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Disasters and Your Data

You may have a backup, but is your backup safe, reliable, and can you recover quickly enough for your business needs?

I am again in the Remedy Café in Edmonton Alberta where I just saw a waitress shatter her iPhone as she walked back to the kitchen. I’m currently sharing a table with a future doctor who had the misfortune of telling me that she is low-tech and paranoid about losing her data. So now, I am paying her back by writing an article about her. In my opinion, she has less to worry about than most device owners.

The common thread between the future doctor and the waitress is their concern for the loss of their data. The doctor across from me is 22 and is studying health economics. She probably has the following stuff on her computer

  • Research Articles
  • Essays
  • Her Thesis
  • eBooks
  • mp3
  • Pictures and videos of friends and family

I have not asked her, but this is typical personal computer stuff for any student. I’m willing to bet that the most important stuff to her in the long term will be the pictures of friends and family. Even though she’s spent months or years building her thesis, once it’s done and submitted, she may never look at it again.

The waitress who dropped her iPhone will also have pictures and videos and songs and a few apps that she has downloaded over the years, and thousands of texts. She was texting when she dropped her phone. I hope her boss does not read this and fire her for texting at work because she makes the best Vanilla Rooibos Chai of anyone in Alberta.

There are very few iPhone owners that don’t use iTunes, so the waitress should be able to recover any licensed songs, podcasts and movies she might have lost. However, she would need to have configured a backup to another device or to iTunes in order to ensure that her pictures and videos are safe.

Using the waitress as an example of the consequences of a business interruption we can imagine that the waitress was texting a friend when she dropped her phone. They were planning to get together at Knoxville’s bar. However, plans changes and everyone was supposed to meet somewhere on Whyte Avenue. The waitress is now facing lost opportunities. She doesn’t know the status of her social life and hopefully this loss will not cause her to lose friends, or worse have no friends at all.

Similarly, businesses that face interruptions due to any type of disaster, such as the businesses destroyed or damaged by the flooding in Calgary and High River back in June 2013, all faced serious losses that not only had a direct impact, but also an indirect impact because information on the status of their business was also lost.

Imagine a scenario where you don’t know what your accounts receivable are; you don’t know who owes you how much and how soon. Or another scenario where you don’t know who you owe, or how much inventory you just lost because the value of it was kept in a system that was also destroyed.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with all three levels of Government, the major banks and representatives from the insurance bureau of Canada launched a flood recovery expo to help businesses affected by the disaster. One thing that was pointed out by one of the insurance representatives was that a huge number of businesses go out of business within 6 months of facing a major disaster. What people don’t realize is that an IT disaster can have as much an impact in some cases as a physical disaster.

I have been fortunate enough not to know anyone who has suffered such a catastrophe to their business in my career, it is my business to advise my customers of potential risks and like the doctor across from me, make sure that there are redundant and overlapping strategies to not only avoid disasters but be prepared for the eventuality that one will occur.

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