Monday, March 21, 2005

Once a year trip into Hades

Once a year, my computer (hardware or software) takes me on a trip down the River Styx and into Hades (the Greek netherworld). On that day, I am reminded how fragile computers are. If one "core" program or one setting is in error, the computer becomes as useful as an anchor on dry land. On days like these (like today), I hope that every critical computer system and every project that is creating digital assets has not been foolish -- not put its faith on one computer system (like many of us do) -- but instead has a disaster plan and has tested its disaster recovery procedures.

Most organizations do have disaster plans, even though many have not tested those plans and procedures, including the procedures to get everything back online after the disaster has happened. For example, can they quickly get the computer systems back online using an alternate (disaster recovery) site?

Here are some general questions that might set your mind into motion on this topic:
  • If your digital library had severe hardware problems, how fast could you resume service? What efforts would it take?
  • If a disaster struck, would the members of your team know what to do even if all of the team members weren't present? In other words, could anyone on your team carry out the disaster plan?
  • Do you have a location (with the correct computer hardware) that you can use during and after a disaster in order to bring your digital library (and other computer systems) back online?
  • Do you have list stored off-site of the hardware and software in use? (Such a list could be critical to ensure that the right software, etc., is used to rebuild the system.)
  • In the case of a disaster that is bigger than a hardware failure (e.g., flood, fire), do you have a way of knowing who from your staff was in the building? If you're in a library, for example, would you know if everyone -- including patrons -- had gotten out of the building?
  • After a major disaster, would you have access to critical information from your business systems (e.g., payroll)? Is there a copy stored off-site in a secure location?

There are many more specific questions you could consider. A disaster plan would cover many areas. Books on this topic include:

  • Disaster Planning: A How-To-Do-It Manual With Planning Templates on Cd-Rom (How-to-Do-It Manuals for Libraries, No. 129.) being release by Neal-Schuman later this year.
  • Disaster Recovery Planning: Strategies for Protecting Critical Information Assets by Jon William Toigo and Jon Toigo.
  • The Disaster Recovery Handbook: A Step-by-Step Plan to Ensure Business Continuity and Protect Vital Operations, Facilities, and Assets by Michael Wallace and Lawrence Webber.
  • Contingency Planning and Disaster Recovery: A Small Business Guide by Donna R. Childs and Stefan Dietrich.

Check for information on these and other titles.

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