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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:
- 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.
- 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.
This was first published in September 2007