Data erasure undermines records safety
Recent developments in the Democratic Caucus "Bonusgate" scandal have displayed an additional underlying issue which will, and has, compromised integrity, safety and efficiency of our state government. By this, I am speaking about computer backups.
The June 22 Post-Gazette article "Veon Data Files Erased" said a shared network directory that contained a wealth of information that could have implicated former House Minority Whip Mike Veon and the Democratic Caucus was deleted around the time that a lawsuit was filed for investigation into illegal bonus payments to staffers. As shocking as this may be, the truly scary phrase was "triggering an unsuccessful in-house attempt to restore the data." This means there were apparently no backups of some government information. If this is true, Pennsylvania is one crashed computer away from losing untold amounts of information.
Common practice is to keep archival tapes so that it is possible to restore data from several time periods as well as to be protected from losing all data if a tape is bad. Also, it's standard to test backup routines to make sure the tapes are viable. It is unconscionable that no data was able to be restored.
The concern we should all still have is whether policy and practices are in place to prevent anything like this -- intentional or accidental -- from happening again. Government should take this opportunity to disclose its disaster recovery procedures so we can rest assured for the future.
Letter appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 1, 2008.