Amy’s sayings #6

Phrases are critical to letting employees make the right decisions when you’re not around. They allow you to avoid the micromanagement trap. In this series I’m sharing with you the phrases that have made a great impact on my MSP.

When a person becomes a medical doctor, they take an oath. Part of that oath is “first do no harm” which means that it might be better to do nothing. We often hear this phrase used in IT as well but while it might be ethical to do nothing in medicine, it nearly never is in IT. Instead, the phrase I use is, “first, check the backup”.

First, check the backup

This phrase is both a policy and a management tool. I love this phrase because it puts a pause button on rash action. The policy is that if the change you are going to make touches data, or in the case of a managed server, then you must first check that the most recently scheduled backup was successful. This task puts a pause button on rash action. It takes that flight or fight response down a notch. Oh my gosh, there’s a problem, let me Google that, I think I know what to do <pause> I need to check the backup first. While you are checking the backup, part of your brain is still on the problem but it’s on hold, when you finish the task and come back to the problem, you’ll be in a better head space and a different solution might even occur to you. You could think of this as that old, breathe, count to 10, breathe mantra. They serve the same purpose.

In addition to calming you, it of course serves another purpose and that is to make sure that we aren’t introducing any risk of losing data. Starting from a place of confidence when going into a crisis situation is always a good idea. This phrase isn’t just for crises though, it’s for run of the mill helpdesk calls too. It’s for everything. Why? Because backup is the only technology that hasn’t evolved in IT. Sure, the media has changed, and the choice of when to backup has changed, and how many backups you need to store has changed, but what hasn’t ever changed is that backup requires care and feeding. If you don’t, the backups will fail. Every backup system is error prone. Always has been and, as far as I can tell, always will be. The cloud has changed everything, except backup. It still requires care and feeding because it fails.

This phrase is so core to what we do, that when I or the technical manager put on OOF on our internal emails, we have a message and sign off with “remember, first check the backup

Subject: Automatic reply

Remember: First check the backup. I will have internet access, but no phone or text so Teams me. My time zone is +1.  WhatsApp, eMail are all good too. I’ll be in the air on the 16th and 27th. Thanks, Amy

In 21 years of owning an MSP and being the person that goes out to meet potential new clients, we’re only ever found 5 businesses that have working backups. Yes, 5 of hundreds. I haven’t kept track of the number of businesses whose backup I’ve looked into but let’s be modest and say it was only 100. That would be 5% working and I know for certain that the real number is much lower.

Please adopt the phrase, and the policy. First check the backup. If everyone is checking the backup, then the likelihood that it’s working will be much higher.

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