How good must your disaster recovery be? “Good enough” is probably the best answer. Perfection is unlikely to be required, hospital operating rooms and nuclear power stations aside. The law of diminishing returns means that perfection or anything too close to it costs too much. In fact, a pragmatic look at what a business really needs to keep operating satisfactorily may reveal that you can get by on rather less than you previously thought, as the following example shows.

Take the payroll system in your company, probably fully software-driven and capable of keeping track of the complexities of contracts and contributions that can vary for hundreds or thousands of people. The immediate reaction of many people is that the payroll system must function at all costs, because otherwise the consequences for the workforce would be unthinkable.

They are right to recognize the need to pay salaries in a timely way. However, if the payroll application or server broke down just before payday, would it really be beyond the bounds of possibility to ask employees to accept a salary payment of the same amount as the month before, and then readjust amounts as soon as possible afterwards?

Supply chains are another case in point. Here, perfection is not only pointless, it’s also impossible. The optimal operation of a supply chain depends on balancing two aspects: customer satisfaction and profitability. Beyond certain levels, these two things tend to be in opposition. For example, increasing customer satisfaction will cost more and depress profitability.

Perfection in one area negates the possibility of perfection in the other. Customers may even accept a temporary degradation in service, like using slower or less flexible shipping if your transport management system fails. In all, it pays to take this kind of tolerance into consideration (without abusing it), when making your disaster recovery plans and using your DR budget to the best effect.