THUM) directly as remote node via Dynamic DNS

10. SSH: console access to Linux server at data center (FELI)

11. Support Intranet Repository hosted at our data center: Mirroring 10G worth of data, tech reference, and subset of vendor libraries and install images at HQ. Replicated on as-needed basis. Provides access to screenshots, downloads, checklists for support purposes w/o need to directly access HQ servers. Supports HTTP, FTP, SSH & SCP. Also contains Bravo Start Page for staff, and our extensive 1600+ entries Favorites (bookmarks).

12. Mirror Servers at 3x backup data centers. Supplementing FELI.

13. Private Web Portals: BON (Bravo Online Network) which contains general references, and Bravo Start Page, which is our private staff-only portal site.

14. WAP capable Mobile Phone: Live access to web. Receive server monitoring alerts. Retrieve and reply  to email. Posting emergency service announcements and updates at main web site.

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