The most expensive part of a fully blown disaster recovery solution is probably setting up the solution. It is of course possible to do it yourself, but this requires a good deal of time devoted to research and planning, and it is possible to overlook important aspects of the plan. Disaster recovery experts will warn you that a do it yourself system is fraught with danger. Much better, they suggest them to develop the plan for you. They also talk about return on investment (ROI), but of course there is no return unless there is a disaster. And there is the crux of the problem: how much do you stand to lose if your business suffers a disaster?
To find this out, you will need a business impact analysis (BIA). This will reveal accurate costs of downtime and disruptions for individual businesses. Some disasters are covered by insurance, but research has shown that even an insurance pay out may not be enough to save a business from disaster. Studies have shown that as little as three days of downtime can be a death knell for many businesses. The more dependent your business is on immediate and continuous access to data and computer-based resources, the greater the adverse impact of downtime.
Whether you do it yourself, or hire a specialist to develop your complete disaster recovery plan, you will need to consider four separate factors: people, property, systems and data. Most attention is paid to data recovery, but a complete plan needs to address how to notify and take care of your employees, what equipment is essential and where can you find it, how rapidly do you need to replace computers and phones. Many business transactions can be continued manually during computer downtime, but this incurs substantial time to enter all the information into the system once you have paid a technology team to get it running again, and to restore backed up information retrieved from a secure off-site location.
Data stored online can be accessed from any computer, anywhere, any time. This means that, as long as you have had the foresight to store the necessary software as well, you only have to get hold of an unaffected device, and you are back in business. Of course, data stored online will not help you ship water-logged merchandise from a flooded (and hopefully well-insured) warehouse, but it will tell you what you have lost, and who wanted what. You will be able to instantly communicate with customers to explain the situation and buy time until you can salvage or replace the goods. Best of all, the device you get hold of could be your wife’s laptop, the neighbor’s PC, your tablet or your smart phone.
For very small (one person), small and medium-sized businesses, a full-blown disaster recovery plan may not be necessary. This is especially true of service or consulting businesses where your stock is virtual, that is information, and not physical. For many businesses, encrypted data, uploaded regularly, stored safely and relatively inexpensively online and rapidly accessible, is good enough for all but the most catastrophic and wide spread disasters. In those cases, it is likely that not even a complete DR plan will actually show a return on investment.