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Computer Crashed New Orleans Real Estate Market 234

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-can-go-nothing-can-go-nothing dept.
sustik writes "For a month now the New Orleans real estate market has been crippled by a computer crash that caused the loss of online data from the late 1980s that should be researched prior to the closing of any real estate transactions. 'The clerk of Orleans Parish Civil District Court said Tuesday that her office continues to make progress in resolving the computer problems that have been holding up real estate transactions in New Orleans for the past month, but there still was no indication of how soon the crisis might end.'"
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Computer Crashed New Orleans Real Estate Market

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  • by meerling (1487879) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:34PM (#34334058)
    So, when did your data become important to you? Before or After you lost it...

    You wouldn't believe how many people don't properly backup critical data. If it's important, really important, here are a few tips:
    - Have current backups
    - Test the backups to ensure they work
    - Keep multiple backups
    - Keep the backups in separate locations, preferably separate sites if possible, and if really critical, separate cities (Disasters happen)
    - Keep backups in a fireproof safe or equivalent, it should be waterproof as well, and probably airtight
    - Even though you need to keep the backups secure, you need multiple people that can access it when necessary (Accidents happen, people die, people lose keys and forget combos)

    Those steps are simple, and a business can easily do all of them. Individuals may have less capability to implement everything. If you choose to do less, you are balancing the value of your data against the probability of losing it. I dealt with many many people who didn't follow those rules and lost their data. It happens, a lot. Business records, bank statements, novels, doctoral thesis, family photos, source code, chat logs, porn, contact lists, and more. Too may people blow off the importance of preserving their data until after it's gone, and when that happens, there are only two things that you can do. First, hope that a data recover place can recover some of it (all is a really long shot) but they'll charge you through the nose. Or two, deal with the lose and suffer the consequences. There are no miracles or magic pixie dust in data recovery.

    Tip for data recovery. If something happens and you need the data back, I wish you luck, but here's some things to do that may improve your odds. TURN OFF THAT MACHINE AND REMOVE THE DRIVE THAT THE LOST DATA WAS ON! Your computer is doing things even when you don't tell it to. If it writes to the drive, it may very well write over where your precious data was. If that happens, it's gone, period, for-ever. No data recovery place on the planet gets back data that's been written over. They may be willing to try, and charge you an outrageous fee even if they fail, but the will fail. Usually only part of the data is written over, so something can be recovered, but it may be useless. After all, half an exe is pretty useless, but half that novel might help you out. Sorry about ranting, but seen way too many bad ones, and I know you don't want to go through that.
  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:41PM (#34334164)
    From a November 4 story [nola.com]:

    Because of the havoc that the storm [Hurricane Katrina] caused, Atkins' office had hoped to prevent future snafus by hiring a company called i365 to back up the data regularly. But, Atkins said, all that information wasn't being backed up.

    When the problem was first detected, "we were told it was a system failure, and they could get us up and running," Atkins said. "I don't think the court was made aware of the severity of the problem until late last week."

    What would have been due diligence on the part of the court clerk to verify that i365 was doing their job? And why hasn't this problem been resolved three weeks later? I can see why realtors have asked the governor of Louisiana to get involved.

  • by alvinrod (889928) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:41PM (#34334176)
    Hate to reply to myself, but here's an earlier article from when the incident occurred. [nola.com] The article states: "The problem, which has been traced to a failure in the hard drive—" and "'The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST,' Atkins said Thursday in a written statement." which suggests that it probably was a disk failure that wiped out at least the directory structure for the files or the index of the database in which the records were stored. So a "read-head crash" could be the actual culprit, but is probably outside the understanding of most of the readership of the site so it was shortened to "crash", something which is much more understandable to most people.
  • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:47PM (#34334292)
    You do realize that the term "crash" isn't a particularly technical term, right? A computer crash could be anything from a hard disk head crash to massive data corruption leading to the box not booting to a literal "the computer just fell out a window and crashed on the sidewalk scenario." As for that last one as dumb as it is, I bet somebody here knows of a place where that happened.

    It's been the term used for a generic catastrophic computer failure for as long as I can recall, and that goes back decades.
  • Re:No backups? (Score:2, Informative)

    by otaku244 (1804244) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:58PM (#34334430)
    If it's the same IT as the one that runs the connecting City Hall, it depends on the day. They've had 2 administrators go to jail in the last 5 years. Google "Nagin emails" and see what we're working against down here. We have a new mayor and I think he'll turn the city around, but there is a lot of junk to clean up.
  • Re:No backups? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @02:13PM (#34334638) Homepage

    Anything dealing with realestate seems to have this lalala mentality to it. When I used to do work on various MLS systems for offices here in Ontario, I was working with netware 1.0 to netware 3. They had no backups, no tape drives, no remote site copies, no UPS system, etc, etc, etc. When I told them repeatedly that backups were required to ensure that they remained operational, I was dismissed and never got another contract with them.

    Now you might think, why wouldn't I do it? Because the people who own many of these offices like to hand-hold, and have oversight with everything that's done. Well whatever, no great loss for me. I found a better job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @02:32PM (#34334882)

    Yeah, I've been dealing with this issue for the last 30 days as I sell properties across the county and a few in New Orleans. It's been a nightmare. But apparently, the back up procedure wouldn't work for some reason. They've got it mostly up now though and or only missing the last year's transactions. Still a pain in the ass but real estate is slowly moving again.

  • Re:No backups? (Score:3, Informative)

    by v1 (525388) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @02:42PM (#34335036) Homepage Journal

    It's not necessarily that simple. Backup tends to get no respect or funding. A horrifying number of sites don't include backup solutions as a part of the cost of funding new machines. And if it was there that long it's entirely possible that whatever backup solutions were available and used then aren't going to be useful now.

    What happens most of the time is you've got a small group/department/business, they hire a consultant group to come in and set things up, and then call them when they have a problem. There is no admin

    So then when a drive or DB crashes and there is no functional safety net in place, they fire consultant A and hire consultant B and B moves in, cleans up, and starts the cycle all over again.

    Sounds like what's happening here. Problem is that consultants generally operate on the WC Fields principle, "there's a sucker born every minute". So instead of solving people's problems, they merely mitigate them so they can get regular business, and when they screw up, they just take the firing in stride and find another sucker almost immediately. It's a problem that won't end until stupidity itself ends. The deck is stacked against the customers though - they're hiring a consultant because they don't know what they're doing, so by definition, the consultant always has a very easy job of totally bullshitting them. And when the customer gets burned, what can they do? Either hire someone inhouse, or hire another consultant. (usually the latter)

    The process of replacing bad consultants with bad consultants usually repeats itself until the customer goes out of business, gets lucky and finds a consultant that's still a leech but is at least competent, or hire someone in-house, often buying out a no-complete from the consulting firm to get the support person that knows the customer's systems.

  • by winwar (114053) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @03:48PM (#34335834)

    "....but that Social Security ain't gonna look so pretty if we keep running a big fat deficit..."

    Social security has a dedicated funding source. Which is why people are trying to cut it or privatize it. They want access to the money.

    "...to say nothing of the way that the public employee pension systems are built to assume 10% rates of return and contractually put the taxpayers on the hook for a shortfall."

    And this is different from any other pension system how? Public pension systems are extremely well designed and run. It is the legislatures that fail to fund them or treat them like piggy banks that are the problems. People who are anti-pension are anti-worker. Pure and simple.

  • Re:No backups? (Score:2, Informative)

    by fishbowl (7759) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @04:49PM (#34336496)

    I work in a regulated industry where things work this way. We establish a written policy which is submitted to a regulatory agency. That agency periodically evaluates our performance to our own policy, giving our policy the force of law. Basically, we made it "the law" that we have a specific backup interval, using specific technology, offsite storage of LTO-4 media, etc. One thing that we absolutely do is routine data recovery. Meaning, as part of our routine process we have an ongoing request of media from offsite storage which drives a task that someone is required to perform, that is, restoring and validating a random sample backup. As a result, nobody in our organization has any confusion or doubt about the procedure or impact of a disaster event.

    Then again, the cost of our backup system is probably much higher than the total IT budget for the people in TFA.

  • Re:old machinery (Score:3, Informative)

    by quanticle (843097) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:57PM (#34337238) Homepage

    Maybe its because Jefferson parish holds a significant amount of the New Orleans metropolitan area, even if it doesn't hold the actual city of New Orleans.

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