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Computer Crashed New Orleans Real Estate Market

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the nothing-can-go-nothing-can-go-nothing dept.

Bug 234

sustik writes "For a month now the New Orleans real estate market has been crippled by a computer crash that caused the loss of online data from the late 1980s that should be researched prior to the closing of any real estate transactions. 'The clerk of Orleans Parish Civil District Court said Tuesday that her office continues to make progress in resolving the computer problems that have been holding up real estate transactions in New Orleans for the past month, but there still was no indication of how soon the crisis might end.'"

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old machinery (4, Funny)

rishistar (662278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333646)

Did someone let them know that the Apple Computer they'd been using from the era had sold?

Re:old machinery (1)

bl4nk (607569) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333724)

Oh, they knew. They had no choice, really. They needed a machine that could fully utilize the new 150Mbps FiOS connection they ordered.

Re:old machinery (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333904)

They're also looking into the possibility that said data was a terrorist.

What? Chaining front page Slashdot stories doesn't always work, you know.

Re:old machinery (2, Funny)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334674)

Unfortunately their fallback plan of utilizing students to run the transactions fell through. They simply did not feel comfortable with the students using ink.

Re:old machinery (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334704)

"They simply did not feel comfortable with the students using ink."

Was this before that parish banned pencils or before?

Re:old machinery (4, Funny)

md65536 (670240) | more than 3 years ago | (#34335042)

Was this before that parish banned pencils or before?

Pencils were banned. Someone tried to sneak one in so that they could work on fixing the problem, but the newly installed full body scanner at the office entrance detected it and the weapon was confiscated.

The scanner also detected that the penis size was average.

THOUGHT NEW ORLEANS WENT ATLANTIS !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34333722)

Since when has that place risen from the depths ?? Last I heard it was 20 m under the sea !!

Re:THOUGHT NEW ORLEANS WENT ATLANTIS !! (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333774)

When was that, when Katrina hit FIVE YEARS AGO?

Re:THOUGHT NEW ORLEANS WENT ATLANTIS !! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334152)

No, sir! You see, NO was full of black people, so we were required to fork over billions to completely rebuild it, no questions asked, in spite of the fact that it makes little sense to build a coastal city below sea level.

Re:THOUGHT NEW ORLEANS WENT ATLANTIS !! (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334350)

When they won the superbowl. Despite their disadvantage of being submerged.

Re:THOUGHT NEW ORLEANS WENT ATLANTIS !! (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334518)

The increased resistance of the water made training more effective. Running down a football field is much easier than wading down a football field.

Probably had an expensive snake-oil backup system. (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333766)

They probably requested a backup and some vendor simply partitioned the hard disk into two and made the backup save to the second partition, meanwhile telling them that the machine has two drive letters.

Meanwhile, they likely paid the vendor millions to maintain the system...

Re:Probably had an expensive snake-oil backup syst (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333854)

Actually, even lazier than that. I just made the C drive a shared folder called "Backup Stock Market PC" - and then tell them that the backup is located on our server, at IP address 127.0.0.1.

Re:Probably had an expensive snake-oil backup syst (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333932)

Hey! That's my IP address! Stop saving your stuff on my server!

Re:Probably had an expensive snake-oil backup syst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334406)

Hey! Your server has pictures of my wife on it!

I'm gonna get you as soon as I can figure out why ip2location won't tell me where you are!

Re:Probably had an expensive snake-oil backup syst (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34335028)

Excuse me, but due to our history of racial intolerance, "server" is an unacceptable term due to the implied relationship with a "master".

Re:Probably had an expensive snake-oil backup syst (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334882)

Yeah, I've been dealing with this issue for the last 30 days as I sell properties across the county and a few in New Orleans. It's been a nightmare. But apparently, the back up procedure wouldn't work for some reason. They've got it mostly up now though and or only missing the last year's transactions. Still a pain in the ass but real estate is slowly moving again.

No backups? (1)

denshao2 (1515775) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333772)

I hope that they replace whoever has been maintaining the existing system.

Re:No backups? (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334178)

It's not necessarily that simple. Backup tends to get no respect or funding. A horrifying number of sites don't include backup solutions as a part of the cost of funding new machines. And if it was there that long it's entirely possible that whatever backup solutions were available and used then aren't going to be useful now.

Unfortunately just because the volume of data increases doesn't mean that the systems used to back it up are so easily scaled, the increased need doesn't guarantee extra funding either.

Or it could be an incompetent admin. Wouldn't be the first, however it's more likely that the problem is higher up in the chain.

Re:No backups? (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334890)

+1

Backups are one of the most misunderstood and neglected concepts of computing as we know it. Between laziness and vendors selling their appliances and gadgets, there are a lot of misconceptions about proper backups.

Horror story #1: The guy with the term paper on the laptop which gets backed up to a USB flash drive. Roommate gets kicked out of the university, and grabs laptop + drive as a consolation prize. Result: Retaking a course. Moral: Backups to another drive are good, but don't address the problem.

Horror story #2: Business had two machine which rsynced with each other for offsites. One of the sysadmins was disgruntled, rm -rf-ed the files on one end, rsynced that, then rsynced some large blobs so the deleted files would be overwritten.

Backups are easily forgotten about... until they are needed. I have seen a lot of deer-in-the-headlights looks from people who thought they had working backup systems, but in reality, they backed up the wrong data, overwrote the wrong items, had great encryption and no recovery keys, or the tapes were safe at Iron Mountain... but nobody had an account to access there.

Like security, PHBs consider backups pointless because they have no obvious ROI. Of course, this comes to kill businesses if something does fail. Here in Austin, there was a textbook seller for the University of Texas called Texas Textbooks. They were on top of the market. Then they had HDD problems and lost all their data with no ability to recover. End result, a few months later, their doors were shuttered.

Backups are not rocket science. You have a way to copy data to an onsite repository, then a second way to copy it offsite (be it to a cloud, to tapes or other media that you move offsite) This applies to everyone from a SOHO business to the big guys. You then validate that the data is readable, and every link in the chain is present, from having the license keys for the backup software, to having the software somewhere, to the right hardware for reading the media, etc.

Re:No backups? (2, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34335036)

It's not necessarily that simple. Backup tends to get no respect or funding. A horrifying number of sites don't include backup solutions as a part of the cost of funding new machines. And if it was there that long it's entirely possible that whatever backup solutions were available and used then aren't going to be useful now.

What happens most of the time is you've got a small group/department/business, they hire a consultant group to come in and set things up, and then call them when they have a problem. There is no admin

So then when a drive or DB crashes and there is no functional safety net in place, they fire consultant A and hire consultant B and B moves in, cleans up, and starts the cycle all over again.

Sounds like what's happening here. Problem is that consultants generally operate on the WC Fields principle, "there's a sucker born every minute". So instead of solving people's problems, they merely mitigate them so they can get regular business, and when they screw up, they just take the firing in stride and find another sucker almost immediately. It's a problem that won't end until stupidity itself ends. The deck is stacked against the customers though - they're hiring a consultant because they don't know what they're doing, so by definition, the consultant always has a very easy job of totally bullshitting them. And when the customer gets burned, what can they do? Either hire someone inhouse, or hire another consultant. (usually the latter)

The process of replacing bad consultants with bad consultants usually repeats itself until the customer goes out of business, gets lucky and finds a consultant that's still a leech but is at least competent, or hire someone in-house, often buying out a no-complete from the consulting firm to get the support person that knows the customer's systems.

Re:No backups? (0, Offtopic)

JumpDrive (1437895) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334186)

You do realize that this is Louisiana? They will probably make him head of the parish if not Governor.

Remember the name 'Dale Atkins'.

My guess though is that they didn't have anyone in charge of backups or had a plan for the eventuality that their Windows 3.1 system running Access crashed.
I mean you got to take this in context, it's not like a hurricane hit them and flooded them with water. If only there could have been a lesson learned from 'Katrina'.

Re:No backups? (1, Troll)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334598)

I mean you got to take this in context, it's not like a hurricane hit them and flooded them with water. If only there could have been a lesson learned from 'Katrina'.

They did learn a lesson: make any problems sound like they were caused by the federal government! They put that expertise to use in the recent oil spill crisis, it worked GREAT.

Re:No backups? (2, Informative)

otaku244 (1804244) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334430)

If it's the same IT as the one that runs the connecting City Hall, it depends on the day. They've had 2 administrators go to jail in the last 5 years. Google "Nagin emails" and see what we're working against down here. We have a new mayor and I think he'll turn the city around, but there is a lot of junk to clean up.

Re:No backups? (2, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334638)

Anything dealing with realestate seems to have this lalala mentality to it. When I used to do work on various MLS systems for offices here in Ontario, I was working with netware 1.0 to netware 3. They had no backups, no tape drives, no remote site copies, no UPS system, etc, etc, etc. When I told them repeatedly that backups were required to ensure that they remained operational, I was dismissed and never got another contract with them.

Now you might think, why wouldn't I do it? Because the people who own many of these offices like to hand-hold, and have oversight with everything that's done. Well whatever, no great loss for me. I found a better job.

Are some people stupid? (1)

robphreak (1367665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333788)

Why are there backup systems to take over a failure? The company I work for has backup systems (and duplicate filesystems) to ensure the risk of a problem like this is minimized. Some people should be fired.

Re:Are some people stupid? (1)

Loki_1929 (550940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333866)

Perhaps there was no budget for such systems. Often the higher-ups have no understanding of why they should ever want to purchase extra equipment which isn't (visibly) doing anything to make things go.

Re:Are some people stupid? (1)

robphreak (1367665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334090)

That is a cop out. It is up to the system administrators, their managers and their directors to educate the higher-ups on what is needed. Their are other ways you can use the extra equipment and still be ready for active recovery. I have been doing this for 20 years with great results.

Re:Are some people stupid? (4, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334214)

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink, no matter how long you hold its head under water.

I find the use of phrases like "educate the higher-ups" charmingly naive. They're higher-ups. They don't need anything from you but compliance and endless status reports. And GOD FORBID if you somehow get the idea that you know something they don't.

In other words, your statistical sample of exactly one is not useful. The singular of "data" is not "anecdote". Dilbert is non-fiction.

Re:Are some people stupid? (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334246)

Doesn't work that way. I remember at a previous job needing extra batteries for the radios. The radios which were our only line of communication if we needed help. But they couldn't find the money for that even as they were pushing for more aggressive means of dealing with trespassers.

IT is a lot like that as well, just because there's a pressing need doesn't mean that there's somebody to convince that cares about anything more than the bottom line. A job like that is going to fill, somebody is always that desperate, but suggesting that the admin has any responsibility for that is pretty ignorant. You can't convince somebody that isn't listening.

Re:Are some people stupid? (3, Insightful)

robphreak (1367665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334344)

It is part of the job of the admin to have them listen. If you are any good, in my experience, they will listen. The resoning why the extra expense is warranted and needed requires research, total knowledge of the factors and good communications. If have dealt with many admins who could/would not do that. A valid presentation as to why the expense is needed will, usually, get you the approval.

Re:Are some people stupid? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334456)

All of this relies on competent management, which is not a given in local .gov.

We had this happen to us early this year. Our senior management never passed up the failing status of our backup systems, or our proposals to replace them. Fortunately, we had documented our efforts to escalate the problem, so they got fired instead of us.

Re:Are some people stupid? (1)

robphreak (1367665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334720)

Good for you. Sometimes that is what has to be done.

Re:Are some people stupid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334256)

The company you work for is in it for the money. If computers go down, you lose money.

Public offices on the other hand don't give a shit. What happens when they stop working? Nothing, they still get their budget.

Why on earth should they invest in a decent IT infrastructure, when they can just pay the nephew of the guy heading said office to do ... something?

Re:Are some people stupid? (1)

robphreak (1367665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334812)

How much money has the New Orleans Real Estate Market lost? Do you actually think the voters will not care? Government is still a business and the elected officials are responsible. Someone (some people) should still lose their jobs for incompitencd.

I call shenanigans! (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333798)

A computer "crash" can not erase data. So either something else happened, or the data is simply offline.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

bl4nk (607569) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333828)

They person reporting the incident is probably one of those people who believes that data is stored in memory. Because memory is where things are remembered, right?

Re:I call shenanigans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334060)

Well there are some people that call secondary storage by the names "secondary memory" or "external memory" but... yeah. Reporter messed that one up.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334320)

That's bad, but what's worse is how all the geeks seem to think that a CPU is made by either Intel or AMD. Those are processors that they're primarily known for and the CPU is the box that holds the processor, RAM and the rest of the goobins in.

Now for all those that will correct me on that, give off my gall darned lawn.

Re:I call shenanigans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334840)

The box that holds the processor? Do you mean the CD-ROM or the monitor?

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333856)

I was gonna say, that's a heck of a long time for "data" to be in RAM...

Re:I call shenanigans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34333888)

You are joking, right? First off, "crash" is a term that is commonly used among non-technical users to indicate any condition in which the computer no longer functions. This would include a hard drive failure. Secondly, have you never heard the term "head crash"?

Re:I call shenanigans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334096)

"Secondly, have you never heard the term "head crash"?"

That's when you crash your car while a chick is giving you head, right?

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333944)

Maybe someone literally "crashed" into the computer. With their Hummer, through the wall.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334034)

Might just be calling it a "crash" so that almost anyone can understand that the computer is borked and you can't get the data out. It's a lot like how most people will say they have a computer "virus" when it could be a trojan or a worm. It's a catch-all term that everyone, even non-technical people, can understand fairly easily. Even if you've never used a computer, you can at least associate it with a car crash and come away with the conclusion that something bad has happened.

Based on TFA, it sounds like it could have been a hard disk read-head crash that took out the directory structure. So in that sense, a "crash" could erase data. Either way, makes it easier for the general public to understand.

Re:I call shenanigans! (2, Informative)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334176)

Hate to reply to myself, but here's an earlier article from when the incident occurred. [nola.com] The article states: "The problem, which has been traced to a failure in the hard drive—" and "'The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST,' Atkins said Thursday in a written statement." which suggests that it probably was a disk failure that wiped out at least the directory structure for the files or the index of the database in which the records were stored. So a "read-head crash" could be the actual culprit, but is probably outside the understanding of most of the readership of the site so it was shortened to "crash", something which is much more understandable to most people.

Re:I call shenanigans! (4, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334398)

When I see the phrase "The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST," I interpret that to mean that they still have the deeds, surveys, sale contracts, liens, covenants and easements on file, on paper, in a cabinet.

Which is good. It just means they'll have about 30 years of data entry to do...

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334966)

When I see the phrase "The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST," I interpret that to mean that they still have the deeds, surveys, sale contracts, liens, covenants and easements on file, on paper, in a cabinet.

Which is good. It just means they'll have about 30 years of data entry to do...

No, it means that the records haven't been LOST.

They've just been, er, 'misplaced'. Somebody put them in the round bins near their desk one day and they were taken away for storage. We'll find them soon. Not Lost, not at all.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334904)

I'll remember that when I crash a party, get drunk and crash on the couch.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334212)

Most likely it all got deleted, but was originally copied over from paperwork (I doubt they were storing records in a computer back then) So they're all probably furiously re-entering the data by hand, not realizing a scanner and a little help from google could get it done in a few hours.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334254)

A computer "crash" can not erase data. So either something else happened, or the data is simply offline.

You're an idiot, and don't know what you're talking about.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334272)

A MySQL crash can certainly corrupt INNODB files, leaving you needing to restore from backup.

I've seen a power failure corrupt a ReiserFS partition leaving it unrecoverable. I'd imagine a hardware fault, or driver problem could cause such a crash.

Plenty of us have seen hard drives fail, and most would describe that as a crash.

So, there are plenty of crashes that can result in data loss. It's for that reason that they need to explain why there's no backup.

Re:I call shenanigans! (2, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334292)

You do realize that the term "crash" isn't a particularly technical term, right? A computer crash could be anything from a hard disk head crash to massive data corruption leading to the box not booting to a literal "the computer just fell out a window and crashed on the sidewalk scenario." As for that last one as dumb as it is, I bet somebody here knows of a place where that happened.

It's been the term used for a generic catastrophic computer failure for as long as I can recall, and that goes back decades.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334310)

Of course it can.

If my hard drive fails catastrophically what I see is my computer crashing.

If some idiot wipes the hard dive, what I see is my computer has crashed.

If my computer crashes when my poorly written database program is making updates to the disk it can erase my data.

If my computer crashed because it caught fire, chances are I may have lost some data.

If the database file was corrupted some how and hence the database application fails at startup, what I see is that my computer has crashed.

Re:I call shenanigans! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334558)

Yes it can, you dolt.

What is still running fine in this country? (0, Offtopic)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333820)

That's one question that still troubles me. Sadly I can't find an answer in today's America.

Who Is John Galt? (0, Offtopic)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333900)

Answer is same to both questions.

Objectivists are idiots. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334216)

You still guys live in the wealthiest country on earth, enjoying the highest standard of living that any human being who has ever lived has had. The crime rate is the lowest it has ever been, and is getting lower every single year. The tax rate is lower now than it has been since the early 1900's and for the pittance you pay you get a social system that is actually run extremely well. Still, you imbecile objectivists ignore any evidence that disproves your dumbass ideology and trump up any news story that can be twisted to support it. You are no less than modern mirror-image Bolsheviks, looking to fundamentally destroy the system in order to build a bullshit utopian fantasy world that could never work.

Re:Objectivists are idiots. (1)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334910)

All correct! But that's made possible by Ponzi schemes such as revolving public debts and social security tax. Pray to God the schemes continue to function.

Re:Objectivists are idiots. (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334928)

Objectivists are nuts, but that Social Security ain't gonna look so pretty if we keep running a big fat deficit with a 350% and increasing debt-to-revenues ratio (higher than Greece).... to say nothing of the way that the public employee pension systems are built to assume 10% rates of return and contractually put the taxpayers on the hook for a shortfall.

Re:What is still running fine in this country? (-1, Troll)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334056)

Companies that know that have to serve their customers efficiently and non-stop with accurate & timely transactions.

Let us face the immutable facts.

Governments are monopolies and as such the people they hire wind up with a different mindset and don't have the same outlook on making systems that truly maintain uptime at 99.99%.

There is NO COMPETITION to governments which keep them on their toes.

Re:What is still running fine in this country? (2, Insightful)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334248)

Great, then a meltdown of the financial system can never happen because banks and insurance companies are all private and extremely competitive. What about the oil industry? You can't go any more hardcore capitalist than that. That's why they never ever fuck up.

I feel so much safer now.

Re:What is still running fine in this country? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334374)

Sure there is it's called "elections" or at least it would keep them on their toes if a substantial number of voters didn't reward bad behavior. Example, the Republican party ran up nearly $10tn in debt between Regan and the Bushes. And more recently gridlocked the legislative branch for the last couple of years and they get rewarded by being voted in as a vote for bipartisanship.

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve
George Bernard Shaw

Re:What is still running fine in this country? (3, Insightful)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334260)

Things that are running fine don't make the news.

In general, if you want to find things that are good and not horriblescarryrazyonfiredyouregonnadie, pay less attention to the news.

And no backup? (1)

mugurel (1424497) | more than 3 years ago | (#34333838)

How serious do they take their business if they don't backup >20 years of gathered data?

Re:And no backup? (1)

nilloc (678273) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334174)

They probably never tested their backup recovery process.

Re:And no backup? (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334220)

Article says it's the Orleans Parish Civil District Court that's had the problems so they're not exactly a business.

I see the real story here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34333872)

The first rule of Fight Club is....

Back in the 60's . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334008)

. . . while you were all swimming around in your da'd's balls, I told my grandmother that computers did not make errors, but that the folks who program them do. And she gave me a lot of shit for that.

I think the track record today proves who was right.

Re:Back in the 60's . . . (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334278)

My dad always says: Computers are great machines. If shit goes in, shit comes out.

Re:Back in the 60's . . . (1)

Wocka_Wocka (1895714) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334586)

. . . I told my grandmother that computers did not make errors . . .

Except, you know, when doing floating point division.

Just make the data visible to Google (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334024)

Their problem is that they've lost indexing data, not the underlying documents. So just make the documents, which are public records, visible to Google. Google will index them and anyone can then search.

Re:Just make the data visible to Google (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334754)

Doesn't work so well if the underlying documents are scans of paper documents - I don't know if Google's PDF searching deals with OCR'ing text. And even if it does that assumes the scans are actually stored in a reasonably well-known format like PDF.

Old techie proverb (sort-of) (2, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334058)

So, when did your data become important to you? Before or After you lost it...

You wouldn't believe how many people don't properly backup critical data. If it's important, really important, here are a few tips:
- Have current backups
- Test the backups to ensure they work
- Keep multiple backups
- Keep the backups in separate locations, preferably separate sites if possible, and if really critical, separate cities (Disasters happen)
- Keep backups in a fireproof safe or equivalent, it should be waterproof as well, and probably airtight
- Even though you need to keep the backups secure, you need multiple people that can access it when necessary (Accidents happen, people die, people lose keys and forget combos)

Those steps are simple, and a business can easily do all of them. Individuals may have less capability to implement everything. If you choose to do less, you are balancing the value of your data against the probability of losing it. I dealt with many many people who didn't follow those rules and lost their data. It happens, a lot. Business records, bank statements, novels, doctoral thesis, family photos, source code, chat logs, porn, contact lists, and more. Too may people blow off the importance of preserving their data until after it's gone, and when that happens, there are only two things that you can do. First, hope that a data recover place can recover some of it (all is a really long shot) but they'll charge you through the nose. Or two, deal with the lose and suffer the consequences. There are no miracles or magic pixie dust in data recovery.

Tip for data recovery. If something happens and you need the data back, I wish you luck, but here's some things to do that may improve your odds. TURN OFF THAT MACHINE AND REMOVE THE DRIVE THAT THE LOST DATA WAS ON! Your computer is doing things even when you don't tell it to. If it writes to the drive, it may very well write over where your precious data was. If that happens, it's gone, period, for-ever. No data recovery place on the planet gets back data that's been written over. They may be willing to try, and charge you an outrageous fee even if they fail, but the will fail. Usually only part of the data is written over, so something can be recovered, but it may be useless. After all, half an exe is pretty useless, but half that novel might help you out. Sorry about ranting, but seen way too many bad ones, and I know you don't want to go through that.

Re:Old techie proverb (sort-of) (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334296)

You wouldn't believe how many people don't properly backup critical data.

Hell, I get calls from "friends of friends of friends" . . . apply recursion as required. And, no, no one has a backup, and no, no one even knows the administrator password for their machine .. . .

When a hard drive goes bad .. .. folks start to think about backups . . . not before then . . .

Re:Old techie proverb (sort-of) (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334390)

It constantly amazes me how hard it is to convince people to backup their data.

At my previous job I did outsourced IT support for local businesses. We'd have a hell of a time selling them any kind of a backup solution. They'd rather just trust that things were going to keep working than spend a couple thousand on software and a tape drive. Or they'd never, ever change the tapes. Or they'd keep using the same tapes for years. Or they'd store the tape right on top of the server, so that any disaster that physically destroy the server would take the tapes as well.

We'd also get visits from folks who had issues with their home computers. They'd have genuinely irreplaceable photos of some family member who was now dead... And the only place those photos had ever been stored was some SD card... And that card had gone through the wash, or been stepped on, or got zapped with static, or whatever... And now they wanted us to recover the data.

And in both cases the folks were absolutely irate when they lost something important and we were unable to recover it. The first question was always do you have a backup? And we'd get these self-righteous blank stares... And they'd want to know why the hell they should be doing a backup - that's what the computer was for!

If it's important, make a backup. Test the backup. Store the backup in a safe location.

The more important something is, the more important it is to back it up.

And if you don't have a backup, it's your own damn fault when the data goes away.

Re:Old techie proverb (sort-of) (3, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334838)

Uh, dude, if they had a backup, they wouldn't be coming to the computer shop for data recovery. But good on you for treating people like shit and assuming they know as much as you do about computers. Administering a backup system is a non-trivial task for novices. I'm sure people enjoyed hearing it was their own damn fault though. The little human touches are what makes being a computer technician all worthwhile.

Re:Old techie proverb (sort-of) (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#34335044)

Uh, dude, if they had a backup, they wouldn't be coming to the computer shop for data recovery. But good on you for treating people like shit and assuming they know as much as you do about computers. Administering a backup system is a non-trivial task for novices. I'm sure people enjoyed hearing it was their own damn fault though. The little human touches are what makes being a computer technician all worthwhile.

Perhaps I wasn't clear...

Basically any time we got a call for data recovery, from a home user or a business, the first question is "do you have a backup".

It actually does make sense. Why waste hours trying to recover data from a hosed HDD only to find out that there's a tape in the closet nobody mentioned? It has happened.

For business customers that we may never have worked with before, this is a very reasonable question. They may have a tape drive ticking away doing backups, but no idea how to actually restore things.

For home users it is less likely that they have a backup, but it still happens. We did have a few customers who'd used some automated backup system but just had no idea how to recover anything from it.

But thanks for demonstrating the proper way to apply those little human touches.

Salaries vs wages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334104)

It must be nice to be an hourly employee at a time like this. As a salaried employee, I would be expected to put in 18 or more hours a day to resolve something like this...

Fire in the courthouse = seller pays title ins. (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334150)

In some county in Florida the courthouse burned down about 50-60 years ago.

Since then sellers have paid for title insurance instead of the buyer.

Perhaps the Parish should foot the bill for title insurance. Just saying.

So how do you verify backups? (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334164)

From a November 4 story [nola.com] :

Because of the havoc that the storm [Hurricane Katrina] caused, Atkins' office had hoped to prevent future snafus by hiring a company called i365 to back up the data regularly. But, Atkins said, all that information wasn't being backed up.

When the problem was first detected, "we were told it was a system failure, and they could get us up and running," Atkins said. "I don't think the court was made aware of the severity of the problem until late last week."

What would have been due diligence on the part of the court clerk to verify that i365 was doing their job? And why hasn't this problem been resolved three weeks later? I can see why realtors have asked the governor of Louisiana to get involved.

Re:So how do you verify backups? (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334514)

What would have been due diligence on the part of the court clerk to verify that i365 was doing their job?

Q: How does a non-techie manager determine when something isn't working?
A: They don't. They wait until it breaks.

i365 signed a contract. That was the due diligence.

Re:So how do you verify backups? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334630)

Then the non-techie Manager has failed in their responsibility.

I wonder what other infrastructure is also untested in their district.

Re:So how do you verify backups? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334770)

I work for an IT company and one of the things we do is managed backups. I agree with you 100%. We test managed backups monthly (DR Planning) and have alerts each time it does so much as take longer than usual. If i365 doesn't then they should be sued out of existence.

Re:So how do you verify backups? (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334898)

i365 signed a contract. That was the due diligence.

So if you don't get your data back, you sue them and they go bankrupt. Some protection. Sounds just as good as cloud computing to me.

Re:So how do you verify backups? (2, Insightful)

Ben4jammin (1233084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34335008)

Can't say that I fault a non-techie for hiring someone they think is reputable and from that assuming they are covered. That said, nothing wrong with carefully shutting down the system, hiding it, and calling said provider and saying "it got stolen how fast can you have me back up and running?" That would have uncovered any flaws in the backup process.

From my perspective, if it is located in the same building as the source data, it is a copy, not a backup. If it is offsite, but has never had a test restore, it is a paperweight, not a backup. I doubt few non-techies think about test restores, but I do them monthly and have to document them as it is the first thing my boss asks about when it is review time. Of course he already knows the answer as he has had our other engineer test restore stuff independent of me. We all sleep better that way.

As for the 3 week delay, either someone doesn't know or doesn't care. Perfect example of why people DON'T outsource IT, so when this happens you can at least fire, rather than sue, someone. At least in an at-will state like US-KY.

And lastly, how dumb does the provider have to be to let this drag on and hit all the news outlets? Imagine what great pub it would be to get it back up and running quickly, rather than have your customers talking about potential litigation to any reporter that will listen.

Re:So how do you verify backups? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34335062)

All funding has been tied up in road improvements!

/I'm here all week!

Seriously? (1)

U8MyData (1281010) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334228)

This is unbelievable in no other terms. Either they are baiting and switching relying on the assumed ignorance of the public or there is a real problem with this organization. ANYONE responsible for data knows that they better have a backup, a plan, and a successful set of tests, period. I personally like the manager speak that basically says, "I don't know WTF happened" and we have to re-enter everything. When will this lack of accountability where it comes to systems, computers and data stop? My favorite analogy is we all learned how to drive a car and are held to account for our actions on the road, why not computers? Seriously. Anyone remember STNG episode 43; Samaritan Snare (I think), "Make it go..."

Wayback + Zwillow = Fixed! (0, Troll)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334268)

There all better, now back to selling a bunch of repossessed homes that nobody wants, you knuckleheads!

This system is either a black box no one was willing to touch out of fear, or one in which they had no clue as to how important it was... until it died. Should have kept that info on little bits of paper in a binder or something less complicated. It's for you're own good, you ninny.

Let's go for a wade.... (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334288)

...through the seas of hyperbole and ill informed journalists who in turn try to dumb down articles for the masses. For starters article in question is talking about them working through the backlog created by the original crash. The system went down, most of it is back, but the office is swamped trying to catch up.

"loss of online data from the late 1980s"

The data wasn't lost. From T original FA:

"The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST," Atkins said Thursday in a written statement." (emphasis theirs) also from an earlier article: "After a Houston firm said last weekend that it couldn't help, two hard drives, including one from the court's information-technology office, were sent to Data Recovery Technologies in Duluth, Ga. The company confirmed on Thursday that it can get data from that hard drive through last year, Atkins said."

Two drives. If both are from the same RAID 5 array, or the same array where a corrupted controller was writing bad data, Then congratulations! You've just moved to the low rent district of puckered-asshole town.

Now, I know what you're saying:
"B-b-b-b-but Backups!" What if your backup system is dutifully writing off that corrupted data for months on end? There's no mention of what if any backups were in place. Maybe they didn't have anything. Maybe they found the backup scripts that were put in place by the contractor hired 8 years ago quit working 4 years ago.

"B-b-b-b-but redundancy!" is more a matter of who controls the purse strings than who has to manage the system.

"B-b-b-b-but someone should be fired!" It won't be the person truly responsible. Too often IT professionals get stuck maintaining the last guy's systems. Will the department administrator get fired for turned down the purchase of new tape drives? or for refusing to re-up the support agreements on the AIX boxes? No. Will the sysadmin get a lousy performance review from the department administrator because the system went down? Of course.

It's easy to be a bad administrator. It's easy to cobble together a bad system. It's hard, however, to look at these articles and, instead of Hurr-Hurr'ing at the 'idiots in charge', look in at your own systems and ask yourself how close to this situation you are.

Too damn funny! (2, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334306)

A computer glitch can shut down your entire economic system, and some spilt talcum powder can shut down the airlines... You people are paralyzed... The drama is priceless

Captain Hindsight to the rescue (3, Funny)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334312)

Only Captain Hindsight can save them now!

Re:Captain Hindsight to the rescue (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334370)

I think by definition Captain Hindsight is incapable of saving anyone.

Re:Captain Hindsight to the rescue (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334588)

Hindsight is a lying bitch.

Ironically the clerk's name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334348)

was Katrina...

Was it a data flood? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334364)

Ill get my coat

Cursed (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334524)

New Orleans is cursed.

computer crash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34334600)

"For more than a week, the pace of real estate transactions in Orleans Parish has slowed to a crawl because of a computer glitch in the Civil District Court clerk's office. The problem, which has been traced to a failure in the hard drive, has kept researchers from the online data

'"The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST," Atkins said Thursday in a written statement'

'when the computer malfunctioned, the indexing was lost. Consequently, for information about the period that hadn't been recovered by Thursday afternoon, "we have no idea how to find it,"` link [nola.com]

Idiots and needed firings (1)

KingFrog (1888802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34334808)

You know, if you CANNOT FUNCTION without the data on the computers, you need to have verified backups and a plan for when the machines catch fire. If you can't manage this yourself, there are vendors that specialize in this very thing. Failure on this level probably warrants a firing, when the dust settles.
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