Tea time

27Oct11

“There are few things as nice as a large, hot cup of tea when you sit down after travelling for 3 hours on trains, tubes and foot”, I thought to myself as a fired up my laptop and opened my notebook at my desk.

My notebook is very valuable to me, but cheap to buy. I record important things that get said at meetings, drafts of ideas for documents, diagrams, lists of things to do and things to remember, telephone numbers, titles of books I want to read and lots of other bits of information. It is not digital. It is unobtrusive and no one objects when I use it in a meeting. It is carbon-based paper, which boots up almost instantly. The spiral bound user interface is particularly suitable for a left-handed writer (I don’t really know why). I don’t keep a copy of the valuable content.

My laptop was quite expensive to buy, but cheap to run. It is also completely backed up, twice, in different places. If my laptop was lost or damaged I could replace it quite quickly and restore all my work as if it had never happened. I’d be a bit cross though.

When I spilt my untouched large cup of hot tea across my desk a minute later, the first thing I instinctively grabbed was my laptop. My irreplaceable A5 hardback notebook containing hundreds of hours of work lay untouched in the pool of rapidly cooling tea for a couple of minutes as everyone in the office rushed to hand me tissues and paper towels to swab the computer.

The rapid reaction worked. The laptop did not miss a beat, apart from the characters I deleted when I grabbed it. I didn’t need to invoke my robust disaster recovery plan and restore any data.

When I finally fished my irreplaceable notebook out of the pool and held it over the bin to drip, I noted that the cover was a bit warped and a few pages were stuck together. The writing inside was still legible (to me, I mean, my handwriting is pretty illegible to anyone else) and once the pages dried out I could still write in it.

You can spend money on courses to learn about risk management and disaster recovery. Or you can spill your tea and prove that the cost of backing things up and protecting them should be proportionate to their resilience, not their value.

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