Popping the Question

About two weeks ago, I joined a project that is  already fairly close to its go-live date.  When I start a project at a client’s office, I ask these questions:

  • Where is the coffee?
  • I think I mentioned that I drink coffee; where is the bathroom?
  • Any peanut allergies here? (If so, I am prepared to eat my snacks outside, shivering alongside the smokers)
  • Is this thing that I’m working on backed up?
  • Where can I find Post-It Notes?

It turns out that, yes, their thing was being backed up. Their particular thing is a forthcoming re-lease of their public Web site. Good thing, too; let’s just say I have a history.

I remember what happened on previous projects when I didn’t ask all those questions.  Like the time I located the coffee, but found myself lost in an unfamiliar building, seemingly miles from a bathroom.

Or the time I deleted a client’s SharePoint portal (forever) within 1/2 hour of joining the project.

About a year ago, I learned something intriguing about SharePoint. You can delete a site collection from WITHIN that site collection. I know this, because I accidentally did this upon starting the project.

My client had asked about a styling problem. He asked that I not touch the current style sheet because people were going to be reviewing the site that day. So to work beneath their radar, I created a sub site–three levels down in the hieararchy–to do some testing.

I soon learned that the problem was actually with a mal-formed custom layout template and took the following steps:

  1. Informed my client of the issue
  2. Fixed the problem on the layout template
  3. Applied my changes
  4. Performed a quick round of QA
  5. Deleted my 3rd-level test site, in SharePoint Manage Content and Structure view

Actually……I deleted the top-level site–the site collection–and subsequently EVERYTHING that lay beneath. Buh-Bye, sub-sites, document libraries, calendars…..

I asked my client who was taking care of the SharePoint backups and was given some phone numbers of DBAs and system administrators. The answers to my question about backups  were reminiscent of that  recurring  Family Circus theme when the parents asked “Who did this?” and received one of these answers from the children:

  • “Not Me”
  • “Ida Know”

No backup. All the content that had been there at 8:00 am that day was gone by 8:25. My fingerprints were all over the mouse button that clicked the “OK” button in the dialogue box to authorize the deletion.

My colleague, who had been with the project for a few weeks, was able to recreate the few changes he had made to the cascading style sheet and layout templates fairly quickly.  A bigger problem was ressurecting the SharePoint libraries and lists.

My client recognized that it wasn’t my fault that the sites were not being backed up. Still, I felt like a dolt, not just because I whacked the site collection (could happen to anybody) but because I didn’t ask about backups. Bad business analyst! BAD!

I’ve since taken the won’t-get-fooled again approach. In subsequent projects, I recognized that I need to enquire about backups BEFORE touching the site (and after ensuring continuity of caffeination).

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