.by Anura Guruge
The other week I wanted some basic statistical information about the Town given that my posts on NH tax rate comparisons have become a minor of late — probably because people got their new mortgage rate ‘summons’ with increases for property tax set aside.
I was told that the person who had access to that information was on a week’s vacation and that nobody else knew how to pull such information from ‘the system’. That is fair enough. Plus, the person on vacation was also probably the one who had the training on how to spin such information to pesky town residents who ask questions. Again, I am OK with that. But, the way it was said got me thinking given that however hard I try those 35 years in IT always influences my thinking. ‘Only person who knows how to pull that information from the system‘! So, this person, who was on vacation, is at least on a ‘short term’ basis indispensable. Wow. Must be nice.
My core competence in IT revolved around what is called ‘Big Iron‘: big, mainframes, ideally IBM mainframes. So a lot of the work I did was related to large data center issues. And a huge issue that you had to contend with, all the time, way, way before 2001, was Disaster Recovery Preparedness. Companies had to have proven, documented processes and protocols. Though, even back in the 1970s, we knew what we were talking about, you always talked and wrote in euphemisms. The euphemism I used, and I was using this in the 1990s, so what happens if a 747 lands on the roof of the data center. Some organizations need to be able to recover in minutes, though a few strive to have non-stop operation even in the face of a major disaster by having geographically dispersed, high bandwidth-connected mirrored data centers.
I know that the Town still has a lot of paper documents and records, especially huge maps. Maybe they have all been digitized. I don’t know. Just something that crossed my mind: whether the Town Manager has ever performed a realistic, audited Disaster Recovery drill, per the existing documented plan.
What we have learned is that without a drill it is all but theory, and drills are very expensive and disruptive. At IBM, in the 1970s, when cost really was no object, we used to do them about every 18 months. In those days the data, on disks, tapes and microfiche, was backed-up in an old, re-purposed tin mine about 80 miles away. Vans would rush out to bring back the backups so that they could be tested for integrity. Since the computer systems would have been turned off we would basically have to sit around for hours waiting for the vans to come back. It was always like a at-work holiday.
Of course, nobody expects disasters. But, to take down ‘systems’ they don’t have to be that severe. Just a leak in a pipe could take down a computer or two. Just something to think about. No, I don’t do disaster recovery consulting — anymore. But, I am sure some of my old work, mainly in the form of White Papers can be found on the Web.