Most of us love technology. And most of us have experienced how blindingly fast technology can provide some degree of cataclysmic failure. Let me explain.
I’ve been getting better and better about planning out my work week, listing out what needs doing each day, and sticking to it. So I knew that today I would be working a little on a few website updates in the morning, and then the rest of the day would be free for coding.
(I pause here for the audience to have a hearty chuckle.)
So here we are. I log onto the WordPress back end for MinionWare.net, change the wording and format of some text elements, and double-check that they look okay.
The other thing on my list is making sure I have a specific plugin installed. Is it? Why, yes it is! That’s grand, I guess my work here is about done.
But hey, look at that. A bunch of the other plugins need updating. I should go ahead and do that real quickâ€¦
(I pause here for the audience’s gasps of horror.) But wait, let me reassure you: I did pause and download a fresh WP backup.
And then I updated three WordPress plugins. Why, oh why did I do that? Why, when I know better?
The website came up as gibberish. Every page, every post, came up as complete gibberish. Of course I immediately restored the WP backupâ€¦which did absolutely nothing to help. It turns out that these backups are pretty much for content, not for restoring plugins to a specific state.
After a good deal of fighting and rage-coffee, I narrowed everything down to one culprit, killed the plugin with fire, and confirmed that the site was up and looking good.
Why is it so much easier to destroy than to fix?
This is totally a common theme in life. From the big glass bowl my kid shattered in the sink, to the car we (I won’t say who) scraped against a wall, to the appointment we missed. So much of our time is spent cleaning up mistakes, paying to have them fixed, and making up for lost time.
And technology lets you break things so much faster! I can drop a bowl and spend 30 minutes cleaning it up, but I can drop 2 Tb of data without a thought and spend weeks trying to get it back. (I mean literally, that’s what it takes to drop 2Tbâ€¦not thinking at all.) I can scrape the paint on my car and just leave the thing scrapedâ€¦but I can bring down a years-old website with the click of a button.
You see a theme here?
I’m starting to see that a large percentage of an IT professional’s life is (or should be) disaster prevention – teaching yourself to triple check what server you’re connected to, making sure backups are up and running. And another very large percentage is disaster recovery, in one form or another. Yes, of course I mean traditional SQL disaster recovery. But I also mean recovering from the borked website, the forgotten perfmon trace, the third missed meeting this week (where your manager noticed particularly that you weren’t there).
Prevention and recovery
With technology, as with life, automation is a huge part of the solution. But, it’s not the whole solution.
- We can automate database backups.
- We can automate WordPress Backups.
- We must set reminders for meetings.
- We must set reminders to get the car’s oil changed. (Also: to keep off your dang phone while driving.)
- We should create standard procedures for maintenance and downtime.
- We should create standard procedures for managing personal tasks. (I’ve become a huge fan of the Bullet Journal method for this.)
And of course, we can’t prevent everything. So sometimes, we spend the morning staring furiously at wp-admin folders in FileZilla, instead of coding.
Good luck with the chaos.