2015.04.08 Tech Corner – The Age of Total Data Dependency

The Age of Total Data Dependency (Est. 1990 – Present)

Article By: Rich Silva – Founder – Pain Point IT Solutions, Inc.

There are certain times in my life when I wish I came up with the right words to express how I feel and I came across the words I used as the title of this weeks entry embedded on a web-site or article I found when browsing the web and it really resonated. I can't recall exactly where I saw it, but it really hits home, so I'm using it and indirectly crediting the author of the statement.

"The Age of Total Data Dependency"

This is where we are in our business, social, and personal lives now. Many of you may have seen the social experiments out there where they take someone's mobile device and data away from them for a few minutes and we all watch and laugh as the person struggles to survive without it for a few minutes. Take it away for a few days and, well I don't think anyone is brave enough to have tried that one yet. It really has become a dependency. For crying out loud, Facebook was doing some database maintenance the other day and I was locked out of my account and told to try again later. After 3 hours of periodic trying, I was still locked out and became more persistent in my need to know that Facebook didn't run away and that it was still there. Ask me if I'm dependent on this data and I too will say no, of course not.

The dependency on computers and data in business has a well known and documented history as well. Back when I started as a Network Engineer in the mid-90's, the company I worked for put in our first 10-Base-2 network. For those of you who do not remember, or are too young to remember this, these were the networks that daisy chained coaxial cable from computer to computer and connected to the back of the computers with "T" connectors. At each end of the stringed together computers was a terminator that needed to be in place at both sides, or the network would be "down". Likewise, if anyone broke the chain the network would be down. Every time the network was down, there was complete panic because people, even in the infancy of data networks and data sharing could not conduct business if the data or computers was not available. Sure, technology has improved drastically since then and networks and systems have become much more resilient, but while the causes have been tempered, the effect of outages still have the same impact and result; panic, chaos, and lost productivity. In the network example, there was a tangible and recoverable solution; mainly my colleagues and I tracing cables and finding the culprit (which most of the time was a kicked cable, or a residual result of "bring your kid to work day").

However, taking this to the next layer...

What would happen if the network was available, but the data was lost?

Businesses and individuals who chose in the 1990's to protect their data, went out and bought high capacity tape drives that require special computer drivers and specific manufacturers software thinking that as long as they have the data, they're cool. The ease or speed of recovering that data was not a very well studied issue, or concern because not enough horror stories had come to the forefront and even if it did, most of us didn't have the "internet" to read about these things. Fast forward 20 years later and like with networking, data recovery technology has evolved to ease the panic and chaos. However, people have stuck to the mentality that as long as they have the data backed up, they're cool.

This leads to asking two questions...

If we are in the age of total data dependency, shouldn't the thought process, viewpoint on recovery strategies, and fear if data not being available evolved over the past 25 years as well ?

After all, if the network or data is down, isn't the effective result of panic, chaos, and lost productivity still as prevalent today as it was in the 90's ?

The answer to both of course should be yes. Technology has evolved to reduce the panic and chaos of total data dependency when disaster strikes, but business leaders need to put their antiquated thoughts of "as long as we have the data, we're cool" into the same storage box in the attic as their plaid shirts and Nirvana CD (or cassette) and learn about some of the newer technologies out there that will save their business when disaster strikes and they become one of the companies that we all watch and laugh at the hidden camera's on social media as they struggle to survive without their data for a few days.

My Final Thought

Too many companies that I have spoken with have the antiquated belief that either the tapes they are moving off-site, or the the cloud backup solution they have in place is their data recovery plan. It's not; that's a backup plan and there is a big difference. In our age of total data dependency, shouldn't there be a shift in focus more towards quick data recovery? Of course, there should be. The problem is that most business owners need someone to make them aware that there will be a long recovery time if they do not educate themselves and implement the technological evolutions that have come to be in order to alleviate the pain and down time. That is my goal; to get the word out that backing up your data is only the first half of a sound business continuity plan. Most of you are at halftime now, with no protocol, procedure, or knowledge of how you will recover your data as quickly as humanly possible. Now is the time to draw up your second half strategy and plan; not after the disaster strikes.