Tech Tip: Get budget approval by showing the cost of not doing business

Learn how you can get the powers-that-be to approve your disaster recovery budget by demonstrating how not acting can impact the company's bottom line.

By Mike Talon

Disaster recovery planning is often a balancing act between protection and funding. Coming up with the numbers you need to justify the money your system requires can be one of the toughest uphill battles you ever wage.

In another article, I offered some suggestions for keeping your DR budget reasonable, including using the right mix of technologies, protecting only vital data, and creating the best combination of distance vs. cost. Now, let's look at how you can convince the powers-that-be to approve your requested DR funding.

Those in charge of financial issues in an organization are generally not technical, and they almost always demand justification of the money you're asking for in plain English.

The major issue surrounding DR planning is that it's often incredibly difficult to ascertain a dollar figure that represents the worth of data stored in server systems. Once it's actually lost, the resulting damages are easier to quantify.

But until then, most IT pros experience some level of trouble convincing those controlling the purse strings to spend the cash to protect the data. Determining a number to assign to this data often takes some interesting feats of calculation.

One way to logically define and defend your proposed DR budget is to change your focus. Instead of concentrating on assigning a specific cost to lost data itself, try another angle.

For example, server systems generally provide some form of vital access to employees who require these systems to perform their job functions. In today's offices, it isn't uncommon for the failure of an e-mail system--which generally includes voice mail, calendaring, and contact information--to prevent employees from doing their jobs.

And yet, each employee draws a salary, uses corporate resources, and incurs other fixed costs--costing the company a fixed amount of money per hour and day, regardless of the level of productivity. During a period of unavailability, no revenue is coming in, but expenses are still mounting, thereby creating a real dollar amount associated with the server downtime.

Try using this real dollar amount to justify funding for DR systems that could help prevent an outage. E-mail is one of your best bets as a common example, but you can use any system that keeps employees from working to bolster your budget requests.

In situations when you must assign a dollar amount to actual data, things become a little more complicated. File servers often contain data that's necessary for proper business practices, but it can be very hard to quantify the cost of losing that data in many cases.

Recent regulations have made things a little easier, especially with the advent of reporting regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. These regulations assign stiff penalties and other sanctions if organizations don't properly file certain corporate documents on time.

Since the data on your server systems is often necessary to perform these reporting functions, you can leverage the new regulations (as well as existing ones) to demonstrate the need for an appropriate DR budget. You should be able to easily show how the cost of the DR solutions can offset the potential fines and other issues that can result from not complying with reporting requirements.

Regardless of what method you use to tie the monetary worth of your organization's data to real-world budget numbers, logically explaining the fiscal impact of not acting can help you overcome budget setbacks. Remember to describe everything using plain, simple language, and use every opportunity you can to show how not acting can have a real impact on your company's bottom line.

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