How to Recover a Disaster of a Disaster Recovery Demo

September 30, 2007 – 12:28 pm


I’ve been told that if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance then baffle them with your your bull$#@!.  

While that certainly wasn?t my goal yesterday I quickly found out that it was my talent (I?m sure Susan will show now no mercy in telling you the same).  I?m not sure if that is a good thing but the feedback from many in my standing room only presentation at SMB Nation is that my sense of humor combined my nonchalant attitude towards the train-wreck of a demo was my saving grace and was actually more entertaining the standard death by PowerPoint. 

So what happened?  I had this demo planned and rehearsed to the detail.  My goal?  Take a backup image of a physical Server 2003 from my shared thumb drive and recover it to a VHD in Virtual PC on  USB attached drive by pulling the recovery across a wireless network then running a hardware independent restore process to reload drivers to the system prior to boot while at the same time mounting a duplicated recovery image in VMWare Workstation thus showing two methods of P2V recovery to different hardware at the same time.  Simple enough right?

So everything is going great as I jam through the bullet point slides then boot into VMWare and begin using VMWare Converter to import my image.  I get a nice error telling me this same image I?ve played with all day is no good.  Nice. Try again, fail.

OK, let?s just show the HIR recovery in VPC and forget the extra VMWare demo.  Next, as, part of the demo I show how you can and should ?mount? the image as a virtual drive in the WinPE enviorment of StorageCraft Shadow Protect so you can view and verify files (or virus scan etc?) and the image fails to mount.  I begin to get the icky sinking feeling that the next 45 minutes are going to go really slow since the demo was 75% of my presentation.   I try mounting the image again, same result.  Gulp!

Somebody suggests I give my laptop a reboot so we try that.  Boot into WinPE and get the same result.  OK, demo over and yours truly accepts the fact that I?m now going to be the SMB Nation 2007 Poster Child of Death by Live Demo.  Not the title I was hoping to leave Redmond with. 

Once resolved that my days of community presentation are pretty much over I realize we have over 30 minutes so I propose I walk through the steps of what the recovery wizard does and how to use it.  I acknowledge to the crowd that I will only show them the steps but they will have to imagine the end results in their mind and believe that it actually worked an hour ago in the back of the room.  So while I?m talking I decide to click the Finish button just for giggles (and to see what the error will look like). 

I keep talking but in the corner of my eye I see the status bar proceeding normally.  Could it be?  Is it really??  No way!  SOB!!!  The recovery completes successfully and the room breaks into applause.  My Server 2003 P2V recovery completes in 3 minutes and 15 seconds then shortly thereafter boots into Windows and shows it?s gloriously reassuring login prompt.  Again, applause fills the room.  Damn I?m good.  ;-)  

Upon reflection I determined three thing: 

1)      I have absolutely no idea what went wrong but I know the reason it happened was to completely humiliate me and allow everyone else feel just a litter better about themselves for a few minutes.

2)     The entire time I?m up there wishing I could just climb down a secret tunnel behind the podium there was another copy of my original backup image on my other USB drive I could have easily used to same 20 minutes of absolute agony.  Oh well, next time (yeah right!) I will have Plan B for everything including a handy backup of my backup.

3)     I don?t believe in superstition, it is for unlucky people.  Nevertheless, n,ever, ever, ever under any circumstance tell your audience how the amazing demo they are about to see will only take half the scheduled time.    ;-)

Until next year, I?m back to using P2V in my office where the only laughing will be me, realizing how easy and amazing technology can be thanks to great software like Shadow Protect from StorageCraft and VMWare.

  1. 6 Responses to “How to Recover a Disaster of a Disaster Recovery Demo”

  2. Nice job (and a little luck) Mark

    I was not there but I’ve kept up on what was happening alittle with Susans blog. I would have loved to see it.

    I am a big fan of VM technology, and I’m trying to us it more, I may be in the near future using it on my production server for my Office SBS server Then I can run Cougar along side it. I have a free copy of Xensource Server v 4. that does 64bit, but haven’t tried it as of yet. I was also considering testing Win Srv 2k8 beta CORE with VM.

    Again congrads

    By Mike Effertz on Oct 1, 2007

  3. Mark,

    I was there, and you handled it with grace and poise. On your #2 point, the weakness of your plan was to have only one copy on the USB stick, and not having a known good copy burnt to DVD.

    Lastly, I think it was the room. I saw a couple more presentations in ther (Rainier???), and there were glitches as well (aftershocks of the great Crall earthquake?)

    Again, grace, poise, and professionalism. If I could be just as smooth, I think I would be called, “The Iceman”…

    Take care,


    By Jeff Dempsey on Oct 3, 2007

  4. Reminds me of a Demo of a Treo700 last week I did at the Microsoft PACK West Building.

    Everything and I mean EVERYTHING failed on our equipment.

    Luckily everything was in my head and I walked them through virtually. Not the Exact thing we wanted to do, but I was supprised on how nervious I wasn’t considering what went wrong.

    This is why knowing your topic helps, so when things go wrong, you can recover.

    this IMO is clear that you knew your topic which can cover for a lot of equipment failures.

    But from now On I’m grabing some videos of the demo incase the equipment doesn’t work.

    This Program Debut will capture your demo into a .wmv file and then you can always play your demo from a USB

    This program is Free

    Not a perfect solution but it will let your event go through.


    By Russ Grover (SBITS.Biz) on Oct 3, 2007

  5. Hey Mark we all feel for you… My demos blew up too, but I know exactly why that was… thanks Dana & Charlie ;)

    Next year I’ll bring my own box, which is what I had originally planned to do this year :)

    Just remember… Two Jews walked into a bar… ;)

    By Mitch Garvis, MCT on Oct 8, 2007

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