Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 84 – More Questions than Answers

The first edition of Information Overload for 2011 is short and sweet, butfull of questions and thoughts on the implications for ourselves, our families,the businesses we run or work for in the face of disaster.

Over the last few weeks I have watched with both awe and horror at the destructive forces of nature, both here in Australia and elsewhere across the world. And several lines of thought have occurred (as it probably has to a lot of you) with regards to record keeping:

  • How, despite all the previous disasters we have seen or experienced, we never seem to be prepared for the next one – do we think “it won’t happen to me / my organisation” we have “other things to think about, we don’t have time to / we don’t have the money to …” “lightening doesn’t strike twice…”
  • Would digitising our world help to overcome some or all of the problems we face if our paper based records were damaged / destroyed? Now before I go on – I would like to point out that in this sense I mean a record in every sense of the word and not just business documents – but the photographs, the family bible and other items we can deem to be related to our family histories, and those priceless, often irreplaceable items which can be so easily lost or damaged. And we should not forget the rare and valuable book collections held by libraries and collectors. Or our own collection of books, videos, dvd’s, tapes or vinyl for that matter. Do we have a personal inventory of items? Does our organisation have a complete inventory?
  • What about those things that cannot be digitised, but are also priceless. A case in point – I have one of less than 100 commissioned tea-sets made by Wedgewood to commemorate the finding of the Nanking treasure. I can take as many photographs as I like, but I won’t be able to have another cup of tea out of the tea-pot if it gets damaged in a disaster. Of course if I drop it I can’t either – but you get my point I’m sure.
  • How far away is far enough? We have been told many times to keep backups and copies in a second location and away from our main seat of operations. Given the state wide devastation in Queensland for example, how far away is far enough?
  • Is this the perfect opportunity to utilise “the cloud”? Notwithstanding the legal implications for record keeping by using cloud service providers who are not in our own legal jurisdiction, surely keeping our records in the cloud would mean we could access our business critical documents / vital records and get our businesses / organisations back up and running far faster than if we had to wait for the emergency services to find the safe and hose off the mud.
  • If you do digitise your records / documents – what do you do with the originals? Do you send them to offsite storage, just in case the “cloud” provider fails / gets taken over /  gets hacked compromising the integrity of your records?
  • Do you have the right skills set to do your colleagues job if they can’t get into work? (Please also see the January edition of the Registrant Resources Edition of Information Overload which looks at “what is in your skills suitcase” –
  • Do your colleagues have the right skills set to do your job should you be unable to get into work?
  • Are your procedures up to date?
  • Do you have a disaster plan ready to go? Are you revising it based on what has happened recently?
  • Do you have a well stocked disaster bin ready for emergencies? Given what we have seen of late, is it enough?


As you can imagine, there are going to be a lot more questions to answer and we will do our best to do that in later editions.

With many thoughts