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Notre Dame – Disaster Recovery in Action

By: on April 16, 2019 in Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, High Availability, Notre Dame

Yesterday, a fire broke out at Notre Dame in Paris which caused major damage to the well-known landmark and religious icon. While it is certainly a tragedy, it could have been much worse. Why? There was a protocol for dealing with it. Let me explain and give a little background.

In the world of IT, we talk about the concepts of high availablity (HA) and disaster recovery (DR). Both may use similar techniques, but are very different exercises. High availablity is about surviving a smaller, more local failure with minimal to no downtime and impact. Disaster recovery is what you do when a catastrophic even occurs. Both of these fall under the auspices of business continuity. Business continuity relies on people, process, and technology, but should never be driven by a specific feature. It should be requirements-based. Without people, processes do not work – especially in the case of DR where human intervention is usually required. These concepts are universal and when they are implemented properly, work well.

In Paris, all of that all came together, According to the Twitter thread I linked above, there has been a protocol (read: process) in place since the French Revolution if fire broke out at Notre Dame: save the people first, then save the art, altar, and furniture after, finally landing on saving the structure. People cannot be replaced. Original objects cannot, and to a degree, buildings cannot even though they can be rebuilt. That protocol is about survival. Just this morning, the Guardian published an article on how the structure was being assessed for stability. Clearly the building needs to be safe for people to not only rebuild, but to ultimately use it when it is ready. The article also mentions that objects such as the Crown of Throrns have been secured and others which incurred smoke damage are being looked at by the Louvre. A massive undertaking is underway – and the work has barely even begun!

Now think about where you work and what goes on every day – solutions and their underlying applications, systems, and data power your business. Without them, things would most likely come to a grinding halt, and in a worst case scenario, make the business close their doors if they were down for a significant period of time. We live in a data-driven world. Without data, there literally is nothing. Could you process payroll without the HRIS data needed? How about processing a payment from a customer? What would happen if a record of all of your sales for the last month disappeared? I’ve seen all these scenarios (and more!) fail at companies over the years. In our data-driven world, less data is a bad thing to most companies. Data loss may happen in extreme scenarios, but the goal is to minimize or eliminate. Losing a month’s worth of data can be dealt with but you need to understand not only the technical side of the house to not lose that data, but also the non-technical aspects to devise the right solution.

I am not forgetting about people. By all means, the human aspect is important here. Make sure people are safe and sound before thinking about recovering systems. Systems also need care and feeding. They’re not going to be putting precious objects back into Notre Dame until it’s structurally sound and rebuilt, why would you bring SQL Server up if you do not have, for example, no storage or networking?

Things can change in an instant. You need to be prepared. Paris was. Whether it is an old iconic world known building and its objects, or your own systems and data, you need to account for business continuity to pick up the pieces after the proverbial dust settles. If Paris can get it right with Notre Dame, you can do it in your own environments. Contact SQLHA today to help ensure the survival of your business in the event of downtime events big or small.


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