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It's days gone by, and this pilot fish runs the LAN at his site, while his co-worker is in charge of the mainframe -- and they're both responsible for backups.

"After many months of driving to work early Saturday morning for the sole purpose of starting a backup, I wrote a small routine that would initiate the backup process for me using a DOS timer utility," says fish.

"My co-worker asked could I modify it to start his backup on the mainframe. With some tweaking, I was able to do this and was even able to capture error messages."

In fact, the first weekend it runs, the error messages seem to indicate there's a problem with a tape drive on the mainframe.

Fish mentions it to his co-worker, who verifies that there's a problem -- but does nothing about it.

The next week, it's the same error message. And the week after that.

Flash forward four years, to the day one of the mainframe's hard drives goes out. Not a problem -- it has redundancy, so fish's co-worker calls the vendor to replace the bad drive and heads out for lunch, leaving fish to wait for the repair tech.

"The tech arrives and starts repairs," fish says. "The moment he pulls the defective drive out, there's a big popping sound, and the other drive goes out. Both drives have to be replaced, and the operating system is installed from scratch with updates.

"The tech then tries the tape drive. It's broken. He replaces the tape unit with one he happens to have with him. He tells me to tell my co-worker to restore from backups, and leaves."

Co-worker returns, and fish explains what's happened. When was your last good backup? fish asks. Co-worker falls into a chair, his mouth opening and closing, making an odd sound. Finally he tells fish the date of his last successful backup.

More that four years earlier.

It's my own fault, he tells fish. I'll call the boss. He tells her the story. She's not happy, but she tells fish's co-worker that he can get a tape from another site and the damage shouldn't be too bad.

"We conference in the other site," fish reports. "They tell us they have had tape problems also. They haven't had a stable backup in five years.

"This time the boss is upset.

"My co-worker and I work a 36-hour marathon rebuilding the system the best we can. A high-priced consultant is called in, and after throwing a lot of money at the problem, we wind up with a better system than before.

"And my co-worker never forgot to back up again."

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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