Always make sure you have a backup plan in case things start to go south

Always make sure you have a backup plan in case things start to go south.

Redundancy, Redundancy, Redundancy, or How to Avoid IT Problems

Nagging Comcast email failures for months forced me to permanently move my email services to my former backup email provider, Gmail. Thankfully, I had a redundancy plan. You should, too, because one day, some part of your IT system is going to leave you high and dry.

In the world of IT, disaster always seemingly happens at the worst possible time. 

Big project due? That's when Internet access is lost. A critical enterprise application project is scheduled to go to a beta release for testing? That's when a server dies and you learn the backups haven't been kept up.

For me, the disaster was the recent inability to have reliable, constant access to email for my work writing daily tech news stories as a technology journalist. I couldn't get any emails and I couldn't send any for four to five hours at a time. As a Comcast internet customer, I have used Comcast's email system for more than 15 years. But in 2016, the company began rolling out an "upgrade" to its customer email accounts with a new web-based email platform. As soon as I received my alleged "upgrade," I would frequently find myself unable to get mail, send mail, read old emails or even access the site. 

Since November, I called Comcast often on the phone, complaining loudly about the inexcusable and debilitating problems with the company's new system and demanding that it be fixed. I complained they hadn't done enough testing and troubleshooting and I told them that due to the problems, they should be reverting back to the old platform until they fixed their latest version.

Eventually, I put up with their frequent email service outages until late January when I finally gave up on the horrible Comcast system and their seeming indifference and switched my mail to my trusty Gmail account. I've had that account for years as well, but previously only used it for junk mail.

Now it is my prime email address and it's provided a topical reminder of a technology lesson I have written about many times in the past – some of your IT systems are going to fail you periodically and you'd better have a plan to switch to a comparable service at a moment's notice to keep your business running when it happens.

It's my personal IT "lesson learned" so far in 2017.

Sure, in the big scheme of things, mine was a simple email problem that could be quickly fixed by using the Gmail account. But I'm still having to spend time switching all of my contacts and services to use my new email address, so it is not something to take lightly. 

On a larger scale, this lesson also applies to other potential IT disasters in any business, from a small shop to a giant corporation. Any business small to large can experience problems with web hosting companies, SaaS providers, online contact repositories and more. If you rely daily on a must-have service it behooves you to have other similar providers in mind – maybe even on retainer – for redundancy in the event your primary service provider has a failure or goes out of business.

It's the same reason I have two Windows 10 PCs sitting under my work desk in my office. Four years ago my main PC died in the middle of a busy workday due to a failed motherboard. I was able to get back to work quickly using my work laptop, but I had to scramble to order a new motherboard and other components to get the dead machine back into operation within a week. That's when I also bought parts for a second PC to sit next to my main machine for the ultimate in redundancy and began running them side-by-side, just in case. With full online data backups and a desktop portable backup drive, I can be back in business quickly nowadays when a PC fails.

So remember, redundancy is your friend. Be prepared for anything, or be stuck. Ask me how I know.

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