Super Bowl Teaches Us to Test Our Data Recovery Plans

We can be reminded of the importance of backup and data recovery plans any time… even while watching the Super Bowl. Even though Super Bowl XLVII occurred several weeks ago now I bet that you remember the lights going out…

Important data and systems need to have backup plans. Without such planning you can be assured that, one day, probably at the most inopportune time, your system will crash and you won’t be able to recover it. For this reason, careful users will be sure to create backup copies of all of their important data. Now this sounds like a simple task, but there is really much more to it than first meets the eye. A sound backup and recovery plan must be built on recovery time objectives. In other words, how rapidly must you be able to bring the systems back online in the event of a failure. If you watched Super Bowl XLVII you have to wonder whether anyone had considered their recovery time objectives.

You see, during the Super Bowl at the Super Dome in New Orleans, the lights went out in half the stadium just after the beginning of the second half of the game. At first glance, this would not seem to be a catastrophic failure. But it took more than half an hour for the lights to be turned back on and the game to resume. For an event of the magnitude of the Super Bowl, watched by millions, 30 minutes is a long time.

Companies pay a lot of money to advertise their products and services during the Super Bowl. According to Forbes Magazine the average cost of a 30-second ad in Super Bowl XLVII was $4 million dollars. But did advertisers get their money’s worth when ads were shown during the lighting problem? Well, it is hard to tell. Some of the people I was watching the game with left the room when the problem occurred. Most of these folks were people who normally watch the game more for the commercials than the game.

So what is my point, you may be asking? Well, the Super Dome crew and CBS probably had a backup plan for emergencies. But it could not have been very well thought out. When the lights went out the CBS announcer (Phil Simms) was cut off in mid-sentence and there was dead air for at least a minute before they cut to a commercial. Dead air is never a good thing in broadcast television. Which raises the question: if they had a backup plan, did they test it?

This is an important question, and it is one that you should ask yourself about your data recovery plans. Right now. When was the last time you tested your data recovery plans? Because, let’s face it, the backup portion is the easy part of backup and recovery, recovery is the hard part. If you don’t test your ability to recover, then you’ll be “testing” in production; that is, while the failure is in progress and everyone’s hair is on fire. And that is not ideal.


I'm a data management strategist, researcher, and consultant with over three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development and implementation.
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5 Responses to Super Bowl Teaches Us to Test Our Data Recovery Plans

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  3. I still am in disbelief that CBS/The Super Dome did not have a better disaster recovery plan in place. Insightful post, thanks.

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