Our review of Reboot to Restore technology would be incomplete without spending some time on the oldest method—the hardware card.
I’ll let you in on a little Faronics secret. The invention of Deep Freeze was originally inspired by a demo of such card at a show. (Bookmark it for a Faronics trivia in the future)
If you though that cards are good for video only, you’re in for a surprise. Sound cards, network cards, or wifi cards were common sight some time ago, as were cards for reboot to restore in the 1990s.
Such cards would protect a hard drive a the sector level, similar to what block level protection software is doing now. The card would redirect reads and writes on a drive to a specific empty area, often called buffer or scratch space. On reboot such scratch space is reset, leaving the system clear of any changes.
When working on this series I tried to balance benefits of a technology with disadvantages as nothing in this world is black or white. This is why I am tempted to come up with a number of advantages to using cards, but I can only come up with one single benefit that I can see.
A card not only protects a specific disk, but can also secure such areas as partition maps and MBR with pretty much 100% guarantee. If you come across any other benefits, drop me a comment, I would be interested in your opinion on the subject.
Here is a list of some significant disadvantages of using hardware cards:
Deployments don’t scale
Try installing 10,000 cards across 100 locations and you will quickly realize that the operational overhead of such deployment will wipe out any benefits the solution can provide. It is simply uneconomical to use the cards on a larger number of computers. Touching each and every computer physically will be extremely costly.
It’s not Amazon.com, so forget free shipping
The cards are actual physical pieces of hardware that need to be stored, labeled, packaged and most important of all, shipped. Guess who pays for shipping.
No piece – meals
Hardware cards are “all-in”. They protect the entire storage system and do not allow for any additional configuration options such as scheduled patches, or user rights.
No evidence trail via logs
With the cards resetting the whole drive all logs will be lost on reboot, rendering any attempts to troubleshoot a software or hardware issue futile.
A hardware card is an IT asset, you will need to buy more for spares
If you have ever managed an IT shop of a decent size (2+ computers), standardization on a specific configuration, vendor and system is highly desirable, as is an ability to have a cache of spares to quickly replace failing units. In case of cards, you will need to buy more cards than you actually need to make sure you have enough spares for hot swaps.
Interoperability is not given
Hardware recovery cards have a consistent reputation for causing all sorts of interoperability issues, from OS drivers to database engines. Because such cards are managed by the firmware embedded into the card, newer operating systems might not recognize it properly, thus limiting your potential to upgrade to latest and greatest OS versions.
Forget about easy updates
With the hardware cards the protection needs to be turned off locally on every machine for patching, making mass updates or rolling out new programs or patches practically impossible.
This post marks the final episode of my series on reboot to restore technologies. We have reviewed imaging, buffer files, virtualization, file synchronization, block level protection and read-only filesystems in addition to hardware cards. I hope you find this review useful and encourage your questions and comments.