Category Archives for Mitigating Risk

Database Basics – Backup, THEN Update

They Did What?

Don’t ever update your database without taking a backup first.

That shouldn’t need to be said, but it does.

I built a critical database system for a client, and it ran great for years.

Until Company B came along to install a new system.  I’ll leave them unnamed, although do we really need to protect the guilty?

Anyway, they needed to install THEIR database.

Usually not a problem.  You have SQL Server running, you add a database, you add another database, you even add a new instance if need be.

But what would possess you to delete the existing database, uninstall SQL Server, re-install it, set up your database, and then restore a 4-month old copy of MY database you found somewhere on the network?

It happened.  All I could say was, “Wow…”.

Backups Saved the Business

Because of the particular nature of this client, the loss of a database like this could have crippled them for months, or even put them out of business completely.

Fortunately, I had them making regular backups, and after a massive panic on their part I was able to restore everything back to normal.

They lost a day’s worth of work before they noticed something was wrong, and another day waiting to have it fixed, but that was a minor inconvenience compared to what could have happened.

There are a lot of things I could have foreseen happening to the system that would require backups, but never once did it occur to me that another database “expert” would come in and flat out delete something that didn’t belong to them.

At the very least, they could have taken a backup first.  Instead, they found an old copy and restored it, hoping nobody would notice.

If you are doing any kind of work on a database, no matter how minor, take a backup first.  You never know what could go wrong…

Do Your Systems Disappear When An Employee Leaves?

What happens to your business when an employee leaves?

If that employee has some significant responsibility, or in-depth operational knowledge, or even a list of your clients, it can be a pretty big risk.

It doesn’t matter if they depart on good terms or bad, it can still put your business in a bad situation.

The Wrong Employee Leaves for a Better Job Offer

One of my clients had a high level employee who simply left because he had been at the job for years, no longer felt challenged, and received an exciting new job offer.

He left on good terms with the company and had nothing against them.  But he had been there so long, and had so many responsibilities, that nobody really knew all the different tasks he performed.

He gave plenty of notice that he would be leaving, and the managers scrambled to find other people to have him train as replacements.

Many of his tasks were complicated, but were simple for him because he’d been doing them for so long.  Explaining them to others was problematic.

For example, an external data file would come in once every few months that they needed for updating their systems.  The file needed to be formatted, sorted, modified, and entered into their database.

It took him a few hours to do it.  It took his replacement a few days, not including making a mistake and having to start over.

But what happens when the replacement employee leaves?  Incomplete knowledge gets passed down to the next guy.

And that’s just one task.

It took 7 other employees to cover his position when he left.

Eventually, they’ll be able to do the job as efficiently, assuming they themselves don’t leave as well.

Mitigating the Risk

The problem was the business relying on employees to do the work, instead of having them manage systems.

The task of importing that critical data file could have been automated.  If it had, any employee could easily be trained to press the “import” button.

There would be an entry in the systems manual that said, “When the data file comes in, go here, click this.”  Done.

But it was considered unimportant because it was being handled, and there were other problems to worry about.

He did his job well, so nobody ever gave it a second thought because nobody even noticed it happening.

One tiny system could have prevented the need for weeks of training, and months of struggling to get it right.

Having an employee leave should not significantly impact your business.  Build your operational knowledge into your systems and don’t risk having it walk out the door with your employees.

I turn employee know-how into business systems that run the business for you.  If you have important processes that would be impacted by an employee departure, contact me.