Rising from the ruins: You cannot have too many backups

Rising from the ruins-backupsThe lives of the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand including my own, changed dramatically when two major earthquakes recently struck the city. The first disaster occurred at 4 am on Saturday, 4 September 2010 (magnitude 7.1) and the second at 1pm on the busy working day of Tuesday, 22nd February 2011 (magnitude 6.3). Two large office blocks collapsed as did numerous old brick facades in the quaint Victorian city centre resulting in many injuries and 185 deaths.
I was on a lunchtime dash to my local supermarket when the second quake struck. When it was all over and reassured that no one near me was hurt, I shakily made my way to the car to send off texts to staff, family and friends. Hurrying home to check the damage and get my earthquake kit (food, water, first aid kit, matches, emergency radio and space blankets), I quickly realised that this second quake was much more destructive than the first one.  Fortunately for many homes and businesses to the west of the city the damage was extensive but minor. On the east of the city centre the flooding and liquefaction of the soil caused major damage to buildings, roads and waste water systems. Our single storey office was on the edge of the cordoned off central city in which 900 damaged buildings have now been demolished.  Fortunately no one had been hurt as we had carefully earthquake proofed the office after the first big one.  Everything dangerous had been put on the ground or moved to a lower level.

We were up and operating a day later as soon as power was restored.  Many of our SYSPRO customers are across New Zealand and we could not let them down. We were lucky that our main server survived but it died a year later leading to an unexpected replacement expense.  “Not uncommon”, our hardware supplier told me, “In the violent shaking the disks get scratched which only becomes apparent much later when attempting to use the damaged sections”.  In the immediate aftermath so many computers were destroyed or inaccessible, new machines had to be urgently sourced and flown in from all around the world. This shortage stopped many companies from getting up and running quickly. This disaster reinforced the old lesson – you cannot have too many backups. I have always been meticulous about backing up and ensuring that our SYSPRO customers understand how to properly backup their SYSPRO data.  The beauty of SYSPRO is that client and server programs can be easily re-installed from a DVD. Customers only have to worry about backing up their data and customisations.

Since the first earthquake I now carry in my handbag or briefcase a torch and backup of my personal and business files. I also keep critical documents and data on a cloud server. I learned this lesson from a friend whose personal computer was destroyed when her house collapsed. As she was lecturing to students at the time she also lost access to her cell phone and business data as she was not allowed back into her office for three weeks. She effectively lost her life as she knew it. The second lesson learned was to have backups on multiple media stored in multiple locations. Several large corporates who relied on single offsite data centres in the city for their backups were unable to retrieve data for weeks after the earthquakes.

We have had 12,000 aftershocks of varying magnitude since September 2010 and have learned to deal with the uncertainty of another quake at any time. Many have lost their businesses and precious possessions, struggling with enormous personal loss and post-traumatic stress.  Many have left Christchurch. For those of us who have stayed leading a gypsy existence, resilience and toughness is the name of the game. Things will feel back to normal when the insurers repair our house and the business finds a permanent new home.  The outpouring of concern and sympathy from the SYSPRO community was heartening. I know that we have their on-going support as we struggle to rise from the ruins but like the phoenix we surely will.

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