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Disaster Recovery Planning: Towards a Business Continuity Strategy : Page 2

A disaster recovery plan is the main component of a business continuity strategy, the policies and procedures an organization uses to recover from an IT-disabling disaster.


Step 2 of Disaster Recovery Planning: Establish the Budget

Once you've figured out your risks, ask 'what can we do to suppress them, and how much will it cost?' Can I detect a threat before it hits? How do I reduce the potential of it occurring? How do I minimize its impact to the business? For example, our small California Internet company could employ an emergency power supply to mitigate its power outage threat and have all its data backed up daily on RAID tapes, which are stored at a remote site in case of an earthquake. The more preventative measures you establish upfront the better. Emerson says, "dollars spent in prevention are worth more than dollars spent in recovery."

The results of Step 1 should be a comprehensive list of possible threats, each with its corresponding solution and cost. It is imperative that IT presents all of these threats to the business operations units, so they can make an informed decision regarding the size of the disaster recovery budget (i.e., which risks the company can afford to tolerate and which it must pay to mitigate). Emerson believes IT "falls down" in its failure to communicate the real risks for system downtime to the business operations units of their companies. He says, "It's okay for operations to say no; it's not okay for IT not to let them know the risks."

A good place to begin is by presenting the cost of downtime to the business. How long can your business afford to be without its computer systems should one of your threats occur?

Ultimately, the business operations unit decides which threats the business can tolerate. According to Emerson, when developing a disaster recovery plan, IT departments are "shooting in the dark without those business indications." Both IT and the business units must agree on which data and applications are most critical to the business and need to be recovered most quickly in a disaster. The management of our small Internet company, for example, may decide they can supply the budget only for the emergency generators and the company will have to assume the risk of an earthquake.

Disaster recovery budgets vary from company to company but they typically run between 2 and 8 percent of the overall IT budget. Companies for which system availability is crucial usually are on the higher end of the scale, while companies that can function without it are on the lower end. However, these percentages may be too small. For a large IT shop 15 percent is a best practice rule of thumb according to Emerson.

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