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Information Management

Once upon a time I worked for a credit union. Well, actually I worked for a company 60% owned by the credit union, but as a supposedly-convenient fiction we were all employees of the CU. But then contracted out to the the other guys…who were still, I guess, ourselves. At least partially.

All this meant we had to do a lot of weird HR-related stuff just like the “real” CU employees, because that was somehow easier than making an exception–but however annoying that might have been, it’s not what I’m writing about today.

I noticed many oddities while I was there, including wildly incompetent federal regulation that severely impacted the security of your ATM PIN (yes, yours), and not in a good way. But I’m not going into that topic either, because I can’t see it doing anybody any good.

Here it is: this CU wanted me to become a “member” as well as an employee. To that end, they refused to offer direct deposit unless I set it up to go into an account with the CU. This struck me as very nearly insane, for at least two reasons:

First, from my side of things, why would I put myself in a position where a coworker could check out my financial activity? Sure, the CU said they had policies against that sort of thing, but the thing is, an account anywhere else gave me the protection of anonymity. And I’ll just stick this in–I’m not a kid anymore. My banking is set up pretty much the way I want it already. It would be a huge hassle.

Second…just think of the liability from the CU’s point of view. There they’d be, strong-arming me into getting an account. If a coworker abused his or her access to my personal data? Um. If I were the litigious type, which I’m emphatically not, that’d just beg for a juicy lawsuit.

Then I found out they wanted me to agree to let them actively monitor that account for “suspicious” activity.

Hey. No. I got ’em to deliver my paychecks through inter-office mail. Because agreeing to their idea would be terrible information management on my part.

But, as you’d be fully justified to ask me by now, how’s that relevant to Cabin Fever?

We do backups. Backups are a condensed form of information. In this case I’m talking about where backups live, and who does them, and how you know what’s really happening.

Most site-hosting providers offer some level of backup service. But even Jeff Atwood, about as far from a computer newbie as you can get, recently lost a large amount of data when he discovered, after a server crash, that his backups didn’t actually work. Possibly inspired by the same event, one of my personal heroes (Joel Spolsky) recently wrote an article about the common fallacy of focusing on backups…when it’s restores that we really need. The kind you really ought to test, before your server melts because Oprah dropped your name and gave out your URL on national television.

It’s probably nearly always a good idea to separate the people who maintain a server from the people who maintain your backups, too. Not that you, personally, are ever going to have a conflict with your hosting provider. And of course there’s no reason to suspect that the people most likely to lose data on a server might also be likely to have screwy or unreliable backups. I mean, surely these fields are unrelated, competence is uniform, and computers just do what they’re told, sorta like the ones users can actually talk to on Star Trek, only without the neat sparks & explosions if you argue with them.


Bottom line: if your data and files are important to your business, you need backups you can personally see. And you need to see the restore side of it work, at least once.

We could do that for you. But, the best part? Scarecrow helps you do it.

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