Glenn Reynolds on Working with the System

Last week, I reminded you that those who fail to plan inadvertently plan to fail. A thought corroborated by that towering genius of the blogosphere, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a.k.a. the Instapundit. In this week’s TechCentral column, he writes:

… [press] coverage or not, these sorts of things happen all the time. The complex systems that we depend on for all sorts of goods and services, from electricity to food to natural gas, are vulnerable to breakdowns. You can exaggerate this vulnerability — as people did in the run up to Y2K hysteria — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

In other words, ‘schtuff‘ happens, you can plan on it.

So I’m here to nag you again. In the past week, have you:

  • done anything to automate your backups?
  • do you know how to restore your backups?
  • are your backups verified and restorable?
  • are your backups offsite?
  • do you have a contigency plan?
  • have you practiced your contingency plan?
  • do you have a backup for yourself?

If you can answer yes to all the above, you’re doing one better than me. Meaning, the biggest disruption to my church’s website would be me becoming unavailable for reasons I’d rather not think about. I mean, I love Chuck Holton like a brother, but aside from his best-selling books making him a busy bee, I doubt he’s going to know how to restore a MySQLDump backup that has been tar’d and gzip’d. Nor is he going to know how I install MovableType unless I teach him. And while our host provider also provides copious backups, nothing beats a bird in the hand when it comes to your own data.

In other words, ol’Deano needs to document the process and train a person or three in the fine art of restoring our system back to good working order. How about you?

Like I said, ‘schtuff‘ happens, or as Dr. Reynolds aptly put it:

Between natural disasters and terrorism, the systems that keep our society running face real threats. It’s especially important that the people who organize and operate them keep these threats in mind, and pay sufficient attention to contingencies. Lives depend on it.

Okay, lives may not depend on it, but souls might. So as I engage to yank the plank outta my own eye, I again leave you with my (self) admonishment based upon (and with apologies to) the inspirational text of Romans 10:

  • How can they restore the data without knowing how?
  • And how can they know how without having practiced?
  • And how can they practice without someone teaching them?
  • And how can someone teach without documentation?
  • As it is written, “How beautiful are the webmasters who have planned ahead!”