California DMV Learns Disaster Recovery Lesson The Hard Way

Livia Alexandra Stancu

Written by StorageCraft blogger 

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) learned the hard way why you need a backup plan last week, after a computer outage shut down its operations for several days. The news, first reported by CBS local, showed angry users going to Twitter to express their frustration. Dozens of DMV California offices were reportedly closed last week, with drivers having nowhere to turn to for their licenses.

The DMV offered little information about what happened to its systems, but it looks like both primary and secondary backups systems went offline at the same time. The news reports were the two systems ran side by side in the same hardware cabinet, a setting which IT pros would consider a disaster waiting to happen.

Car driving fast DMV California“Having two backup systems share the same power source could potentially lead to problems.  If a power surge happens, it could lead to hardware failure on both your primary and secondary backup. You are setting yourself up for a big risk with this type of implementation,” said Junior Silva, technical product manager with disaster recovery leader StorageCraft Technology Corporation.

“The standard is to have more than one backup copy of your data, in separate locations. Each system should have its own power source, so that you can recover from the secondary backup in case something goes wrong with the first,” he added.

Backup and Disaster Recovery – Lessons Learned

In the space of disaster recovery, there is no one size fits all solution. Most IT providers will setup the systems based on their customer’s needs, expectations, and even legal requirements. But in the space of government institutions, sometimes IT professionals will hit a wall. This impenetrable network of excuses is built on lack of resources, expert staff or even awareness about the probability and consequences of disaster. Disaster recovery has to be an accessible solution to all organizations, public and private.

The Customer is Always Right

The first lesson any organization can take from this is that customers have set expectations. And this is valid in both private and public sectors. An eye-opening statistic shows that soon, 89% of businesses will compete on customer experience only. In the age of Internet and smart devices, customers have come to expect stellar, superfast services. They need performance and availability.

And there will be blood (read “nasty online reviews”) if they don’t get it. Government institutions need to adhere to the new standards and make sure availability of their systems is a priority.

Always Keep Your Backups Offsite

Backups are a must, but storing them in the same location as your original data is not a safe bet. Anything can happen, starting with on-site disasters (floods, fires, hurricanes) to cyberattacks that may contaminate any system connected to your network. You can make sure your systems are protected at all times by keeping an offsite backup. The cloud is a great target for your offsite backup.

Don’t Trust Your Secondary Backup, Nor The Third

Today, the computer systems landscape is ever more diverse.  Even old-time backup rules like the 3-2-1 backup network (three copies of your backup, with two storage types and at least one copy off-site) are considered by some to be obsolete and give way to hidden vulnerabilities.

MSP’s and IT consultants can fill in the gaps. The advice of a managed service provider or an IT specialist in disaster recovery is gold. They can keep government organizations and businesses up and running at all times, as expected by clients.

Outsourcing Backup and Disaster Recovery

Government institutions don’t always have the resources to keep IT services such as backup and disaster recovery in-house. And this can lead to issues when systems are put under stress. But outsourcing to an MSP or IT consultant who specializes in disaster recovery can be a great opportunity. Not only it offers the expertise needed to make sure backups are in place and the system is secured, it has the added benefit of cost reductions and on-demand, speedy recovery service.

Backups are Only as Good As What You Can Recover

Testing is the best prevention strategy to disaster, as any seasoned IT professional knows. Just having a backup does not guarantee that in a crisis situation you will be able to recover your data. This is why performing regular backup and recovery tests is vital to make sure you get your systems back up and running, every time disaster strikes. A reliable business continuity solution should be able to pass the recovery test every single time.