Useless Backups Makes Time Travel Possible

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Potential Time travel machineEveryone always talks about "backing up your data" which is of course a good thing. In fact, not backing up can be considered an act of corporate negligence as it takes very little time for the data to quickly exceed the value of whatever holds it. Replacing a hard drive is cheap and easy. Replacing a thousand iTunes, not quite as quick and easy.

There's the other side to a backup process. It's called business resumption or data restoration. It's what you do after something bad happens.

Yesterday was a good example of when something simple turns into something ugly.

About a week ago we had a technical hiccup on the server. We made some quick checks; all seemed fine. We were busy and nobody was complaining. About 2am yesterday, one of our servers was auto-updated with some new software. The update overwrote/reset something that made certain services stop. e.g., http is a service. When you ask for a web page, the web server software listens and responds via http. We tried to restart the services, but they were not behaving.

Without getting into the details, we asked the data center for help and within a few hours, the server was back, but our data wasn't. What we didn't know was that the hiccup a week previous was related to our backup system. When we went to restore our data, it was corrupt so we were backing up garbage.

Restoring bad data is like going back in time.  Ever write a long post and then have your browser crash? Imagine a one that you wrote for five days.

So, moral of the story:

1. Don't ignore hardware/software warning messages. This is true with computers just as it is in life.

2. Make sure your backups contain data that prevent you from time travel. (i.e., run a test to make sure they work)

3. Have a written business resumption process so that when something does happen, you have a reliable checklist that anyone can follow.

PS. I realize that most don't run their own servers, so then replace "server" with "laptop" or whatever your primary computer is where important data resides. Everything above applies to any device that holds data that exceeds the value of the container.


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Frank Rubi
Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC - Metairie, LA

Great point on backing up data. It is one of my repeated processes. Thanks for the reminder.

Dec 17, 2008 10:01 PM #1
Chip Jefferson
Gibbs Realty and Auction Company - Columbia, SC

Yes I learned the hard way a year ago. Now I have a backup set on my PC for every 3 days. I was lucky last time as we finally recovered the data. Now I have it regardless!

Dec 17, 2008 10:02 PM #2
Charles McDonald
Charlottesville Real Estate Solutions - Charlottesville, VA
REALTORĀ®, Blogger, Principal BrokerĀ®, Owner

An offsite backup is always a good idea too...

Merry Christmas!

Charlottesville Santa

your friend in Charlottesville

Dec 17, 2008 10:08 PM #3
Kristin Johnston - REALTORĀ®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

How frustrating for you!  And here, I am complaining about my printer cartridge going out! 

Dec 17, 2008 11:05 PM #4
Gabrielle Kamahele Rhind
KGC Properties LLC, Tucson Property Management & Real Estate - Tucson, AZ

I will be another example of why this is so true! My new computer should be arriving tomorrow.  My computer tech-y friend has my old one and will try to retrieve all the data that appears to be lost.  I kept seeing the warning error messages - but did not think too much of it because I recently replaced my harddrive and added new memory.  It turns out - the new parts weren't compatible and caused the computer to crash.  And where are my back up disks?  About 6 months old.....tough tough lesson to learn! -- Gabrielle

Dec 18, 2008 12:16 AM #5
Tony Grego, 317-663-4173 #1 Trade Association for Alternative Inv
REISA - 317-663-4173 - Indianapolis, IN

Been there and done that.

Now I back up all of the time. With the price of drives (100 for a tereabit) it is the thing to do. Now I heard a story yesterday of a guy with everything back up on DVD's for about five years. Only problem is that with the passage of time the DVD's went bad. He was able to restore with a Mac but it was close. Need to have mult. backups. I am also looking for putting everything on the cloud


Dec 29, 2008 10:35 PM #6
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