Disaster Recovery Planning for the Developer

By Scott Clark

If you are a developer, you probably haven't spent much time thinking about your personal disaster recovery plan. You've probably heard or read about large corporations planning for disasters, but didn't think that such plans applied to you. In today's world of major hurricanes, terrorism, brownouts, hackers, etc, planning for disaster recovery is everyone's burden.

I happen to live in Florida, and we are once again getting ready for yet another busy hurricane season. So what does all this have to do with web development? Everything.

My office happens to be in my home, and I've got three networked PCs that are always on, as well as a laptop that is on most of the time. One of the PCs is my primary work computer. It has all of my business data, all of my old articles, documentation for the websites I run, my JavaScript test library where I work out new scripts--it's the hub of my work universe, and losing the data that lives on it is just not an option.

One of the other computers is my personal computer. It's where I keep all the pictures that I've taken over the years with my digital camera. It's also where I keep my personal tax documents, copies of old personal websites, some music I downloaded via the subscription-based Rhapsody music service--there is a lot of data there that I wouldn't want to lose.

Right off the bat, I realized that I need to have my computers on a backup system so that if I lose power during a storm, I won't lose the data that I'm currently working on. In the minimum I need my computers to stay up for at least 5 minutes so I can properly shut down the programs that are running. This means that I'll need a UPS (Universal Power Supply) for each computer, and it'll need to have some fairly large batteries in order to satisfy my needs. The Tripp Lite SmartPro 1500, for instance, will keep your computer up and running for 7 minutes at full load (monitor, modem and PC), or up to 20 minutes at half load (such as just the PC). It sells for approximately $350 at various retailers, but even at that price, when you need it, you won't regret the purchase.

Next, I need to regularly backup my system's data in case the data should become corrupted on my PC, or should one of my hard drives fail. The first thing I do is to enable System Restore (I'm using Windows XP for all of my machines). The second thing I do is to do a nightly backup of my data using software such as NovaBACKUP, which is available for $50. This way, even if my office was flooded and my computers destroyed, I'd still have my data available to me on CD/DVD (it works with CD/DVD/tape/disk). There are many similar tools out there, from Norton's Ghost, to Genie-Soft's Genie Backup Manager. The main thing to keep in mind is, if you backup to DVD or CD, keep your DVDs in a different location than your computers. If you backup to another hard disk in the same location, make sure to backup your most valuable data to DVD/CD/tape from time to time, just in case all of the computers in your location are destroyed.

If you don't use backup software to back up your most important data, at least create a DVD or CD with your most important documents on it--your latest dev work, your designs, your business contracts, tax info, etc. This way, even if the worst happened to your computers, you'd still be able to access your data later via another computer.

Lastly, if you have a laptop, it's worthwhile to have a way to power your computer should the power stay out for more than an hour or two. With a small sinewave inverter (a device that can convert the 12 volt DC power from your car to 120 volt AC power that is clean enough for your computer to use), you'll be able to power your computer for hours, hopefully until you either get the power back on, or get to a safe (and powered) location.

Stay safe, and spend some time developing your own personal disaster recovery plan. If a disaster ever occurs, you'll be very glad you did, and very sorry if you didn't.

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