We are in the second day of storm Ciara, a storm that is battering the UK and other parts of Western Europe. There's flooding in some areas, power cuts and trees being blown over, causing traffic jams around the country.
On Saturday morning I spent some time preparing the house before the storm hit later in the day. I checked the outside of the house, located some candles in case of a power cut and tied anything in the garden that could get blown away, down.
Whilst doing all of these bits, my mind was also wandering, making sure that I was ready from a work point-of-view.
I do have an office and a desk at home which I work at most of the time but everything is stored in my backpack, like an emergency grab bag, ready to to go if I need to leave.
I did some checks to make sure all of my kit was ready just-in-case there was a power cut - I would still be able to work if needed. I made sure my laptop and two power banks were fully charged. This meant that I could work for at least eight hours before I would need to find another source of electricity.
I checked my backpack to make sure everything was there so that if I did need to go somewhere else, I had everything with me to keep my business running. An overreaction? Maybe but I would rather be sat in a blacked out office but able to work if needed rather than frantically driving around trying to find somewhere that still had power whilst all the time a customer is shouting down the phone to me because they need help 'now'!
All of this preparation reminded me of something which I set up when I ran a small I.T. department. During a training course it was suggested that each department like ours should have a manual. One that can be easily accessed by trusted staff which contained information about the computer network, how it was set up and passwords for all necessary systems. This was in the event of an accident or emergency where the normal I.T. staff could not get into work for whatever reason. This manual became christened the Red Bus Book, the morbid joke being that if all of the technical staff got mowed down by a big red bus, someone else would be able to pick up the manual and at least have half an idea of how things operated.
This is in the back of my mind and lots of safeguards are in place within my own business now to keep things running in the event of a problem. Fortunately these safeguards were in place last week when what was supposed to be a day off, turned into a busy, frustrating day.
On Friday morning I noticed that two of my customers web sites, one recently launched and one still in development, were infected with a virus. It was first detected by the customer of the live site because their Google Ads had been disapproved by Google after they had noticed suspect links within the site's code. They contacted me to let me know.
After some initial research, I had found out that it was a self-replicating virus which had infected a number of files on the site. It took me most of the day to identify the issue, restore clean files from the backup systems, re-check everything, update the site, change passwords and lock the site down so that Google would reactive the adverts.
Fortunately my server keeps seven days' worth of backups for each site on the server. I then keep weekly backups, going back five weeks, off-site so that if needed, I can restore files from six weeks' ago if necessary. Maintaining these systems adds costs to the business but in times like these, I was pleased that I had decided to make the investment and protect my customers' sites.
As it turns out, we haven't had a power cut yet and it looks like the storm will pass us by without incident. I was pleased that I made the preparations though. If power had been cut, we could have been without electricity for a few days. Whilst it would have been fun, I did need to do some work and would have been kicking myself if I hadn't done at least some basic preparation.
With the virus situation, we're all back to normal now and the customers' sites are virus free. I'm just glad I spend that little bit extra each month for those backup systems although it wasn't until fairly recently that I invested in extra backup systems. My server provider was going to charge me hundreds of pounds each month to keep more copies of the data so I decided against it. Finding a new, cheaper backup system kept getting pushed to the bottom of the pile of jobs until eventually I couldn't justify not doing it any more. I worked out a way to do it, implemented the system and paid the annual fee which gave me even more copies to recover should I need them.
I think it is easy to get systems up-and-running but then forget about them or not consider what would happen if something went wrong. Having a Red Bus Book in mind and reviewing the way I do business and the systems I have in place should be a regular and important task on my to-do list.