Storage Bin: Who ate the backup?

It's astounding that in this age of technological advancements we still talk about things like backup, let alone agonize over it.

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It's the 21st century, but backup is still in the dark ages.


It's simply astounding that in this age of technological advancements we still talk about things like backup, let alone agonize over it. We sent people to the moon 38 years ago using less computer power and data than what's inside a Game Boy, but we haven't figured out how to reliably recover information lost to the Pepsi syndrome. To this very day, a recovery operation strikes more terror in the hearts of people than all of the chainsaw movies combined.

A five-year-old in Connecticut can chat with his cousin in Guam while his sister plays real-time Doom with kids in China and Toronto, and none of them seems concerned with arcane concepts such as backup. Why are all of us old folks still losing whatever hair we have left over this subject? I have several theories:

  1. The conspiracy theory

    Backup represents one of the most consistently budgeted line items in IT for many, many years. We spend more than $4 billion annually on backup stuff and have spent more than $55 billion over the last 25 years on the technology. That's a lot of dough, so much so that a reasonable person would assume that the technical aspects of the problem must have been solved by now. MIT is making a flying car, but they couldn't solve backup and recovery? I think not. I'm convinced the industry is intentionally making stuff that doesn't work simply to keep the money flowing. This is akin to the golf ball industry, which could easily put an RFID tag inside each ball and then sell us a "finder," but it would kill their sales.



  2. The battered IT person syndrome

    If you tell someone they're worthless enough times, they become worthless. After a thousand failed restoration attempts, IT guys are numb to the whole thing. They go to work in the morning assuming something is broken and will never be recovered, so when it happens and people are freaking out, they can just shrug it off. It's a defense mechanism. After a while, we simply stop listening and caring. We've become so used stuff just stinking that we don't bother to hear or see anything that might not stink so badly.

  1. The Darwinism theory

    In the caste system that is our world, the backup guy is often the one who wasn't in the day the good jobs were handed out. And sometimes the backup guy is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, if you know what I mean. These are the folks who diligently perform a backup and then take the tape and leave it on the car dashboard when it's 135 degrees outside in Las Vegas as they wait in line for the Hall & Oates/A Flock of Seagulls reunion tour. And they're the same people who "uncheck" the database box on the backup server because it takes too long and then scream at the vendor when they can't recover data.



  2. The saving money theory

    This is where someone within IT not only has a superior genetic makeup, but above average intelligence, isn't tainted by past failure to the point of being a fatalist and realizes the conspiracy theory is true. Yet when they find a way to protect and deliver the most valued of all company assets--information--they're routinely shot down by some cost-cutting buffoon in management whose goals and objectives are completely counter to anything even remotely intelligent. The corporate world loves to put "controls" in place to stop unnecessary spending, ensuring we don't waste money hiring people who are skilled and, gasp, don't act creatively or strategically. They'd much rather approve an annual expense for something that has never worked vs. a new expense that might actually solve the problem, lend value and allow people to use their brains strategically instead of deteriorating into a catatonic state of being.
None of my theories are good, but all of them are probably correct. It's incomprehensible to me and most of you to know that we can solve age-old issues with such enormous negative implications and even bigger cost implications--and yet one silly thing or another gets in our way and the problem grows instead of shrinks. Reality bytes.

This was first published in September 2007

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