What Johnny Cash Taught Us About Disaster Recovery



Johnny Cash was a cultural icon who became famous for his troubled mind. He almost exclusively wore black, his childhood was marred by tragedy, and he’d been arrested over 7 times during his life.

He is a classic example of someone who’d never been able to find true peace of mind within his lifetime.

Likewise, many IT administrators are struggling to find peace of mind within their data protection. And by examining his thought process, it might be possible to draw some lessons that would be surprisingly useful within the context of IT management.

In particular, his classic song “One Piece at a Time” clearly illustrates an approach to systems analysis that causes problems for IT administrators.

According to the tale, Johnny is employed by a car factory, and desperately wants a Cadillac of his very own. Unfortunately, he lacks the budget.

  • Since Johnny as invested significant time in learning how to build and repair cars, he hypothesizes that he might be capable of assembling the car himself using individual components. This expertise required an investment of time and effort on his part, and this value will be invests into the new car.
  • In order to avoid paying for the components, Cash decides that he will slowly steal all of the pieces. If he were caught, the scandal could destroy his career. This risk has value, which will be invested in the new car.
  • In order to minimize his chances of being caught, Cash steals only small amounts, slowly over time. It will take him years to get his car, and the value of this lost time will be his opportunity cost.
  • Since the components were all from different car models, Cash was required to manually modify components and purchase adaptor kits in order to make them work together. This time and effort has value, and the money he’d spent on tools and parts should also be taken into account.
  • In order to make the car street-legal, he had to go through significant bureaucracy. The value of this extra time and effort must be taken into account.
  • When finally completed, the car was ugly and embarrassing to drive. This car had significantly less aesthetic value than a properly-purchased Cadillac.
  • Since the car was stolen, it was not covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. If he encountered any mechanical issues, he’d have to spend time and money to fix it himself. If he’d legitimately purchased the car, his warranty and the dealers desire to protect their reputation would’ve provided significant value.

In terms of price, the car was free. But in terms of cost, it was quite expensive.

Johnny Cash had invested many valuable things into obtaining this car:

  • The value of the time required to build knowledge and experience.
  • The value of the risk associated with committing a crime.
  • The value of the years it took in order to accumulate all of the parts.
  • The value of the time required to modify and assemble the components.
  • The value of the extra parts, hardware and tools he’d needed to purchase for the project.
  • The value of the bureaucratic headaches, associated with registering the car.
  • The value of the car’s ugly appearance, when compared to a beautiful new Cadillac.
  • The value of having a reputable brand that will protect their customers and stand behind the quality of their products.

All of these different components have a quantifiable value associated with them. And when you add up all of these costs, it would’ve actually been much cheaper for Cash to have legitimately purchased the car in the first place.

At Storagepipe, we often see businesses encountering very similar problems when protecting their data.

When it comes to protecting information, most companies will have different solutions for laptops, mobile devices, databases, email servers, web servers, hypervisors, and other systems.

They’ll also protect data in different ways. This might include a mixture of file sharing, backup, cloud storage, disaster recovery, archiving, and other solutions.

At first, it might seem cheaper to implement and manage these solutions yourself. But you need to take all of the costs into consideration. You have to assign value to things such as your time, education, opportunity costs, consistency or recovery, capital risks, quality, monitoring and testing, redundancy, your ability to adapt to future change, the cost of shipping tapes off-site, etc…

If you assign value to all of these factors, and then add them up, you’ll usually find that outsourcing your backups can actually end up costing you significantly less.

Johnny Cash wanted didn’t really want a Cadillac. Instead, he wanted the pride, glamour and comfort that came from owning a luxury car. If he had exclusively focused on the benefits, instead of focusing on the individual parts that made up the car, he might’ve found a much faster and easier way to get these benefits he was looking for. And this would’ve provided him with much more peace of mind.

Likewise, most backup administrators don’t want software, storage and tape drives. Instead, they want a secure, reliable and efficient way to eliminate the threats of data loss and unplanned downtime.

From a backup and disaster recovery perspective, it doesn’t make sense to focus on the individual components that make up your backup and disaster recovery process. Instead, you should focus on just the benefits that you want to get out of this process.

By focusing on just these high-level benefits, you might find that there are more efficient and cost-effective ways to protect your data. And this will help you achieve total peace of mind, for your data protection.

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