At both of my former small company employers, we had detailed business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Customers mandated these things before signing contracts with us. In both cases, however, the plans were never actually tested. As entrepreneurial endeavors, it was all we could do to create the plans. Despite the obvious benefit, hiring consultants to test the plans was expensive and time-consuming. So it never got done.
The same is true for me on a personal level, even though the disaster recovery plan is much simpler. Over the past couple of weeks, my Lenovo laptop had been getting slower. At first, I figured it was my anti-virus software, which has a nose for running full scans at the most inconvenient times.
I eventually found a nifty utility called the Lenovo Solution Center and ran some diagnostic tests. It informed me that my hard drive was dying! Some sort of hardware-based cancer, stage 5, giving my hard drive less than two weeks to say heartfelt goodbyes to the motherboard and complete a will that left the RAM exactly nothing – they never did get along.
I raised my eyebrows in disbelief. Advance warning of a disk failure? Really? In my experience, disk failures are events that you try to recover from because they occur without any warning. One minute, it works; the next minute it doesn’t. Fingers crossed that you have a current backup and the restore process goes smoothly.
In this case, my DR plan was a recovery disk that I had created on a USB flash drive a couple of years ago and a current backup of my data on a portable USB drive. The recovery disk was key because it contained the data necessary to restore the factory-loaded software – I never got the CDs for Windows 7 and Office 2010. But do you think I actually took the time to test that recovery disk back when I created it? The thought crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble of buying another hard drive just to see if I could recover my system to a new disk. So it never got done.
I installed a new hard drive, booted up from my recovery disk, and crossed my fingers as the progress bars flashed across my screen. A few minutes later, the recovery was complete and I restored my backup. Windows needed to perform about 10,000 updates and reboots (I’m only slightly exaggerating), but it did so in a mostly automated fashion. Some will point out that I still had to manually install my programs, but this isn’t nearly the tedious process that it used to be and I enjoyed having the opportunity to reevaluate which programs I really needed.
So not only did my disaster recovery plan work, it is now fully tested! Time for a beer!