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Arnie Rowland

Discussion of issues related to SQL Server, the MSDN SQL Support Forums, the complex interplay between Developers and SQL Server Administrators, and our sometimes futile attempts to have a 'normal' life.

You Bet Your Life

Yesterday, Jonathan Kehayias wrote in his blog post "Have you got air in your spare.." about dealing with a flat time. He went on to compare spare tires to HA/DR planning. An excellent article and recommended reading. I wish to expand on Jonathan's discourse a bit. It strikes me that he opened the door for a fertile analogy.

Consider that having a spare tire is like having a database back-up. Knowing that there is a spare tire in the car is similar to knowing that there is a backup 'plan' -perhaps even regularly scheduled database backups. But when was the last time you checked your spare tire? When was the last time you checked to see if you could easily change the flat tire? My wife's vehicle recently had a very low tire, and it took 15-20 minutes just to locate the the jack points and safely elevate the vehicle. It was a new vehicle, neither of us had changed a tire on it previously, so we had to learn a new process for new equipment.

In Jonathan's situation, it was discovered that the spare tire was also 'flat'. We constant talk about regularly testing backups for reliability and validity. -But when was the last time your organization fully restored a backup and 'bet your life on it'. That is what you are doing when you start driving on a spare tire -betting your life, and/or the lives of your family. Of course restoring a backup isn't betting 'your life', but it could actually be someone else's -or your career. Have you ever restored a database and subjected it to a rigorous test regimien?

Imagine if your family was in the car, and had a flat tire. Could your wife (the junior DBA) properly and safely restore and get moving quickly? She's taking your child to a needed medical appointment -how long before the 'business' is running again? Does she have a fall-back support contact, like in Jonathan's situation, the AAA membership? (or a PSS account.) Even then, there will most certainly be additional waiting -will the appointment be missed?

You could, of course, invest additional resources into a "High Availability' solution -for cars, buy 'run-flat' tires.How would you deal with knowing that your family was on the side of the road somewhere, perhaps in the dark, maybe even in a questionable area, waiting, and waiting, and waiting... PSS may be good, but they may also require some time to get back to you. You may wish to protect your family with redundancy -at a cost. Run-flat tires will cost about double the regular tire cost. Think clustered servers... No latency, no downtime, continue moving, repair as soon as possible without negatively impacting the schedule.. Who are you protecting by not investing in the proper solution?

Some newer cars have builtin spare tire reporting -the car's monitoring system will alert you to low spare tire pressure. Do you have a plan/process where you regularly check your spare tire? How do you actively monitor the integrity of your backups? Do you just trust knowing that it is there? Do you actually test it on occasion? When was the last time you tested it? 

Do you bet your career (or someone's life) on the Disaster Recovery Plan?

Spare Tire = Database Backup
Checking Spare Tire = Testing Backup
Practice Jacking Up Car = Practice Restores
AAA Membership = On Call Support

Spare Tire + Checking Spare Tire + Practice Jacking Up Car + AAA = Disaster Recovery Plan

Run-flat tires = High Availability

What is your family worth?

Published Thursday, October 22, 2009 9:16 AM by ArnieRowland
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