I’ve worked for most of my professional life in data storage, focused primarily on data protection. I am always looking for ways to better protect data. I typically think about how to make things run more quickly and reliably, and with less user intervention. Occasionally, I look at identifying and preparing for potentially unexpected outage causes. I’ve experienced recoveries or complete infrastructure failures caused by various random acts: a spilled glass of milk, using a floor buffer and plugging a network cable into the incorrect port. These all caused unimagined disruption, but this week, Halloween week, I am thinking about something much worse.
I have been aware of the pending Zombie invasion for some time now. I am ashamed to admit that I’ve been mostly focused on personal survival, not that of my data. The reality is that just like any other disaster, once it is over, we will need our data to get things back to normal. If an army of undead walking the streets has you frightened, don't worry. You can take steps to protect your data—and yourself.
Let's be honest, personal survival is important when contemplating a Zombie attack (or fire, flood, storm…). Don't fret if you have not started planning yet; it’s not too late. There are several resources available to get you started. I recommend starting with the Zombie Survival Guide. It is a great first step.
After you start planning for the care of yourself and family, we need to start looking at your data. In many ways this is going to be similar to other DR scenarios, with a couple of unique differences.
When you hear that the Zombies are coming, you don't want to spend time thinking, you need to get moving right away. Having checklists will help you make sure you don't forget anything. You don't want to be facing down a horde of Zombies just when you remember you should have brought ammo. A checklist will help you remember what to bring when you bug out of the data center.
There is no scientific evidence I am aware of that suggests Zombies are attracted to IT equipment, but some studies have suggested they find the hum of air handlers hypnotic. Since they tend to be pretty rough on basically everything around them, you will not be able to count on recovery at your data center once the Zombies are gone. This means you have to have a copy of your backups out of the building.
We are all building a personal survival kit, but you also need a data survival kit. If you have preselected a recovery site and are replicating data nightly, then you can pre-stage your kit. The benefit to this solution is you have less stuff to carry. The down side is a loss in flexibility when recovering. Hopefully your remote site didn't get hit by Zombies, too. The other option is storage tapes, as they are extremely portable. In this case, you will carry your data survival kit with you. Now you can recover anywhere.
Where should your recovery site be located? For suggestions I talked with noted data and Zombie expert, (and Spectra Logic sales engineer), Mark Pinder. Most of Mark's suggestions are simply reiterations of traditional DR planning, but he did have a Zombie specific suggestion. "Zombies are pretty tough, but do have a few weaknesses you can exploit. One is an inability to climb. When specing out a Zombie-proof recovery site, I always insist on an elevated facility. The only way in or out should be climbing a ladder encased in a tube."
So what should you include in your data survival kit?
- A self-describing backup of your data. This means both the data and the indexes and catalogs that tell the backup software about them.
- A copy of the backup history report. Knowing what backups are on which tapes, and where the backup catalog is helps speed up the recovery process.
- A clone of Bruce Campbell to guard the entrance.
- A copy of the software and your license keys. Copies of the backups are useless if you don't have the software to read them.
- Recovery plan. This plan should include the order of recovery, plans for equipment replacement, personnel involved in recovery operations and their designated replacements should they be “Zombiefied” (a technical term, by the way) and notification procedures for the data users when access is restored.
- Money or other items that can be used to barter with.
This is obviously a quick review, but should get you started. If you can be prepared for a Zombie invasion, you should be able to handle a normal disaster with no problem.
To my readers: have a happy, safe Halloween.
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