Ray Bradbury and the Role of Paper in Business Continuity Planning

Ray Bradbury was the author of many works of science fiction and futurism. SF literature owes to him classics such as The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451. Although monsters from outer space do not feature in the top ten risks that organisations must face, the title alone of Fahrenheit 451 is a hint about making the right choices in business continuity planning. If you haven’t read the book, or seen the film, then read on to find out why the temperature of 451 ° F (just under 233 ° C) has a particular significance for storing information safely.

Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is about a society in the future where books are banned, and fire brigades are tasked not with extinguishing fires, but with setting fire to any books they find in order to destroy them. The title came from Bradbury’s information that paper auto-ignited at 451 ° F (232 – 233 °C). By comparison, magnetic media may become useless at temperatures that are less than half of that. In this light, business continuity planning and storing information vital for the operation of an organisation is not just a matter of the number of gigabytes of data you can move from disk to tape, or vice versa.

When Bradbury wrote his dystopian vision in 1953, computers themselves worked off the paper-like medium of punched cards instead keyboards and mice. Today the debate is on the relative merits of tape, disk and now cloud computing as media for storing information. Yet scan and digitise as much as you like, not only can paper be more robust, but there will also continue to be instances where only the original paper document will do. It’s no surprise therefore that for business continuity planning alone, paper is still with us.