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by: Bernard Teo

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Bernard Teo
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Sun 18 Jul 2004

Disaster Recovery

Category : Technology/disasterRecovery.txt

This web site's domain names ( and are hosted at There are a couple of advantages to outsourcing your domain name hosting to a third-party provider, rather than running a DNS server yourself.

One is, of course, if you're running everything out of an Internet connection with a dynamically assigned IP address - which makes running your own DNS Server impossible in the first place. With a piece of software like DNSUpdate, you can get your server to update regularly whenever its IP address changes, so that people can continue to find you via the domain names no matter what happens with your IP address. A connection with a dynamic IP address is cheaper than one with a fixed IP address. So, there's a cost saving that comes from being able to do that. Plus, most home broadband connections are of the dynamic IP address type - so this makes it easy to set up a home office. Wherever you hang your hat, that's where your server is.

The second advantage is not so obvious. You may only realise how useful it is to have this dynamically updateable DNS service if, by any chance, you're not able to run your server at its current location for any length of time - e.g., if power is unavailable, as in the case of our office where the building's management has decided to shut down the power again, over the weekend, to complete the installation of the new air-conditioning system.

So, once we're told we have to bear with another long weekend shut-down, it took less than 10 minutes to get ready the iMac at home (where we have a broadband connection) to take over the server's job. With SSH (Remote Login in System Preferences->Sharing), we can copy over most of what we need and set up the MySQL database remotely. With Postfix Enabler, we could get whoever is sitting at the iMac to set up the mail server, just by entering a couple of domain names and hitting the Start button. And with DNSUpdate, we can switch the servers over the same way (enter domain names and hit OK). The process is simple enough to walk someone through by phone.

Come Monday, all we need to do, when we get back to office, is to get someone to deactivate DNSUpdate at the iMac, and then we'll be able restart the server at the office, and we'll have everything back as we have left it. Of course, some details remain, like bringing over the new stuff that were saved to the iMac over the weekend, but these are easy enough to do.

In most IT organisations, mention Disaster Recovery, and it will evoke images of a tactical manoeuvre involving a cast of thousands, backed up tomes of Standard Operating Procedures that have been vetted by layers of "information architects" to meet ISO-9000 standards. I've always felt weighted down by these initiatives. It's got to be much simpler than that. After all, by definition, a disaster means there's no time to think. Why are large organisations so stupid?

We often wonder what we're doing, slogging away, running our own little company, when we could have remained the good salarymen. So, now and then, having the liberty to work a bit smarter brings its own little pleasures, and short of becoming as rich as Bill Gates, this will have to do.

Posted at 9:58AM UTC | permalink

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