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What backup is adequate?

I've been ski-ing for the last 5 days. Or rather - trying too. On one day, the slopes were completely closed and on the other days there has only been limited opening - of the 30 lifts perhaps 10 have been running on average, and this is peak season. Yesterday, we went to the Gondola Station here in South Lake Tahoe to find that the Gondola wasn't running ... and we queued for well over an hour for a bus to take us about a mile and a half to the next lift. Got onto "the mountain" at about midday.

Finished ski-ing when the lifts closed at 4 p.m., queued for the bus again and got back to the Gondola station for about 5:30. Rather took the shine off the day.

I know that bad weather happens. But the folks here seem to have woefully inadequate backup to handle what seem to be daily problems. Be it lack of buses, lack of systems to load them quickly, lack of staff to get more lifts running until late in the day. It's not exactly as if the weather hadn't been forecast!

On the mountain, too, the lift system is sparse - there's one vital lift that you MUST ride in order to get from "A" to "B" and it's very prone to sudden closure - leaving anyone who's travelled from "B" to "A" earlier in the day stranded.


I'm sure the whole system works very well on a sunny, calm day but - hey - there ARE going to be snowy and windy days .... we need that snow for ski-ing!

Please forgive my "rant". As a systems person, I find it very frustrating to see something that could run so well and be so much better with just a few tiny adjustments, and I see all those people so inconvenienced by the lack of adequate planning and backup. But that's not to say that there need to be backups for every eventuality.

When we provide a training course, we provide one laptop computer per trainee to use during the course, and we always carry at least one spare just in case of hardware failure, someone messing up the software, or if an extra person wants to attend. The machine that I present from is backed up onto another machine too, so that if that fails we're not "dead in the water". And we carry a spare network hub and cables. Should the main internet connection fail at our training centre, we have a lower speed backup that we can manually switch in so that we remain on line.

BUT ... we don't have a spare tutor always on call in case I'm taken ill. Touch wood, I'm healthy and it's very rare indeed for this to be an issue - twice in 10 years, I think - and the extra cost of providing this backup would far exceed any gain from having it.

In computing terms "backup" usually relates to the backup of data and programs so that systems can be restored in the event of a failure / loss of data. It's a very easy thing to overlook, as things can work perfectly for years and you'll say "I'll take a backup sometime" ... or backup frequencies get less and less. Then you may well have an issue of quite major significance when something goes wrong - far outweighing those problems I've described at Heavenly ski resort earlier in this post.

How will I get my system(s) up and running again if xxxx happens at the worst possible time? - that's the question to ask your self when you check whether you backup scheme is adequate.
(written 2006-01-04, updated 2006-06-09)

 
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