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Linux Writer Gets Ready For Disaster... Again - page 3

Disaster Redux

  • September 2, 2004
  • By Rob Reilly

After the disaster has passed, your computing creativity really needs to kick in. We've seen some of the problems and how to prepare for them. What else can be done, in the weeks following, to get your business up and running again?

If you are a telecommuter or independent consultant and work out of your house, the next best place might be a cafe offering free WiFi. Panera Bread has been rolling out wireless broadband access for about a year. After Hurricane Charley, that was where I went to work. I could calm my nerves with a double expresso and a bagel, while replying to email and researching stories on the web. I even used Xchat on IRC to participate in discussions with colleagues. Don't know if a VPN connection works, but you can give it a try.

Places like StarBucks and other pay type hotspots would work as your emergency command center, as well. Many public libraries provide WiFi access now. You may have to register your MAC address, to gain access.

Plan on working out the bugs on using these alternative "operation centers" before the disaster hits. For example, my SMC 802.11b card always associates itself with the "staff" access point at the county library, if I have my ESSID set to "any". Of course, I'm part of the "public" and can never gain access on the "staff" leg. So, unless you know to use iwconfig to change the ESSID to "public", you'll chase your tail and waste a lot of valuable working time. With all the other things going on during and right after a disaster, the last thing you'll want to do is spin your wheels on problems that could have been avoided with a little upfront legwork.

Almost forgot, you are running at least a software firewall, like SuSE Firewall, aren't you, when you're on somebody else's network?

Here's an idea you probably haven't thought of for your small business. Do a reciprocal deal with several businessmen, in other regions, for temporary network access. For example, if I had a "network partner" in say, Gainesville, I could haul my servers up there, plug them in and resume customer operations. You might have to monkey around with DNS and other network settings. As you can see, this route would require quite a bit of planning and cooperation, although it's definitely do-able. Big companies have multiple server locations, but usually just sync the data to the another machine and don't physically move the hardware. Using Linux servers, you could automate the whole operation, to switch over on it's own, just like the big boys.

Going through even a minor catastrophe can really affect your computer operations, especially if you have a small business. I've found that Linux people usually tend to be the hands on, get it done types. They like to face adversity and come out on top. They at least like to make the rough spots as easy to get through as possible. Perhaps some of my tips will help you with that.

As for me, I'm going to get up in the morning and finish putting the plywood on my windows. Hurricane Frances is on the way. Maybe all that planning and pruning will help keep my broadband connection up this time.


Rob Reilly is a professional technology writer and consultant whose articles appear in various Linux media outlets. He offers professional writing and seminar services on Linux desktop applications, portable computing and presentation technology. He's always interested in covering cool Linux stories. Send him a note or visit his web site at http://home.earthlink.net/~robreilly.
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