Data Centers

Who benefits from noontime backups?

Midday backups may be great for computer people, but they can be disastrous for business. Jeff Davis sounds off on the practice of shutting down business at noon.

Sometimes the best-laid plans backfire, and what sounds like a brilliant solution winds up causing more problems than it solved. This week my message is simple: Don’t implement any IT policy or practice without thoroughly examining the possible consequences of that policy or practice.

“The computer’s down right now”
Recently my wife called an ophthalmologist’s office to make a follow-up appointment for her mother. The person who answered the phone said, “I’m sorry, I can’t check or schedule any appointments right now. Our computer’s down for backups every day between 12 and 1.”

“But,” my wife protested, “it’s only 10 minutes before 12 right now.” The response was, “Oh, well I guess they started early.” So my wife had to call back. She was inconvenienced, and she wasn’t too happy about it. I blame whoever sold the ophthalmologist the computer system.

Convenient for whom?
I know that many “professional” offices, especially doctors' offices, close down completely for lunch. But when the office closes, you usually don’t talk to a human when you call—you get a recording that says, “We’re closed from 12 to 1. Please call back.”

So maybe the lady in the ophthalmologist’s office shouldn’t have answered my wife’s call in the first place. But as soon as she did, didn’t she have the duty to provide appropriate customer service? Specifically, shouldn’t she have been able to schedule an appointment, for crying out loud?

Here are the questions that beg to be asked:
  • Who made the decision to do backups during the lunch hour? This office uses a proprietary “canned” application for all scheduling and billing activities. The workstations connect to a centralized server. I’m willing to bet that the computer vendor instituted a “policy” of kicking end users off the system for midday backups.
  • Did the doctor approve this backup strategy? I find it hard to believe that the business owner, the physician, would agree to shut down the computers for an hour every day. The doctor will hear all about it when my wife takes her mother to the appointment—and I predict he’ll go through the roof. He’ll either instruct his staff not to answer the phone during lunch, or he’ll demand that the computer vendor change the midday backup policy.

Midday backups are great for computer people. You don’t have to stay past “normal” working hours to make sure the backup process goes smoothly. If something goes wrong, most of your users are still in the office so you can reach them. But which master are we serving with midday backups—our client or our own selfish convenience?

Sound off
I think it’s absurd to expect any client to shut down operations for an entire hour during the middle of the day for any reason other than an emergency. If you agree, I’d like to hear from you. And if you disagree, I invite you to explain to the rest of us when and why noontime backups are appropriate. Please post a comment below or sendme a note .
Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff's View from Ground Zero TechMail , and you'll get a bonus of Jeff's picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers. To respond to this article, please post a comment below or send Jeff a note .

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