Developing a Production Environment Disaster Plan
I am sure you have heard the magic words “I didn’t change anything!” when all of a sudden things stop working. If these are your users’ favorite words, you just roll your eyes and secretly wish you could do a lobotomy on them because you are convinced no one would notice. Nevertheless, you correct the problem and go on with the rest of your day, however when these words are uttered by a technician you cringe and feel yourself reaching to put he or she in a head lock. The impact of the change controls the grip and pressure applied to the headlock. Believe me, I understand and have been there both as the one in the headlock and the one applying extreme pressure to a headlock grip.
It is inevitable that someone will change something and not own up to it because of fear, ignorance, or my personal favorite indifference … no matter, the impact is the same. If the change simply caused an inconvenience and can be used as a teaching experience for the one that jacked things up…you make them fix it while you supervise. If you are a seasoned professional, by that I mean been in a few headlocks yourself, you know that you must have a plan to recover from unintentional changes/interruptions.
I could give you a long list of factors that can contribute to unanticipated interruptions to your reporting environment, but for this conversation we are going to go with a poorly managed development to production process. I have seen way too many companies develop in their production environment and have no way of controlling their content and tracking changes….I could go on, but you get the point. If you are in a single server installation for Business Intelligence and can’t afford another server then I just have one question for you…what is the cost of a production down situation? I am sure that it is cheaper to buy a new server than lose a day or more of productivity. Ok I know some are saying I am mixing development and disaster recovery and I am confusing the issue, but really I am not. If you don’t have a clearly defined and controlled process for development then you are creating your own disaster. I see a nay sayer with their face all twisted and lips poked out…I see the words before they come out, but I will let you get it off your chest….”we have a folder for development in our production environment”. I hear one more coming… “Only our administrators can make changes and they know better”…. Really? Your administrators must be an androids and never make a mistake or they do absolutely nothing all day. It is impossible not to make a mistake … I don’t care how good you are. To bring it to a finer point, how many times have you applied a patch or a fix that causes an unintended break elsewhere? If this has never happened to you then you don’t work in technology or have an infinite supply of pixie dust that actually works.
Alright, I have you thinking about another environment for testing, development, and patches which is separate from your production environment, now we can talk about the process of deploying to production from development. In Cognos, you can move content from one environment/server to another environment by using import and export within the Cognos Administration. You can schedule import or export entries from a deployment archive to a separate server….see the topic Schedule Management in Cognos Connection Help for more details.
Now that your mind is open to the idea of another environment let me push your comfort zone a little….Hosting. I know I have some technicians worrying that if someone is hosting your business intelligence or corporate performance management environments, then jobs are on the line. Calm down…before the folks in the back get all worried about their jobs going offshore and thinking that hosting is a synonym for outsourcing it is not…I promise hosting won’t obsolete you, but I will say you better step your game up if you only can do one thing…
Hosting is designed for those companies that have invested or are looking to invest in Cognos but don’t have the infrastructure to really leverage it. Don’t stop reading because you think this is a sales pitch. You should know me by now that I don’t sales pitch. I am simply pointing out an avenue that is not widely known but should be heavily traveled. There are pros and cons with hosting, but if there is a company….that’s right … Lodestar offers hosting, so it might be worth a conversation. Are there any IT managers and directors in the room…if there are listen up, hosting will allow your team to focus on strategic projects that impact the company’s bottom line. I know that sounds like a lot of pretty words, but I am sure you have no shortage of projects that have been put on the shelf for lack of resources and time. Hosting….Hosting…..it could be just what you need to develop an effective production environment.