Maintaining a Recovery Plan for Those Personal IT Disasters

News Analysis: Everybody knows you have to prepare for disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, but sometimes you need a recovery plan when the disaster is entirely personal.

I'm sure that at one time or another, pretty much everyone who uses computers has had the sinking feeling that greeted me when I came back to the office one evening to finish some work on a review for eWEEK.

The primary workstation in the lab, the one that had test results, notes and the background information for the article, was showing a blank screen. The computer had quietly stopped working. It was unclear whether the data on it was lost or simply inaccessible because I couldn't use the computer. But no matter how you look at it, I needed to implement my business continuity plan.

Fortunately, I have one. One of the things I've learned through my years of pontificating on the need for a business continuity plan, for backups and for an offsite storage plan is to practice what I preach. Back in the lab's back room I have a rack of Windows 2008R2 servers. In addition, I have a couple of NAS servers.

Every so often, the primary production computers back themselves up, and they periodically store an image on the NAS server. There are also several test computers in the lab that don't get backed up because they don't contain anything but test data, and they get completely reimaged every time I test anything significant.

In addition, the primary production machines back up critical files, including all documents, e-mail, images and multimedia files, to Carbonite's cloud-based storage service. This service works with computers and servers running Windows, and provides reasonably priced backup for small to medium-size businesses.

In my case there's one significant advantage to using a cloud-based storage service, and that's the fact that I can retrieve individual files from my backup from wherever I am. In other words, in addition to being able to restore all of my critical information to a different machine, I can grab a single document using my laptop if I need it while I'm out of the office.

So once I determined that this was really a computer failure, not a Windows update run amok (I'm still not totally convinced of that), I restored those documents that I thought I'd need in the immediate future to another machine in the office so I could continue work. Meanwhile, I spent hours on the phone with Microsoft tech support making sure it wasn't just Windows having a very bad day. Sadly, it wasn't.

So for the time being, I've shifted operations to another desk and another computer, and I'm up and running. What I haven't done is reimage the substitute computer with the stored image of the original.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...