The day THE tool dies

Techs v Chimps
While working on something years ago I saw an email from a tech pop up and I read it. Mostly I look out of curiosity, like a chimpanzee armed with a copy of Moby Dick. I really don’t know what I’m reading, but it’s fun to look. Us non-techish types just depend on guys that DID get the tech gene to grease the machine as needed and magically keep the various operations we depend on daily going.

How they do it I don’t know…
…because absolute ignorance of their methods is a requirement of the non-compete agreement I signed long ago with the powerful Tech Union… the ISPWCDS (International Society of People Who Can Do Stuff). For all I know there are magic wands and bloody rituals involving volcano virgins.

If so, probably just as well that I don’t know, cause finding a virgin to sacrifice in this part of Texas is not gonna be an easy task. Apparently nobody’s willing to take one for the team these days.

Striking Terror into the Un-Backed-Up Heart
Anyway, while reading the note from the tech about some system that had gone down I saw a reference to him having rebuilt the database with a year old backup. It occurred to me I have no idea how often the wizards back up stuff cause it isn’t part of my job to watch theirs. My blood ran cold.

WHICH system did he just do that to? The mind begins to race.

  • – Did I lose the cool new payroll tool, without which I’m lost?
  • – Do I still have the supporting tools to do it manually?
  • – Was it the directory? Did I lose a years edits & submissions?
  • – Did we lose billing information from that period?
  • – Did I turn off the coffeepot? (sorry… ADHD)

Spit it out man! Hurry, translate the techese lingo into something to set me at ease. I’m scared and I don’t even know where volcano virgins hang out!

False Alarm… THAT Time
Turned out it was some minor system that didn’t affect my life… but then and there I learned two valuable lessons.

  • -1- Back up EVERYTHING… frequently
  • -2- Always have an extra set of trousers at the office

Losing THE Tool
Is there any one tool or database that you’d freeze in terror the day it quits working? If you’re in a role that is heavily dependent on computers, the answer has to be “Yes”.

What happens when there is a glitch? Most of us in the web world remember when Dmoz went down half a decade back due to a random “oops”… someone accidentally overwrote their database with an op system and didn’t have systematic backups of a nature to quickly repair it. The site was down for months while a brave few cobbled it back together from scraps of backups and RDF dumps wrapped in duct tape. It was the nightmare lesson of all time. Had the operation been a for-profit setup how would they have fared?

Bottom line, there are tools you use every day. Sure, you back up your data religiously, but how about the other things you rely on? Do you have them covered too, or would you be in terror when a glitch hits?

Avoiding the ‘Comfort Zone’ Trap
As systems get more and more reliable, it is easy to get complacent about backups and system redundancy. I know the guys we have here do a great job watching these things, and am glad it isn’t up to me… but everyone needs to think about it. Is there data on a laptop that is ONLY on that laptop? How bout the iPad, or the smart phone? Is the data therein synced with another device?

Just food for thought. And to paraphrase… God Bless Techses.

Hope everyone’s having a great week. ~ Rob

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