The Almanac

An eclectic collection of research and resources.

Y2k a Mixed Bag for Disaster Recovery Pros

The year 2000 date rollover crisis has had both positive and negative effects on the disaster recovery field, long-time observers say. On the positive side, it drew a lot of attention to establishing contingency plans and had companies talking to their vendors and suppliers about disaster scenarios, says Dan Bailey, senior manager at Protiviti Inc., a risk consulting company in Dallas, and a member of the professional groups DRI International and the Association of Contingency Planners.

But Y2k turned out to be a nonevent because of the efforts that went into fixing systems. But the success of those efforts created credibility problems for disaster recovery specialists and led to complacency among senior executives, Bailey says.

Chief financial officers who OK'd $20 million to upgrade systems for Y2k—only to have nothing happen—may wonder whether that was money well spent, says Tim DeLisle, managing principal at Corigelan LLC, a disaster recovery consultancy in Chicago. If IT asks for another $30 million to upgrade disaster recovery capabilities, those executives are going to be skeptical, so "you need to build a business case for risk management," DeLisle says.

The other post-Y2k problem is that some companies figure they addressed all their disaster recovery issues in the Y2k plan that's sitting on the shelf. But many of their systems and operations have changed since 1999, so those plans are virtually worthless now unless they've been updated, DeLisle says.

Restoring Data Tapes After the Coffee Spill

Restoring Data Tapes After the Coffee Spill
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Image Credit: Getty Images
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As your store's night manager is driving home with the backup tapes, he has to slam on the brakes. Hot coffee spills onto the tapes, turning them into a wet, wrinkled mess. Can you still recover the data? The folks at Exabyte Corp. say that their VXA drives can read VXA-formatted tapes that have been subjected to boiling water, coffee, ice or volcanic ash.

The trick is that Exabyte's VXA drives read the data as tiny packets on the magnetic tape instead of using the conventional method of reading the skinny tracks that run along the length of the tape from beginning to end . The VXA drives collect the addressable packets and reassemble them with an error-checking procedure—it's similar to the way the packet-switched Internet works, says Kiernan Maloney, an Exabyte general manager in Boulder, Colo. So if the drive misreads a packet—perhaps because of a wrinkle or a spot of latte—it goes back to look for the missing packet, Maloney says.

Of course, only a backup tape generated by a VXA drive can be read by a VXA drive.

Three Tips

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The Backup Book: Disaster Recovery From Desktop to Data Center

From: Dorian Cougias, CEO of Network Frontiers LLC in San Francisco and author of The Backup Book: Disaster Recovery From Desktop to Data Center (Schaser-Vartan Books, 2003).

  • Tip No. 1: Figure out how to recover from "stupid-user tricks," such as the user who accidentally drags an empty file directory on top of a very important file directory and wipes it out, or the janitor who disregards the "Don't touch this switch" sign. Ask your help desk staffers to list the problems they've dealt with in the past 12 months.
  • Tip No. 2: Have a disaster recovery plan for your e-mail system, the most-used system on the network. Consider a product like the Emergency Messaging System from MessageOne Inc. in Austin.
  • Tip No. 3: Make sure each employee's daily, weekly or monthly work procedures include disaster recovery practices, just like a sailor's duties include checking the boat's rigging and pumps before every excursion.

Patent Watch

  • A data storage system that provides real-time data backup when a hazard sensor detects an imminent disaster. The system alters the backup process to minimize the amount of lost data.

    U.S. Patent No. 6,684,306, issued Jan. 27, 2004. Inventors: Teruo Nagasawa, Takahisa Kimura and Takeshi Koide, for Hitachi Ltd. in Tokyo.
  • A targeted early-warning system for disasters. Local residents are warned of a fast-moving disaster via a code and brief text message sent to the caller ID screen of their telephones.

    U.S. Patent No. 6,594,345, issued July 15, 2003. Inventor: R. Keith Vinson, for BellSouth Corp.

Pop Quiz

Could you locate your disaster recovery plan in the next five minutes?
Could you locate your disaster recovery plan in the next five minutes?
Do you know what you're supposed to do under the plan?
Do you know what you're supposed to do under the plan?
BASE: Online survey of 227 IT professionals at organizations that have a disaster recovery plan Source: Computerworld, Framingham, Mass., February 2004
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Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters

From 1980 to 2003, states in the South had more billion-dollar weather disasters—such as hurricanes and floods—than other states in the continental U.S. This map shows the frequency per state of weather disasters that have resulted in over $1 billion in damages during that period.
Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters
Source: National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, N.C., 2004

Special Report

Preparing For The Worst

Stories in this report:

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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