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7. Conclusion – 3 guidelines about redundancy to solve some problems
Klik her for dansk version
on Monday 13 February 2012
by Pierre author list
in Redundancy
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Finally some recommendation about what to do – and not do – when investing in redundant systems. You may have noticed that ”all” problems have become ”some” problems in the title – this is not a mistake. If you have read the previous article, you understand why.

This is a part of a series of articles about redundancy. These articles should be read in the correct order. If you have not read the previous article, then use this link to go to the first article Redundancy to solve all problems.

1. Only buy the spare equipment that you can use in your day to day work
One of the greatest sources for false security is backup equipment that is intended to use in case of a fault on some other equipment, but where the backup equipment is not used normally. When you finally need it, it won’t work because of some other problem that you could easily have found and fixed, had you only used the equipment.
This is valid for a complete studio or just a broadcast computer in a studio. So it is important that spare equipment is used in the daily production. If it is a studio, make sure to use it for some program, and if it is a spare broadcast computer in a studio, use if to play some jingles or speak-beds – just so that you will find out if it can’t play one day.

To use a backup system in the daily production is also the only way to make sure that the staff knows how to use it. This will save you when you main studio or broadcast computer fails one day.

2. Make sure you have a loosely coupled backup
An error that is quite frequent is to spend a lot of money on redundant storage, that gives you security against hardware failures on the storage itself, but don’t give any security agains errors from the system that uses the storage or the people using it. Both could accidently or deliberately delete all your media files.
Various kinds of RAID and mirrored disk systems are nice, because it makes it possible for you to swap disks without interrupting anything. The problem with a mirrored disk system is that the primary goal for the backup is to do exactly like the main system. So if the main system deletes everything, so will the backup.
Because of that, an extra backup is needed, the loosely coupled backup. One that backs up new files but where deleted files are not deleted from the backup immediately. Such a backup will have an other advantage, because it will be natural to place it in a different location, so that a small fire in a server facility won’t damage the extra backup.

If you don’t have money to buy a mirrored storage and a loosely coupled backup, then I would go for the loosely coupled backup. It protects you from more kinds of data loss, but a hardware failure will mean some downtime before you can get everything restored.

3. Watch the amount of switches
Every place where you have a switch between a main and a backup system, there is a potential source of a failure. No matter if this is a KVM switch, a switch between studios or playout devices, a silence detector, ...

If you want a radio or TV station that is safe to operate, then you should try to minimize the amount of switches that must be used in case of errors. Your system will become simpler, and in case f failures there isn’t anything more important than that.

But don’t cheat by letting one switch operate more than one signal, unless there are very good reasons for it. In most cases it will only create uncertainty about what to expect, and create complete confusion if one day a switch that must switch several signals only switch some of them.

Perhaps all this may seem very trivial, and it is ... then we can only speculate why so many people get it wrong and end up in a lot of trouble because of this.
Perhaps because it sound more impressing to be able to say that we have two of everything so nothing can go wrong here. But its wrong and its like saying that Titanic can’t sink.
An perhaps because people like the idea of a red button – press this to set the wrong right. We like the sound of that, but its false security.

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