December 5, 2009

The Power of Redundancy

It looks like being a busy weekend on the ferries, particularly Saturday and Sunday.
--- Peter Powell

Go see it and see for yourself why you shouldn't go see it.
--- Samuel Goldwyn

What do you do when things break? Without a "Plan B", you're stuck or subject to expensive rush repairs. Even if you buy extended warranties, you'll pay in time lost. Enter redundancy.

These days you can get cheap peace of mind by having an extra fridge (mini or full-size). You may not have an extra washing machine but can use a laundromat. If your dryer breaks down, you can air dry your clothing. If the microwave oven breaks, you can use a regular stove --- if you remember how.

What about technology? Let's look at your phone, Internet access and computer. How can you reduce the stress of them breaking down?

Your Phone
If the wire-to-your-home phone line doesn't work, you can use your mobile phone. Even kids have them these days. If you're single, you may not even have a home phone. What happens if your mobile phone breaks or gets lost? I feel you shudder. Have you got your contacts backed up?

Maybe you can redirect calls to voicemail or another number. Skype can help you make calls. For $2.95 US a month, Skype Unlimited gives you 10,000 minutes of calls to phones in the US or Canada (landline or mobile). There's a limit of 360 minutes per day. This is also a cheap long distance plan.

Internet Access
We just cancelled our cable since we watch so little TV. We don't have satellite either. Last time we did this, Jeevan was about six years old and the service ended abruptly during a rerun of Scooby Doo. He was so angry. Tears poured and fists flew. This time, no one cared.

We wouldn't dare cancel Internet service. If anything, we'll upgrade from 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps. Maybe even to 50 Mbps.

If your Internet service stops working, what do you do once you stop convulsing and colour returns to your cheeks? You wait. Maybe you can get by with Internet access on your mobile phone. For a home office, that won't do. We had WiMax as a backup. More recently, we switched to a mobile Internet stick from a different provider. That's double redundancy.

Your Computer
When you get a new computer, why not keep the old one? The old equipment can easily handle simple tasks like accessing the Internet. You can even use different computers for different purposes. Here's my setup using notebook computers:
  1. work (14"): to be replaced
  2. home (17"): workhorse
  3. mobility (10" netbook): go anywhere and for most email
Older computers can be cascaded to other family members. An older 12" notebook is used for web surfing.

With all this equipment, there's plenty of redundancy. We're functional if anything breaks down. Data is backed up on a home LAN, encrypted portable hard drives and now online too.

Rather than worry about breakdowns, you can get cheap insurance by having extras. After all, you probably have more than one slotted screwdriver.

Podcast Episode 46 (4:15)

direct download | Internet Archive page


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