The most complete backup system would be another SBE 9plus, to allow for very rapid system swaps. This is important if your stations are close together and there is limited time between CTD casts. However, it is the most expensive option.
The next step down would be an SBE 9plus without sensors. In this case, a system failure would require swapping sensors and pumps to the new unit. This is not difficult, but it is somewhat time consuming. If you have several hours between casts it should not be a problem.
The next option would be to carry spare boards and try and troubleshoot the problem and replace boards. If you have a technician that can do this it is not a bad option. However, it requires some clean and dry lab space to open the CTD and work. You will also have to properly re-seal the CTD. Based upon experience, the SBE 9plus does not fail very often. The most common failure is the main DC-to-DC converter. Other than that, there are very few system failures. However, there are several components that can be damaged through mistakes or misuse. The most catastrophic, other that losing the whole CTD, is to plug the sea cable into the bottom contact connector on the bottom end cap; if this happens, several circuit boards will be destroyed (Note: In 2007 Sea-Bird began using a female bulkhead connector on the 9plus for the bottom contact switch, to differentiate from the sea cable connector and prevent this error. If desired, older CTDs can be retrofitted with the female connector.).
If the budget allows it, we recommend getting a complete backup SBE 9plus, including sensors. If there is any problem, return the malfunctioning instrument for repair and continue sampling with the spare instrument. A complete backup also provides you with spare sensors, so you can rotate 1 set through calibration and continue to operate.