Preparing for disaster recovery – system change log

There are a lot of elements to a good disaster recovery strategy…. knowing where offsite backups are located, keeping the offsite backups fresh. Knowing where any ON-site backups are. Having a plan for quick access to replacement hardware. One that probably is easily overlooked is very low-tech. That’s a system log. I don’t know that this isn’t a BAD idea for any system, but certainly is a good idea for servers and other “mission critical” systems. (In thinking about my desktop, this kind of log wouldn’t be bad….maybe a bit obsessive with a desktop, but…. I think I’ve messed it up more times than it’s spontaneously had problems…) So what am I rambling on about this time?????

A notebook. Plain old paper and pencil. On the cover it has the server name and depending on your preference is kept at the server or with offsite backups. In this notebook you will write down every change you make….

I like to start out this kind of log with details on the hardware of the system. The system board specs, model number, processors, hard drive (maker and model #’s), any add on cards, etc. etc. During the OS install I like to note if there are any major changes from the default settings. On configuration this is also useful. Did I have to make an unexpected change to a config file to get xxx piece of hardware to work?

Anytime there are changes to the system, it’s good to make another entry. This way, in three months time if you notice somethings not working right, hopefully you can trace back to the change that “did it.” It’s useful too though for system rebuilding. It gives you a step by step journal of what you went through to get the system where it is now.

Now, these days I use this website to log a lot of the more obscure problems I run into, which gives me a nice reference. You might use an online journal if you like, or another computer to edit a plain text file with the information. Try to plan for the worst though and at least have multiple copies if it’s on a pc. I haven’t had too many spiral bound notebooks freeze up and crash in a crisis….

Of course, if it was JUST about configuration files, then something like Windows “System Restore” could be made use of. Under linux it would be fairly simple to make a backup copy of all the files in /etc for instance before editing a config file. I am talking about more than configuration changes though, hardware changes, software upgrades and installs, etc…

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