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Volume 31, Issue 2

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Do you remember the old mob movies where the gangster extorts money from the business owner in exchange for protection?

“What if I don’t pay?” he asks.

“Well then, I can’t promise that something bad won’t happen to you,” the mobster replies, pounding his fist into his palm menacingly.

It reminds me of the time I had to convince my boss that we needed to throw down some cash on a disaster recovery system. He wanted a good reason why he should pay for it, and the best answer I could manage at the time was, “Well, something bad might happen if you don’t.” However, it turns out that argument only works in the movies.

Since then I’ve worked on my argument, which I will share with you so you don’t have to deliver vague threats in a bad Brooklyn accent when you make your own case (unless you’re from Brooklyn, and then by all means, use that accent).

  1. Time is money. More directly, downtime is lost money. Gartner reports that the average company loses $40,000 for every hour that users can’t get to data and applications that run the business. How much money can you afford to lose?
  2. Data loss is dangerous. The data on your servers isn’t just bits and bytes – it’s the physical manifestation of your company’s ideas and hard work. How much vision and hard work can you afford to lose?
  3. Downtime is frustrating for everyone, from the office manager to the CEO, and these days it’s completely unnecessary. If you’ve never seen an office full of people who can’t do what they’d planned to do that day so they don’t get further behind, you don’t want to.
  4. Your reputation is at risk. For every minute that your server is down there is a customer out there not buying your widget, not getting technical support or customer service, and generally losing faith in your company.
  5. It will happen to you. The Small Business Administration puts businesses in two categories: those who have experienced downtime from a disaster or outage and those who will.
  6. There’s no reason to make life hard for IT staff. IT staff have families and lives outside of work, too. It’s not necessary that they spend the night in the server room trying to restore from sketchy tapes, or leave their brother’s wedding because the server went down on a Saturday night (true story). These days, DR software can monitor the production server and failover to a backup server if it detects an outage -- with zero interruption to users.
  7. Depending on your industry, data protection might be required by law. If you’re regulated by any government organization, it’s likely you’ll need to provide complete IT records on demand. Try telling the FDA that you can’t produce e-mail records for June 11, 2007, because somebody accidently spilled a Big Gulp on the production server (another true story). Trust me, they don’t care.
  8. It’s cheap. Figure out what an hour of downtime will cost you, then estimate how many hours your business can afford to lose. Compare that with the low cost of disaster recovery software and an extra server. (Good DR software won’t require you to increase your network connections or buy specific hardware as a backup, and it’s not any more expensive than bad DR software.)
  9. It’s easy. Good DR software virtually installs and manages itself. These days even small and medium businesses with no IT staff can install the software and fire up a back-up server before lunch.
  10. It’s job security. When the server is down for more than a few minutes, executives start to get twitchy because they know they’re losing time and money that they’re going to have to account for. We all know what rolls downhill and whose office lies at the bottom of that hill. Aside from personal job security, 40 percent of businesses who suffer a disaster never recover. Implementing a disaster recovery plan could save the jobs of every person in the organization.

Justifying expenditures to management wasn’t easy five years ago, much less today when everyone’s budget has been slashed and burned. If your management is resisting a DR plan, they may be thinking of the days when it involved expensive equipment and boxes of fragile tapes that had to be shuttled around and protected like a bunch of show dogs.

These days DR plans cost a fraction of what an hour of downtime would cost, there’s no equipment required except an extra server (any make and model will do), and it’s fast and simple to set up. That small investment will protect more than just your servers; you’ll protect your hard work, reputation, peace of mind, and quite possibly the future of your business.

Robin Howard is a technology anthropologist, writer, and editor at large for Double- Take Software.