Data Has No Value

Cost of a 72 GB tape cartridge: $13.99 from CompUSA.

Cost of years of work by 690 people: Millions of dollars.

Homework assignment: Evaluate the value of a routine backup strategyversus the cost of the tape.

Tough problem, right?

I'd think the answer would be obvious, but am routinely astonishedat how many organizations get it wrong. According to Stuff, a New Zealandnews media site, a New Zealand Health Board lost all of thecomputer files created over the course of years by their staff ofalmost 700 people.

Whoever runs that datacenter should be held criminally responsible. Everyone knows the importance of backups. Everyone knows multiple copiesmust be kept. Everyone knows to keep them off-site.

Yet these sorts of data losses are common. Anarticle in USA Today claims 70% of business people have lost data,yet only 57% bother to back up at all.

My brother lost all of his digital pictures in a hard disk crash -thousands, completely gone. You'd think an adult would learn from thisexperience, but he replaced the computer and continued to place hisfaith in a single rotating high-density disk that's doomed to fail. Hejust can't be bothered to burn DVDs periodically. I gave him a secondhard drive and installed SecondCopy,which copies new and changed files every night, but that's a poorsolution as it, too, depends on failure prone disks.

Apparently people, and businesses, can't learn from their ownmistakes.

This year three companies contacted me when fires destroyed theirengineering labs and backup servers. One didn't keep copies off-site.That company is now out of business, having found too late that thelost data was irreplaceable. 100 jobs lost for the want of a few tapesor DVDs.

Even for my home data I'm obsessive about backups. SecondCopymirrors important files to an external hard drive every night, keepingcopies of the last three versions of changed files. They get copied toa laptop weekly, to a USB stick every morning, and to DVDs Fridays.Those are kept off-site.

Cost of a DVD: $0.25.

Value of decades of work: priceless.

We learned from Hurricane Katrina that “off-site” isn't enough.”Off-site” better mean someplace a thousand miles away. One event cantake out an entire city.

Data has no value. We know that, because accounting doesn't count itas an asset on the company's balance sheet. They track inventory -every lousy resistor – and furniture. Till the CPAs wake up and realizethat the data means much more than a collection of easily-replaceabledesks and chairs, backups will remain a haphazard affair, and theso-ephemeral data that is the lifeblood of any technology company willremain at risk.

And that's truly criminal.

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embeddeddevelopment issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helpscompanies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is .

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