“The server is down.”

“We should be back up shortly.”

Several hours later: “Sorry for the inconvenience, the server is now back online.”

You might be thinking that an outage measured in hours is too long, and you would be right. But what if hours turned into days, or even weeks? Our dependency on technology is increasing every day, meaning that the loss of these programs can bring our work to a screeching halt. This may not be a reality we particularly want to accept, but it is a simple fact of our everyday life.

I recently had the honor of presenting a session at Tyler Connect about the benefits of SaaS, or Software as a Service. My intent is not to repeat that presentation here, but rather to extract an important concept from that presentation and ask you a question. The concept is Disaster Recovery. The question is: do you have a plan?

Having a background in the Information Technology field, I have just about seen it all. I have seen state-of-the-art data centers with redundant computer hardware, power, connectivity, cooling and both battery and generator backup, located in bunkers that could withstand World War III. I’ve also seen business critical applications running on a ten year old PC sitting under a desk in someone’s office among the dust bunnies — the single, tiny little cooling fan screaming in agony to keep the processor from burning up and setting off the sprinkler system. I’ve even known a PC to burn up and summon the local fire department!

Many of our clients are responsible for their own computer servers. Several have servers located right in the Transportation office. This presents unique challenges, because there is a high likelihood that servers located in Transportation do not have an acceptable amount of redundancy or backup systems in place to protect equipment from disaster or to quickly recover from one.

Some clients are fortunate enough to have their servers housed in a data center managed by district Information Technology staff. But even though this might seem like a safe solution, I have to ask: do they have a plan? Some IT offices do…and some don’t. Some may have a plan but have not tested it recently, if ever. Even with a data center, you may still be at risk of experiencing some catastrophic loss of the facilities hosting your applications and data and have absolutely no known means of getting your operation back up and running. Not just quickly, but at all!

The point is this: everyone is starting from a different point when it comes to data recovery. And different amounts of thought and resources can go into your disaster recovery plan. But we all have to think about it. Do you have a plan for restoring your critical computer systems and applications (even the phones or your radio system) if you experienced a real disaster? Think about how bad it is when you have to deal with those little server outages that last a few hours. Now think about that, compared to a fire, flood or tornado that could literally, physically take out your facilities.

So what is your or your district’s plan? How will you recover and how quickly could you recover? Please take a moment to share your experience here and inspire others to dust off, update, test — or perhaps create — their plan!

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