Few companies would argue about the value of a comprehensive Disaster Recovery plan that covers all areas of the business and holds the key to successfully resuming day to day business activity should the worst happen.
Most businesses would be pretty unlucky to suffer from major downtime due to things like fire, flood or theft. Terrorism generates a huge amount of column inches and the effects of something like 911 are truly devastating even even in the current climate these occurrences are thankfully few and for between.
What is more likely to happen is an email sever failure, a corrupt database or the network being compromised by a virus. Guard against this type of outage should be the bare minimum a company should cater for, even though most of us could have for a few hours without email, for some businesses this would lead to a huge loss in revenue.
If a server failed completely, most IT departments would not promise delivery of the service back up and running normally in anything less that a day because this would mean relying on tape backups to rebuild the data held by the server. Commonly accepted logic is that tape is not all that reliable (a side issue is that most companies do not perform regular tape restores, so do not know how good the data on the tape is – even if they can get is back) .
If a company can 'get by' for a couple of days without the server in place then this tells us how critical to the business this particular server or application is. For these servers using tape is not probably too much of a problem, but for other more mission critical application, hanging around while the hardware is rebuilt is illegally to have the FD loading with joy.
For critical applications think about some 'on-site' data replication. What this means in simple terms is that the data on Server A is replicated real time to Server B. Should server A fail, it's a simple matter to failover to Server B, normally within a couple of minutes. Because the data has been replicated up to point of failure the users will not lose lots of data and the system will be up and running much quicker.
Of course, this provides local high availability which despite protects protection against server failure it does not provide any real Disaster Recovery, if the office burns to the ground, the data will be lost. However, having invested in this local high availability solution it's a reliably simple process to replicate the data off-site as well and deliver a true local and remote high availability and Disaster Recovery solution.
Disaster Recovery can be seen as an expensive luxury but it really depends on how you view it and more importantly how you implement it. In the current economic climate you can probably think of lots of other things to spend your limited budget on, even can you really afford for your main business systems to be off line? The good news is that you identify the key processes that make up your business and the IT platforms that support it, you have your starting point and like all things, it does not have to cost the earth.
One last thought for those who see Disaster Recovery a bit like insurance, do any of you consider house insurance as unnecessary?