IT Reliability
Have you found your Jesus Nut?


Firms should identify the systems that are essential to keep their business going. This will help them to make contingency plans to recover in cases of disaster, says Kelvyn Taylor.

IT Reliability

If you know much about helicopters, you’ll be familiar with the Jesus Nut. Technically known as a main rotor retaining nut, if this part fails, the rotors fall off, so I’m sure you can see how it got its name. Not surprisingly, this is fitted using a tool known as a Jesus Wrench, which is a special precision spanner, because it is vital not to over- or under-tighten this critical component.

It’s my belief that all IT systems have their own equivalent of the Jesus Nut. The problem is that, unlike on a helicopter, it doesn’t sit there staring you in the face every time you go to work. The trick is to identify your firm’s Jesus Nut and make sure it’s regularly checked and tightened up properly. But where should you look?

There are many examples of backup systems that didn?t live up to their name, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) that failed to kick in when needed, generators that wouldn?t generate, and redundant systems that turned out to be all too redundant. But examples like these are familiar, and surely no one in this day and age would fall victim to any of these hoary old chestnuts, would they?

More and more companies, especially those with exposure to business in the US, are having to implement formal business continuity plans to comply with new regulations. This basically involves working out what an organisation would need to do to get back up and running as quickly as possible after a major disaster.

The process addresses how you would maintain your business presence when all around you crumbles and there may not even be anywhere to restore your backups to. This can be a rather depressing exercise, and mildly paranoid in my personal opinion, but absolutely necessary from a business point of view.

One of the benefits of such contingency planning is that it might help you to identify your Jesus Nut. For instance, in most of the sample plans I’ve seen, the first item required to maintain a business presence is an emergency telephone line. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have specified that this needs to be a number that’s known to customers and business partners, but I’m sure that’s a minor detail.

However, if during your planning you realise that the thing you’ll need sitting next to your phone is a server with a replica of the accounts department’s database, then you know exactly where your Jesus Wrench should be deployed. Or you might find that an old ISDN line you’d forgotten about and taken for granted is a lot more important than you’d previously realised.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the detail of the technology and forget that it’s only there to serve a business function. And it’s even easier to forget which business function a particular piece of equipment actually serves.

So, even if you do not have to formulate a continuity plan for your firm, it’s a good idea to take stock every now and again and remind yourself what each piece of IT kit in the building is there for, and how important it is in the day-to-day running of your business. Just remember – Jesus Nuts only fail once.