• United States
Managing Editor, Network World Fusion

Readers on backup planning

Apr 15, 20033 mins
Data Center

* Two additional tips for ensuring you’re covered without a full staff

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the concept of back-up planning (see editorial link below) and readers were good enough to offer up suggestions of their own.

My take was rather simple: Ensure your staff is crossed trained, so if someone quits, gets fired or is out for a day or even an extended period of time, your work can proceed uninterrupted. It’s one of those to-dos that’s so simple and makes so much sense, it’s easy to overlook. It can get pushed to the back burner in light of more pressing matters and emergencies, and before you know it you’re short staffed and no one knows how to do the job of the absent person. Unfortunately, that’s a scenario many of us have come to experience given wave upon wave of layoffs we’ve been suffering over the past two years.

Here are a couple of excellent tips sent in by your colleagues:

* One of my warnings was to make sure the documents on how to do each job are stored on your network. This guards against this critical information being stored only on a staffer’s computer, which is difficult to access if the staffer – and the computer – are not in the office. One reader shared how his company guards against such an occurrence: “We use a ‘Wiki server’ to share knowledge. In short a Wiki server is like an electronic blackboard where everyone can type in their notes, ideas, solutions, etc. This might sound like good old news groups, but it is much more efficient with keeping the information up-to-date. Besides that, there are many good implementations that are distributed as open source software.” Our friend was also good enough to pass along a URL where you can find more information:

* Another reader brought up a point I totally missed: This type of exercise is crucial to disaster and contingency planning:

“The only thing I can add is the need to include the dependencies, internal  and external, between each employee with other employees, departments,  customers, etc.  So if Employee B is prepared to assume to job of Employee  A, and Employee D for Employee C, and there is a critical operational  dependency between A and C, B and D – know this.

“In IT security, too many times the nontechnical issues are ignored. . . . If a firewall administrator is not present, his work is not documented, and an attack or penetration takes place, or the firewall configuration is compromised, if no one is prepared to administer this emergency, the consequence is financial and can be disastrous.  I have one customer where this happened, and not only was no one else prepared, even if they had someone, the firewall administrator and IT manager had not written down (and of course, safely guarded) the firewall system password.  [The] consequence was that they shut down the firewall and suffered a serious penetration.”

My thanks to everyone who sent in such thoughtful advice. Let’s get those contingency plans up to date.