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Premortem

August 2, 2017

PremortemChrystal Ball

Many of us have heard about doing a postmortem on projects, initiatives and business plans. After implementation, we are interested in determining what went right and what went sideways. Perhaps fewer of us have heard about a premortem.

In its simplest form, a premortem is planning ahead for a disaster.  Those of us who work for or with large corporations know about disaster recovery plans. And those of us who are a bit paranoid may do some disaster planning on our own – like attempting to mitigate a future ransomware attack. I have two stories to share in this regard.

Big Scale

One of the first jobs I had after graduating from engineering school was to assist in a disaster recovery plan for a large manufacturing company. We were located across the street from a large, active airport. We depended heavily on large water-cooled mainframe computers from IBM. Those mainframes not only held all the drawings, designs and Bills-Of-Materials for the products we manufactured, they also had most of the business records (purchase orders, demand, etc.)

IBM had agreed that they would be able to get us replacement mainframes within two working days. My job was to figure out how to pre-build out the space in which to put the new machines. Not a simple task. Those mainframes required chilled water, a raised floor and a huge amount of electricity. So if an airplane landed in our building instead of on the runway (certainly a possibility, and in those days, we didn’t worry about a terrorist attack), how would we recover?

There was a huge tunnel, well below ground, that ran between multiple buildings on our complex. It was determined that we would outfit one of the rooms with chilled water, a raised floor ready to accept the IBM machines and emergency power. My job was to coordinate all the “things necessary” to make sure we could readily move our computing needs down from the first floor to the tunnel. What a fun project with incredible learning about what was then very advanced computer technology. It also provided a huge lesson on disaster recovery planning.

Very Small Scale

I volunteer at a local not-for-profit. We have a special PC built out to use for video streaming. It was recently built with an AMD processor/Graphics and Windows 7 operating system. When asked “Why Windows 7?” the reply was that Windows 10 sends too much information back to Microsoft. Personally, I am more paranoid about security holes than I am about Microsoft “seeing” what I’m doing – which is nothing interesting at all.

So we determined we would upgrade to Windows 10. BUT, we also determined we would not do so until a complete image of the system was made. Good thing. Windows 10 had some trouble with the special drivers for the AMD graphics. Luckily we were able to restore the system as we figure out what we need to migrate to the new operating system. Disaster planning. Premortem.

I do the same for all my devices and systems here at home. First, I insist on the latest operating systems and updates. Then I make sure I have an off-site backup. It gets easier to restore our data as we do more work in the cloud. At some point, it gets cheaper to trash the PC/Tablet and get a new one and connect to my cloud system than to try and restore locally.

Your Business Premortem

How are you doing on disaster recovery planning for your business? What happens if you are hacked? What happens if equipment simply fails? Can you run your business without technology?

It’s fairly easy and relatively  inexpensive to replace our desktop PCs. It’s my data I worry about. How about you?

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