A number of years ago I had the misfortune to be caught in a heavy rain shower on my way to work. Not only did the water penetrate the raincoat I was wearing, leaving me totally saturated, but it also ‘drowned’ my laptop, leading to problems occurring when I tried to start it up, resulting in the hard drive being completely unusable and nothing able to be retrieved from it. Fortunately I worked in an organisation that allowed me to send daily backups of my laptop across the network to be stored on the server. Within a few hours I was again working on a borrowed laptop, with all my files installed, minus just a few things I’d been working on the night before.
That was really my first ‘close shave’ that caused me to appreciate the absolute importance of ‘backups’! Failure to do that would have been a disaster for me!
I’m imagining that many schools and teachers in Christchurch are thinking about this after the recent earthquake. Many have either had their laptops or servers destroyed, or have lost access to them as they lie inside condemned buildings. For them the issue of ‘disaster recovery‘ takes on new meaning – more than simply a case of whether things have been ‘backed up’ – but also a case of where those back-ups are located.
The principal from one school I spoke to is distraught because while his school had invested wisely in a complete back-up server and ensured that regular and comprehensive back-ups were made on a regular basis, the back-up server was located alongside the active server in the school, and together they lie in a condemned building in the city. Their data is undoubtedly safe, but inaccessible.
A teacher from a second school was telling me how ‘lucky’ they were that as the earthquake was happening their technician had the presence of mind to grab the back-up tapes from the office as he fled the building, and now the staff and students are able to continue operating on borrowed computers in borrowed premises accessing their files installed on a borrowed server. Certainly a case of good luck rather than good planning – they are the fortunate ones. Their tapes could so easily have been left inaccessible inside a condemned building also, leaving them in the same situation as the first school.
One of the essential elements of a good disaster recover plan is to ensure that you have off-site back-up and storage. This doesn’t simply mean that you take the back-up tapes home at the end of each day. Effective off-site back-up involves regular ‘pushing’ of data to the off-site server – this should occur at least once daily, typically overnight, but with digital data being mission critical for schools, more frequent back-up or “continuous data protection” should be seriously considered.
This is one of the significant benefits of being connected to Ultrafast Broadband, and as schools look forward to how they can leverage their investment in UFB, the lessons learned from Christchurch should raise the concerns for a good disaster recovery plan to somewhere near the top of the list.