Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Loss of power

To start out the new year, let's contemplate what happens if we would have a full-campus power outage on the first day back on the job.

Psychologists have identified a number of stages that people go through when they are confronted with a traumatic event, and loss of power is just about as traumatic as it gets for people working in IT. After the initial shock, there is denial, followed by anger and acceptance.

Shock: The floor goes quiet and the lights go off. People stop talking. Somebody calls out "O oh..." For the uninitiated: there are two things you never want to hear a system administrator say. One of them is "O oh" and the other one is "Oopps..".

Denial: "This cannot be, does this mean that the coffee machine is out of order? What about my servers?" Note the order in which these observations are typically made.

Anger: Either the utilities company, or the local department in charge of electric power, is cursed to high heaven.

Acceptance: System administrators spring into action and doing their thing. Machines are shut down preventively, notices are being posted and users are being notified.

But the most interesting observations come after and outage happened.

Did everybody know what was expected of him? Were the actions that were taken in line with the actions outlined in the business continuity plan? Was the event documented? Were lessons learned? Who took the lead? Did the hot site (if any) do its job? How did the power outage affect data processing? Was sensitive information protected adequately at all times?

Happy New Year!

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