Open Insights 25: Which Red Button


Issue 25 – Which Red Button?

November 1, 2006
by Sean Hull
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.

In This Issue:

1. Feature: Which Red Button?
2. Upcoming Speaking Engagements
3. Published Articles
4. Audio Interviews
5. Current Reading
6. Lightweight Humor
7. Of Interest
8. Upcoming Events
9. Past Issues
10. Technical Articles
11. About Heavyweight Internet Group

1. Feature: Which Red Button?

Many past newsletters have been inspired by real experiences I’ve had at client sites, and this month’s story falls into that category.

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of bringing on a new hire at a client, and bringing them up to speed with the systems. After a couple of weeks of training, they began to accept heavier responsibilities. While I was at another site, they were asked to perform some maintenance on a production server. Through miscommunication, mislabeling, or other error that any of us could fall prey to, an entire production database was deleted.

Although backups were in order, it took more than 24 hours to recover the complete system. Although this sounds like a mistake made by a more junior DBA, it was actually because the enterprise lacked good checks and balances on the systems. There were development and production applications mixed together, with mislabeling and other problems besides. Given all that, a mistake was almost inevitable.

Here’s the scenario. Imagine you have three red buttons on your desk, one turns off your computer, one turns off all the power in New York City, and the third telephones the whitehouse telling them nukes are on the way. Now your boss comes in and says hit the red button, we need to restart your machine. So, happily you hit the first button you see. Bam, all the electricity in NYC goes out!

A funny analogy, but the point is if you have high profile systems, you have to take more precautions to protect them. That means more security, better naming, and configuration that discourages mistakes. Keep those red buttons out of reach. Label them clearly, and check and recheck, ten times if necessary, whenever you’re working on production systems. There should be high-level checks and balances put in place, and systems that reinforce correct usage and management, and discourage mistakes. These are not technical hurdles, they are hurdles that every part of a business must grapple with. In technology, unfortunately they are often lost in the shuffle of configuration & systems complexity.

2. Upcoming Speaking Engagements

November 11th – DBA Online, Edison NJ
Title: Otop – Diagnosing Bottlenecks In Your Database

December 14th – New York Oracle User Group, Manhattan
Title: Creating an Oracle Database – Manual Step-by-Step Guide

3. Published Articles

We’re proud to announce an article of ours was chosen as a feature on Thanks to everyone who voted for us.

Ever wonder what those folks in IT actually do everyday? Most likely, they are busy defending your company against invaders, inefficiency and wasted resources. How? Here, Sean Hull, “self-appointed International Interpreter for Geek-to-Suit communications