From Microsoft Windows 7 to Hurricanes: Dealing With IT Disasters

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-09-14 Print this article Print

New Analysis: Sometimes it's not Mother Nature that creates the disaster that needs recovery. Sometimes it's you or someone who works for you.

During the course of the last month, those of us in the Washington, D.C., area have dealt with our share of natural disasters. We had an earthquake that was relatively mild by West Coast standards, but it shut down a nuclear power plant that remains closed, it toppled the tops of the spires on National Cathedral, collapsed several school buildings and brought about an overloaded wireless network. If that wasn't enough, we were hit a few days later by Hurricane Irene, and then a few days after that by Tropical Storm Lee.

You'd think that would be enough disasters for a three-week period of time. But then there were the unnatural disasters. For example, a utility worker accidentally caused a blackout in parts of Arizona, California and Mexico when something went wrong during a maintenance procedure, and then automatic safeguards didn't function as expected. The result is that a number of areas had to wait days for power to be restored, and that in turn meant that computers and data centers were down. Hopefully, they were protected by uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) so that they didn't lose anything, but that doesn't help with conducting business.

Of course, unnatural disasters can be smaller, and closer to home. I found myself doing disaster recovery of sorts starting Sept. 10, after I had to reinstall Microsoft Windows 7 on my primary workstation. This was caused by the kind of individual disaster that's not any larger than a single business. But it still caused days of downtime while I restored computing power to my business.

The cause of this one-business disaster was a desire to tune up my primary computer. It's a machine with a pair of dual-core Intel Xeon processors, 64-bit Windows and a lot of memory. But it was getting slow, so I installed a new copy of System Mechanic from Iolo Technologies, a product that I'd reviewed before, and that has generally rated well. This time, something went horribly wrong, and my registry was corrupted. I was eventually able to get the computer to start, but it couldn't do anything useful.

Since I'd discovered the damage over the weekend, I had to wait until Monday for the proper level of tech support. I used my laptop for doing work, so all was not lost, but then I spent hours on the phone with Iolo's tech support. There was no solution other to perform a clean install of Windows. I did that Monday.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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