Mode Errors – A Disaster Recovery Weak Point



In 1999, NASA invested over $300 million in the Mars Climate Orbiter project. The spacecraft crashed into mars and disintegrated, because scientists had accidentally mistaken metric measurements for imperial units. How is it that some of the most intelligent people in the world, working on such an important project, could make such an obvious mistake?

Imagine the following situation. You’re downloading a new app onto your smartphone, and it requires confirmation of certain basic permissions in order to install.

  • Access to your microphone? Yes
  • Access to your camera? Yes
  • Access to your Bluetooth? Yes
  • Access to your personal contacts? Yes. No wait! I don’t want to…

But it’s too late. You’ve just given the application permission to send spam to all your personal contacts, and hurt your personal reputation in the process.

This is a classic example of a mode error.

Mode errors occur when someone makes a bad decision out of habit, resulting in negative consequences.

Every day, we read news stories of people whose bank accounts were wiped out because they forgot a decimal point on a check. Criminals also leverage mode errors to collect on fake invoices for services they’ve never provided.

If a mode error works its way into your backup process, the results for your company can be catastrophic. You may configure certain settings, thinking that you’re doing something completely different. And these errors might go undiscovered until you need to perform an emergency recovery.

At Storagepipe, we’ve seen the following examples of mode errors lead to real-world data disasters:

  • It’s common for clients to back up their laptops, but neglect their Outlook PST files.
  • Because it’s easy to create new virtual machines, they are sometimes forgotten and omitted from the backup process.
  • A company might be performing the same backup process for years without testing. And when it comes time to recover, they find that their backups are either empty or completely unusable.

Although automation is great for eliminating human error from your backup process, it can often also sometimes enhance the damage caused by mode errors. And in an automated process, these mistakes can go undetected for years.

There are many factors that can lead to mode errors, such as distractions, unfamiliarity, multi-tasking, complexity and lack of oversight.

Specialization can help eliminate many instances of mode errors. If you have a team or individual that only handles a narrow set of duties, they will be familiar enough to anticipate and avoid the most common types of mode errors. And because they have a narrow scope of responsibility, they also avoid the complexity and distractions that can often lead to such mistakes.

Also, there should be some sort of monitoring and review process that proactively looks for potential errors that might creep into the process. This is where backup testing can be of great help.

Mode errors are one of the reasons why many companies will outsource their backup and disaster recovery process to a team of highly specialized data protection and business continuity experts. These specialists are trained, experienced, and focused on just one objective: ensuring that you can recover quickly and consistently from the worst possible IT disaster.

Outsourcing your system protection can help you minimize the possibility of mode errors, and provide you with total peace of mind.

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