Can your Computer Swim?

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My very wet hard drive for our DMS

I can still remember getting woken up early on a Sunday morning by a phone call from the parts manager.  “The dealership is under 3 feet of water!” he screamed.  I drove quickly to the dealership and fortunately, only the parts and service department were flooded from a broken water pipe but didn’t realize immediately that my DMS was in that new lake.   A few hours later, a parts counter person handed me the dripping external drive and said “Sorry, I guess computers can’t swim.”   After a call to EDS, I got another call from a hardware tech at IBM telling me that he had a replacement CPU in stock.  I asked how soon he could install it and he replied, “no, Madam – the question is -when do you want it installed?”  I replied now and he had it installed, restored, and running by Sunday afternoon.  This time, we put the CPU on top of the desk instead on the floor.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited dealerships and seen the DMS and dealership servers sitting on the floor.  One time, I spotted the familiar blue R+R box sitting just inside the cashier’s area.  Any customer could have leaned over, grabbed it and been gone.  At other dealerships, I find very sophisticated computer rooms that cost a lot to construct, but it isn’t hard to me to visualize 3 feet of water if the sprinkler system water pipe in their ceiling broke. What type of backup plan do you have if your DMS was destroyed?  I’ve told the IBM story over and over and I doubt if your DMS could get you up and running in hours on a Sunday.  EDS and IBM are huge companies with enormous resources.   I knew at DealerStar we’d never be able to provide that kind of service so we designed our DMS to be fully web-based.  But even DMS providers  that claim to be “web-based” often require the dealership server or special software installed to connect to your DMS.   If that server is gone or you have a brand new replacement PC,  you can’t connect to their DMS server.  You might want to go over your DMS provider’s disaster plan for an emergency replacement if you have the CPU and/or connection server located in your dealership. How soon can your DMS get a replacement installed and restored to your last backup?  If your DMS is being hosted remotely, does it require special software to access it?  Where is that software and how long does it take to configure each new PC?  How many people have laptops at home or take home their laptop daily that is configured with the proper software to access your DMS?  Make a list of those employees .    This is also a good time to make sure those laptops have a secure password and determine what type of company files are stored on the laptop in case it is stolen in transit or from the employee’s home.   All of this should be part of your disaster plan because with each day that goes by and with each new employee we hire, we are less and less able to function without computers.  When DMS systems first arrived they went down weekly – if not daily.  We were always prepared to dig out the old parts and service invoices to start writing by hand, or type an F&I contract.  Today, we’re dependent on the computer to perform most of our tasks.  Fortunately, more and more of our software is going web-based and for some, it will only requires a smart phone to access the program they need.  Try to visual your daily functions this morning without your DMS or dealership server which is often your only access to the Internet.  Can employees still retrieve their email?  Can you repair vehicles, sell parts, or deliver vehicles?  The best time to develop your disaster plan is before it happens.

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