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Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog

American Airlines Glitch Hints at Importance of Disaster Recovery Plan

No, it wasn’t about having a disaster recovery plan, and it wasn’t even about data backup, but when American Airlines had a computer system failure last month, it had to cancel nearly 700 flights, presumably costing the airline thousands of dollars.

In fact, it even cost one couple their dream vacation.

American posted a video apology from CEO Tom Horton that provided an explanation of the outage.

“As you’d imagine, we do have redundancies in our system,” Horton said, standing in front of employees and banks of computer monitors in the airline’s control center in Texas, “but unfortunately in this case we had a software issue that impacted both our primary and backup systems.”

disaster recovery dog

“Oops, sorry. Nobody told me they were YOUR data tapes.”

While it was a software problem and not a disaster or massive server crash, it still begs the question: What would happen to your business if your data become irretrievable in a moment’s notice? How quickly would you be able to restore your systems and resume business as usual?

Well, the unfortunate fact that many never do. If disaster recovery isn’t handled professionally and efficiently within an organization, that organization is at risk around the clock.

Although only 2 percent of data is lost in natural disasters (think Hurricane Katrina), it’s usually something entirely preventable, according to a survey by Ontrack Data Recovery. More than half of all data is lost because of hardware or computer system problems, while another 9 percent is lost because of software corruption or programming (like the American Airlines situation). Another 26 percent is the result of human error, according to Ontrack.

Consider this: According to a survey by AmeriVault Corp., nearly 70 percent of small companies surveyed ask employees to take their backup tapes home with them. This leaves the data tapes vulnerable to anything from a house fire to a burglary. Or the family dog re-purposing them as a chew toy. Or someone’s kids using them for whiffle ball practice. Or worse.

You get the picture: Your critical company data should be professionally managed, be it by your own IT professionals, a cloud backup service provider or a hybrid of both. Most importantly, get a disaster recovery plan in place. Because once your data is gone, it’s gone for good.

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