Tech Tip: Create a budget-friendly DR plan

Learn how to create a disaster recovery plan that won't break the bank.

By Mike Talon

Let's be honest: Disaster recovery planning is expensive. While planning for contingencies that can involve the total loss of major pieces of hardware is never a cheap process, it doesn't have to break the bank.

Many DR plans never receive funding because they try to do too much, which is good for the technology but terrible for the bottom line. When developing a DR plan, you need to carefully balance the protection that's absolutely necessary with processes that don't require the more expensive methods of protection.

First, consider the data you want to protect. Is it highly dynamic, or does it remain mostly the same each day with only a few changes? The closer you get to real-time data protection, the more expensive the technologies you need to implement become.

Since each time you get a level of protection closer to real-time can mean thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars more, you must be very sure of what you need before you set a budget.

Take steps to protect data that changes rapidly and throughout the day--and that has a high monetary value assigned to it--as close to real-time as your organization can afford. For data that doesn't change very much, you can most likely protect it just fine with a daily or twice-a-day tape backup or other point-in-time technologies.

And while we're on the subject of data, consider the possibility that you're protecting data that isn't vital to the organization. For example, employees often innocently store personal files such as digital music downloads on company file servers.

These take up room on the servers in your production environment, but since the price of disk space has fallen in recent times, the company may not mind. However, if you protect this data along with the rest of your corporate data, you may end up paying a large overhead in both hardware and software--not to mention removable media such as tapes.

Eliminating this data with a rules or wildcard-based exclusion system (available in many types of DR products) can ensure that you don't protect data that isn't vital to your company. Doing so can reduce the amount of funding you need, and it can limit the inevitable headaches of trying to bring systems back online that aren't really vital to the bottom line.

In addition, location can mean everything in DR planning. Transmitting data and/or transporting removable media can quickly become the most expensive part of any DR plan, with recurring costs spiraling out of control on a monthly basis.

In the majority of cases, moving tapes and data across town is much less expensive than moving it across the country or internationally. You need to balance the distance between sites with the amount of funds you have available to move the information and media.

Using the right mix of technologies, protecting only vital data, and creating the best combination of distance vs. cost can help keep your DR budget reasonable. While the worst plan is to not plan for a disaster at all, the second worst is to create an adequate, effective DR plan that never sees the light of day because it fails to get budget approval.

Mike Talon is an IT consultant and freelance journalist who has worked for both traditional businesses and dot-com startups.