Tag Archives: backup

Avoiding Disasters: The Value of Continuity Planning

Server room represented by several server racks with strong dramatic light.The recent technical problems with the Delta Airlines network got me thinking about the value of business continuity planning. We teach an AIM short course dedicated to business continuity and disaster recovery planning and stress the importance of thinking through all potential scenarios. Consider this a friendly reminder to update and test your plan to make sure it is still valid. Has anything changed since your last test and could it halt your business? What is the worst-case scenario and how will you deal with it?


Delta is just the latest example of a sophisticated network of hardware and applications that failed and caused disruption to a business. In the case of Delta, a power control module failed in their technology command center in Atlanta. The universal power supply kicked in but not before some applications went offline. The real trouble began when the applications came back up but not in the right sequence. Consider application A that requires data from a database to process information to send to application B. If application B comes up before Application A, it will be looking for input that does not exist and will go into fault mode. In the same vein, if application A comes up before the database is online, it will be looking for data that does not yet exist and will fault.

Any of these scenarios will affect business operations such as ticketing, reservation and flight scheduling processes. Once flights are canceled due to lack of valid information, then the crew in San Francisco cannot get to Atlanta to start work and even more flights are canceled or delayed. In this case, it took four days before flights were fully restored. That is a lot of lost revenue and goodwill just because one power control module failed in a data center.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Information systems and networks are complex and getting more so all the time. In order to develop a plan to cover a potential interruption consider the following steps:

  • Map out your environment. Understand what systems you have, their operating systems, how they are dependent on each other, and how they are connected to each other via the network. Is it critical that all these elements come up in sequence? This map will be crucial in the event you need to rebuild your systems after a disaster.
  • Understand risks and create a plan. Understand your risk for each system and application. A small application that only runs once a month may not need attention whereas a customer order fulfillment application that runs 24/7 should be able to failover without interruption. Create a plan to keep the environment running or to restore it quickly.
  • Test the plan. This may be the most important part of the process. Testing the plan on a regular basis ensures that you have accounted for any changes to the environment and ensures that all people are up to date on their part in the event of a problem. Periodic testing also keeps the plan active and not something that becomes “shelfware.”


Businesses increasingly rely on sophisticated technology in order to sell product, service customers and communicate with partners. Any break in that technology can have a real impact on revenue and the long-term viability of the business. Have you tested your business continuity plan lately?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

When the Lights Go Out: Protecting Personal Digital Assets

Photo of a man reading a book by candlelight.Earlier this month I wrote a post about how our digital assets are protected in the cloud in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake. A recent incident at my house helped me understand the importance of protecting my personal digital assets. I was reminded how essential it is to protect my data and my equipment in the event of a disruption.

When The Lights Go Out

Last week I lost power at my house for several hours because a driver barreled down my gravel road at twice the posted speed, at night, missed a corner, and plowed into a power pole. Luckily he was fine, but the pole was not and neither was his truck. My work came to a crawl as I realized that while my laptop would last a few more hours, I was an island in terms of my Internet connection. Without power I had no router and without a working router I had no access to my remote files. I was uncomfortably aware of the holes in my personal continuity plan.


In the event of an outage I want to know that my cloud data is secure and that I have backed up my local disks. The cloud data is largely up to my service provider, whether it be Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or any number of other providers that store data. If it is a localized interruption then my data will be secure in a remote data center. If I have data on a local disk then I need to remember to back it up onto another physical disk or back it up to the cloud. The key here is “remember,” which I sometimes forget, so an automatic scheduler is important.

Line Conditioning

In case of a power outage of any kind, it is important to ensure that your computing equipment is safe from voltage spikes and drops. A line conditioner attached to your home equipment will mitigate these problems. Even better is a line conditioner with battery backup such as the APC home unit. This will protect against voltage spikes and drops but it will also give you enough time after an outage to close all of your files and shut down your equipment properly. If your router is plugged into this unit, it could give you time to download important files to a local drive in the event of a prolonged outage.

Alternative Power

Portable battery chargers are useful for rescuing dead smartphones but they can also extend the life of a tablet or even a laptop. If you are experiencing a long outage, this could give you the power you need to post that last tweet or answer that important text message. It is necessary to make sure that you keep your backup battery charged at all times or it will be useless in an emergency. Some portable batteries charge using solar energy. The Biolite camp stove charges a device by burning small twigs and leaves, which is perfect if you want to warm yourself and charge your device at the same time.


It is important to have a personal continuity plan for your digital devices as well as for your own personal safety. It takes planning and preparation but can pay off if you ever face an emergency where someone or something interrupts the power supply. Tell me about your personal continuity plan. Has it ever been put to the test? Did it work? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.