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Short Stories and Scenarios for Innovation


When we try new approaches to things we might not be aware of the consequences. Many years ago a pioneering research and development department, in what was probably the UK's biggest technology company, adopted an unconventional approach to backing data up. This approach was used on one of its most advanced projects - a brand new concept in the world of telecommunications (which we all take for granted today). You might say it was a backup technique to get your back up!

During the software development regular backups were made, and the project was progressing nicely. The approach involved adding an additional hard-drive to the computer and copying the current software to this additional drive. The drive would then be disconnected and safely stored away. So should a disaster strike and the current software be lost there was a backup that could be used to retrieve everything.


What could possibly go wrong? The practice seemed reasonable. No obvious flaws - but what about things that were not obvious...?

As bad luck would have it, one day the working hard-drive became corrupted and all the software was lost. The only way to save this project would be to recover the software from the backup drive. So the chief engineer got the backup drive and connected it to the computer. It would then be a case of simply powering up the computer and copying the data from the backup to the working drive. This would restore all the software and the project could continue uninterrupted. No worries.

The backup drive did have a valid copy of all the backup data, so what could possibly go wrong?

Here is the unknown factor. The reason the working drive was corrupted was not because the drive had failed. The hard disk controller card in the computer had developed an unusual fault that caused it to destroy the contents of the drive! So when the backup drive was also plugged into this card and the computer powered up ... the contents of the backup drive were destroyed too! All data was lost and a fatal project event seemed to have occurred.


So were the project team in big trouble for apparently terminating this key project? You might think so, but as "luck" would have it, in a completely unrelated event senior management had been discussing shelving some of the research and development projects and a timely announcement included stopping the project in question (along with some others).

What can we learn from this experience?

» When we try new approaches to things we might not be aware of the consequences.

» We must proactively reflect very carefully (and test extensively).

» Read only backups might have prevented this scenario.

» Risk management measures are vital - for every innovation!

Today good practice in data backups would include having multiple backup copies, stored in different off-site locations. (Backups can also be stored online.)

My Data

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Thu 9 Jul 16:29:20 BST 2020