Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, December 21, 2009


I always tell students that you don't need backup until you need it, and then you better have it. What I mean by this is that system administrators often neglect backup, because everything runs well without it. But when something completely unforeseen like this happens, you are really in trouble. Years ago, I was working for an Irish company called CBT Systems, and one of the company's salesmen recklessly deleted a Lotus Notes database. Three years of work. Frantic, he called the California office, desperate to restore his database from backup. Unfortunately, the California office had been saving money by hiring temporary IT staff. Nobody had taken responsibility for making sure that the Lotus server was backed up. Not a problem at all. Until something goes wrong. It was chaos. The ripple effect from that once incident resulted in a reorganization of the whole company.

Friday afternoon the IT department wiped out my testing system. I had installed Server 2003 on the instructor machine in the lab. I put it in a special partition. No one else used that operating system. But no one told me that when they bought new computers for the lab recently, they set up a network based system restore. It's a good idea, in a way, because they can make adjustments to the master image, and ghost all the machines at once. But the guy doing it neglected to turn off the instructor machine. So the system restore wiped the computer clean, totally obliterating my operating system, which had my testing system and my database. Fortunately, I had done a backup two days earlier. It only takes a few seconds to make a backup script, using a third party utility called PL/SQL Developer. This utility is not made by Oracle, but it is designed to work with Oracle. And the script it makes can be used to recreate all the tables and insert all the data in less than a minute. Not only this, but it is pretty easy to edit out the Oracle specific stuff if you wanted to recreate the table schema on some other system, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, IBM DB2, or whatever.

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