We all know the statistics. We’ve all heard the horror stories. But when it comes right down to it, can you really explain to your clients (or to yourself) why you need a backup and disaster recovery plan? Is it just insurance, just a measure against some tragedy that may never happen? Or is there something more?
We originally published this paper in March. We’re bringing it back to the top in preparation of our new paper, “How to Prepare for Disaster.” The papers go well together, so we wanted to make sure they were easy to find together.
You can download the paper here:
Why You Need Backup and Disaster Recovery
Let’s get this out right here at the beginning: at some point down the road, your data is going to be in danger.
It could be a machine error, a virus or a tornado the size of Nebraska. But sooner or later, you’re going to be in a situation where you’re at risk of losing some or all of your data.
Intellectually, you probably believe me. You know that things just fall apart sometimes. And you’ve probably heard all the shock-and-awe, fear-mongering statistics, statistics like these:
- 90% of businesses losing data from a disaster are forced to shut down within two years.
- The survival rate for companies without a disaster recovery plan is less than 10%.
- Only 44% [of businesses] successfully recovered information after a recent data recovery event.
- 53% of claimants never recoup the losses incurred by a disaster.
So like I said, intellectually you probably believe me. But you don’t believe me.
It’s not your fault.
Let’s face it: nobody’s ever motivated by a statistic. Nobody reads them and thinks “that’s going to happen to me!”
And the truth is that statistics like these are clearly suspect. For one thing, they’re vague: “90% of businesses losing data from a disaster are forced to shut down within two years.” Does that mean any kind of data loss? What about a simple accidental deletion of a file or two? Isn’t that data loss? Will ninety percent of businesses that delete simple files fail?
Also, if you take a minute to dig into most of them you’ll find they usually have no useful attribution. They are just thrown randomly on a page (sometimes even contradicting other statistics listed on the same list), or are ten years old. The IT industry has changed a lot in ten years. You would be justified in questioning the value of a statistic about disaster recovery from 2002.
But there’s more to your denial than that.
A Biological Imperative
According to one recent psychological study, you are biologically wired to ignore the implications of doom-and-gloom statistics like these.
Researchers Tali Sharot, Christoph W. Korn, and Raymond J. Dolan asked test subjects who were being monitored by an fMRI machine to describe how likely they thought they were to be the victims of a series of negative events (like getting cancer or being mugged). Then the researchers told the test subjects the actual statistical likelihood of those events. (Presumably their statistics were up to date.)
After some time had passed, they asked the test subjects again the likelihood of those negative events happening to them. Sure enough, the subjects struggled to change their expectations to match the statistics they’d been given. Additionally, the fMRI results showed that their brains actually failed to code the negative information. In other words, your brain is designed to be optimistic, sometimes unrealistically so.
From an evolutionary perspective, this is probably a good thing. It gets you out of bed in the morning, in spite of the impending zombie apocalypse. When it comes to disasters and your data, however, it may be a problem.
Cultivating a Positive Pessimism
In this paper, we’ll look at what a backup and disaster recovery plan really is and why you really need it. The statistics are a part of it, but only so far as they’re used as part of a larger, strategic analysis of the individual needs of your business. In making that analysis, it’s important to understand what a disaster really is, so let’s start there.
It would be ridiculous to pretend that the main benefits of a disaster recovery solution didn’t have to do with recovering from a disaster. Certainly, there are some great ways that a disaster recovery plan can help your business. And that is whether or not you’re suffering from a catastrophe. Obviously, disaster recovery is about the disaster.
Disaster, however, is a loaded word.
Just saying it summons visions of hurricanes, floods, and catastrophic lightning strikes. Common disaster recovery advertising often features dramatic images of high winds, gutted server rooms, and demolished buildings. When we look at disasters like this, disaster recovery becomes overwhelming and hopeless. It will be vastly expensive. It will take massive amounts of time to restore even business critical processes to minimal working order. It’s probably better to wait to see if it happens, then soak the cost if necessary, because chances are it will never happen to you.
And frankly, when it comes to natural disasters, you’re probably right. According to a 2011 report by the Aberdeen Group, only five percent of small businesses and nine percent of mid-sized business reported data loss from a natural disaster. But that doesn’t mean you’re free and clear. In the world of disasters, things aren’t so black and white.
So What is a Disaster, Anyway?
Consider what a disaster really is: any event that disrupts your ability to run your business. Did you catch that? Any event. Mother Nature is not alone in her disastrous hobby. Human nature joins in as well, along with good old entropy and random chance. If you accept that a disaster is anything that interrupts the normal operation of your business, then suddenly you start to see the real value of a disaster recovery plan.
You’re not necessarily planning for a tornado that wipes your business out (though you are planning for that too). You’re preparing for every time one of your servers fails, or there’s a power outage, or a virus hits your system, or a disgruntled employee decides to delete sensitive files.
You may not ever be the victim of the next Hurricane Katrina, but I’m willing to bet that you will suffer from some kind of event that interrupts your business, takes precious resources to resolve, and blocks customers from spending money on you. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you already have.
So what, then, is the value of backup and disaster recovery? Why do you need it? Let’s find out.