Wednesday at CTO Edge, Wayne Rash wrote about a recent experience he had trying to get a prescription from his doctor's office. He couldn't get anyone on the phone, and when he drove there, he found there had been a fire in the building, so the power was out.
Since the office had moved to electronic records, he thought he was out of luck. No power, no network. No network, no records. No records... Well, you get the picture. But he asked anyway, and he was wrong. Rash writes:
The receptionist left the room, returning with a thick file, dropping it to her desk with a thump. "We keep a paper backup," she said, seeing the question in my eyes. Then she took out a piece of notepaper emblazoned with the name of a medical device manufacturer, and wrote down what I wanted. "I'll take care of it," she said.
Digital records are great. They save space, they save time, and eventually, according to observers, they will save lives. But are they pointless if you have to always keep a paper backup anyway, just in case the power goes out?
It's an interesting question, but I don't think paper is the only answer to "What happens when the power goes out?" The solution lies in business continuity or disaster recovery planning. As a commenter to Rash's post noted, a proper disaster recovery plan will include housing digital backups in a separate location. That way the chances of both being unavailable at the same time are smaller. In his comment, Paul Robertson writes:
People have to understand that off-site backups are a necessity, and they need good continuity of operations plans that provide for their primary place of business to be out of play -- it's especially important for small businesses that don't have multiple offices.
Like my boss mentioned yesterday, perhaps this is where cloud computing and laptops or other wireless devices come in. Lack of electricity wouldn't pose a problem with a wireless device, and if your records are stored in the cloud, with appropriate privacy and security processes spelled out in the agreement with your hosting service, they would be safe and easily accessible no matter what had happened at the main office.