During July, the Ithaca area has experienced record rainfall. While great for most of the crops and our lawns, there have been a number of flash floods affecting several business and organizations. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often in our area. However, a flood, even when small, can damage or destroy computer and other electronic technology. A number of local clients had siginificant damage to some or all of their computer technology.
- When installing new or updating computer technology, network servers, or any electrical or electronic equipment, avoid basements and other near to the ground locations. Seems obvious, but in most businesses, putting the network server in the basement seems like "just the right place" and "out of the way". It is, until the day water finds its way to the same place. If you must put a server or computer in a basement, keep it well off the floor and be very vigilant should there be the possiblity of a flash flood.
Try as we might, some clients still believe their computer equipment will never fail and they will never lose any of their data. But, unfortunately all mechanical devices eventually fail. Traditional disk drives spin at 7,500 – 15,000 rpm with their read/write heads literally “flying” less than a millimeter above the disk surfaces. If a head touches the surface or a motor or head actuator fails, the drive and all the data are toast. It may be possible to retrieve data from a failed drive, but it’s not easy, it takes time, and it’s relatively expensive.
We might be seeing some high winds and heavy rains in the Ithaca and Central New York area from Monday late afternoon through Tuesday mid-day. Although most eyes are looking toward our southeast for the worst of "Sandy", our area could be affected as well. So what to do about your technology:
First and always: Make sure you, your family, and your co-workers are safe and prepared. Know where community shelters are. If your organization has a DRP or BCP, make sure all the pieces are in place and ready to go. If you don't know these initials, now is not the time to learn them.
I was at a conference recently where one of the speakers was talking about their services uptime during the past year. 99.998% uptime flashed on the screen to the applause of the mostly technical multitude! Some quick math told me that this system had experience only 10.512 minutes of unscheduled downtime during the previous 525,600 minutes (remember the song from “Rent”)! Very impressive numbers! However, it got me thinking about overall computer system reliability, how we put our faith in numbers and sort of arbitrarily create standards which are difficult and expensive to maintain.
Years ago, when competition was coming to our country’s landline telephone network , the “Bell” companies and AT&T touted that no other company or system could get close to their “Five 9s” in reliability. Again, doing the math, that’s only 5.256 minutes of unscheduled network downtime annually. “Ma Bell” was right. The landline networks (both voice and data) are “only” 99.995% reliable (averaging several government and industry surveys). So the average landline voice or data network can expect to have 26.28 minutes of unscheduled downtime annually.