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Just don't call it disaster recovery

Things might be looking up in data storage shops these days, but a lot of firms are still falling short when it comes to DR readiness.

Things might be looking up in data storage shops these days, but a lot of companies are still falling short when it comes to disaster recovery readiness.

Mark Twain once said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." I don't know about lies and damned lies, but I can get lost in a pile of statistics as easily as I can lose myself in the aisles of Home Depot. Lucky for me, there's been plenty of stuff in the research bin to rummage through lately and piles of stats to sift through.

I won't drag you through all the market share numbers and other minutiae gleaned from IDC and Gartner reports, but the bottom line is that the bottom line is looking a whole lot better these days. Storage shipments are up pretty much across the board, with disk systems, software and all the other accoutrements climbing steadily -- and even steeply, in some cases. That means you're all out there spending again, and that's a good thing all around, not just because the picture looks a little rosier for storage vendors but because it means your company is finding its feet again and addressing key storage issues.

Did you get the feeling this would be a good news/bad news story? Well, it is. The other side of my research bonanza is a bevy of survey results published by vendors and others. The ones that got my attention are all related to data protection in one form or another, especially in regard to disaster recovery (DR). Whichever one you look at, the results aren't encouraging.

Basically, those surveys reveal that a lot of you aren't doing a great job of preparing your company to recover from some sort of catastrophic IT interruption. A lot of companies -- regardless of how much they're spending on other storage stuff -- are skimping on DR and other data protection operations. But you know that because you're the ones who have been fessing up on all those surveys. You know what your company should be doing, and you know what your company isn't doing.

Let's get the excuses out of the way. Maybe you're too busy; of course you are, with smaller staffs and bigger data to deal with. Or maybe you just don't have the budget to do DR right, or at least right enough to give you and your company a little peace of mind. And let's face it, disaster recovery technology isn't exactly thrilling stuff that you can deploy and then stand back proudly and say, "There!" to the awestruck masses. It's just not a lot of fun tooling around with technologies where the measure of success is usually never having to really use them.

Of course the budget thing is almost always the biggest roadblock to effective DR planning. And it doesn't help much that every self-help DR tract starts with "No. 1: Get management buy-in." Great idea, but you're probably dealing with management types who don't understand the technologies (and why should they?) and probably think your DR pitch is covering some other shortcoming in your storage operations: "You mean our data isn't safe enough already?"

What you have to do is shift the discussion from protecting the data -- that's not the problem, you have multiple copies all over the place -- to a discussion of how long it would take to recover and get back to business as usual.

That's a lot easier for everybody to understand. The data might be safe enough, but the technologies and processes in place just won't allow recovering in a timely fashion. That kind of puts things into physical terms, and who's going to argue with physics?

You've likely seen disaster recovery described as an insurance policy, but you probably want to steer clear of that analogy. It just stinks of spending a lot of money and getting nothing tangible in return. I shudder to think about how much money I've spent on auto insurance over the years without ever filing a claim (I could've saved all that money, bought the Porsche I've been ogling and taken my chances).

The insurance angle might be familiar, but it's probably the wrong way to try to sell DR. When was the last time you enjoyed talking with someone selling insurance?

If you've come up with a creative and effective way to sell the idea of disaster recovery planning to your management, drop me a line and tell me about it. Along with statistics, I love a good story.

BIO: Rich Castagna ( is editorial director of the Storage Media Group.

* Click here for a sneak peek at what's coming up in the March 2011 issue.

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