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Disaster Recovery. Yeah, It's Important

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By Allan Holmes March 21, 2007

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If you need another reason to institute that disaster recovery plan, what happened to the Alaska Department of Revenue might just convince you to do it sooner rather than later. Last July, a computer technician, while conducting routine computer maintenance, accidentally erased a hard drive containing information on a $38 billion account that distributes oil revenue payments to Alaska residents, according to a USAToday article published online yesterday.

That was strike one.

The technician then mistakenly reformatted the disk, rendering the data irretrievable. Strike two.

Hoping it had another swing at the disaster recovery plate to retrieve the information, Alaska turned to its backup tapes. But the tapes were unreadable. Strike three.

"Nine months worth of applicant information for the yearly payout from the Alaska Permanent Fund was gone: some 800,000 electronic images that had been painstakingly scanned into the system months earlier, the 2006 paper applications that people had either mailed in or filed over the counter, and supporting documentation such as birth certificates and proof of residence," the newspaper reported.

But Alaska had a fourth chance to recover the data. The state called in more than 70 Alaska state workers and temps over the following two months (working weekends and evenings) to rescan the paper documents (300 cardboard boxes in all) to rebuild the account. The cost: $200,000. The story ends happily, with each Alaskan resident receiving the $1,106.96 oil-fund check on time.

Alaska pulled victory out of what could have been disaster because the state had a disaster recovery plan, albeit a rudimentary one. But many companies and government agencies don't. About one out of three organizations report they do not have a disaster recovery plan in place and nearly two out of three admit their plans have significant vulnerabilities, according to a recent study.

As Alaska found out, a disaster recovery plan with multiple redundancies (which includes keeping the paper documents filed in cardboard boxes) is the way to go.

Tell us your stories of disaster recovery, or just disaster.

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