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A disaster prompts thoughts on the plan that's keeping Ask Leo! running.

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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.

As I record this, I'm sitting in my RV parked in my home's driveway. In fact, if you listen carefully, you may hear the RV's generator running in the background.

Like many in the greater Seattle area, I've been without electricity for coming up on three days.

Now, my wife and I have a personal disaster plan - namely this very RV that I'm sitting in. Seattle's in an earthquake zone, and they keep telling us that we're over due for "the bigh one". As a result, there's a bit of emphasis on being prepared - for example having three days worth of supplies at the ready. In our case the RV makes perfect sense - we regularly live in it for days at a time, on the road with our three dogs, so we just keep it stocked and ready.

If you run a business, or are responsible for the technolgy behind a business, the same concept should apply. Do you know what you need to do should a business-affecting disaster occur? You may not live in an eartquake zone, but that doesn't mean you're immune. From something as big as a windstorm or earthquake, or as horrifying as terrorism, to something as simple and more common like a facilities destroying fire, you are at risk.

As an example, in my case, in addition to thorough and off-site backups, my business disaster plan includes a laptop or two, and, because my business is so internet reliant, at least two alternate ways to connect to the net. My wife's business has the added complication of physical inventory and telephone sales, so while the business can in part be run much like mine, anywhere there's an internet connection, dealing with physical matters such as a retail storefront, inventory, telephone access and shipping come into play as well.

Now, your business may be able to simply close down for a period without disasterous ramifications. Certainly if I stopped publishing Ask Leo! for a week, perhaps even missing a weekly newsletter, some eyebrows might be raised but my core business would not suffer.

But that's not a common scenario.

Do you know how your business would weather a disaster? Do you know what it means for you to be prepared? Three days without power, for example? Or the loss of key components of your technology? What if you lost the ability to phsically go to your office or computer? Would any of those be the end of your business, or only an interruption? And if only an interruption, for how long?

How much business relate damage could you absorb, and what does that imply for you to be prepared?

It pays to be prepared. In fact, it could easily be key to making sure you keep getting paid.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11004 in the go to article number box and leave me a comment. While you're there, search over 1,000 technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.

Article C2874 - December 17, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
dan ullman
December 18, 2006 9:01 AM

Is your power back up? I had the joy of spending a chilly weekend.

Leo Notenboom
December 18, 2006 9:53 AM

Nope. Day 4 and counting. :-)

More in my personal blog as well: http://leo.notenboom.org/2006/12/reflections_on.html

Martin Vanderkaa
December 23, 2006 1:22 PM

Many years ago, while working with a 386 (wow, remember these old beasts?), I had a harddrive truly fial on me. It was an awful ordeal, but taught me one important lesson: there are only two types of harddrives in the world: the ones that have failed, and the ones that are going to… It is inevitable.

Rather than having a laptop in adition to my PC, I got a removable tray in my computer which houses a second harddrive. This tray I can extract from the front of the computer. Normally, this tray is not “poked home”, so the harddrive doesn’t spin.
But once a week I make a backup. A total backup of my C drive that is. Thus I end up with two harddrives that contain exactly the same thing. For this I use a program called Ghost. And I guarantee you, this is more reliable than Windows’ XP system restore!

Another form of protection I would like to mention is this: I know Leo has mentioned several times it is not such a hot idea to have hotmail or any other of the free webmail clients. I agree in part. I work exclusively with Yahoo mail, but… I pay for it! For only $19.95 (US) per year, you get a more enhanced version of Yahoo and… customer support is in place! With my beloved Skype I can phone the Yahoo boys in California, and ask questions. I’ve done this once a few years ago.
And since I am retired and don’t have to impress clients, Yahoo is good enough for me!

Another thing I have learned (and I don’t know if Leo will agree), I believe it is wrong to have several programs which perform the same function (e.i. Spybot and AdAware) work together. These programs may interact with one another resulting that the final outcome of two or more programs is less effective than if you had one good program. Perhaps you can elaborate on this Leo? Is what I have written here true?

Finally one more thing that may ease your mind is having a UPS (uninterrpted power supply). Where I live, a remote area in Canada, it happens in winter when trees are heavily laden with snow, then topples over with its heavy burden and falls over a hydro line. That means power out, computer dead. Maar not when you have a UPS! You can finish what you are doing and make a gracious exit. No harm done.

As a final word, Leo I truly enjoy your website and would like to thank you for your efforts.

Leo Notenboom
December 24, 2006 9:07 AM

Actually, Martin, I agree with you on most all counts. I've addresses the multiple-spyware programs in a earlier article: http://ask-leo.com/can_i_run_more_than_one_antivirus_program_antispyware_program_firewall_should_i.html

What's more important than agreeing, though, is simply the fact that you've thought it through and have a plan. That puts you well ahead of so many.

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