When was the last time you experienced unplanned downtime? How much did it affect your organisation? Ninety-one percent of respondents in a 2013 Ponemon Institute study reported experiencing unplanned downtime in the last two years. Although that’s not a shocking statistic to those in the cloud arena, what is alarming is the fact that an estimated 30 percent of organisations that experience a severe outage never actually recover.

Business leaders often think a disaster is something that happens to someone else. When most people think of disasters, they immediately think about hurricanes or earthquakes or more recently the UK floods. But a disaster doesn’t have to be a naturally occurring one. It could be human error or a cyber-attack.

Therefore, it’s important to have a plan B to protect your mission-critical applications and data. It’s also important to know that it’s more than a loss in revenue or five minutes of downtime—an IT disaster can wreak havoc on your overall brand and customer loyalty.

Here are five reasons why not to cut disaster recovery (DR) from your IT budget.

1. Disaster Recovery Is Cost Effective

On average it takes organisations two days to recover from an IT disaster, according to a 2012 Ponemon Institute study on disaster recovery. The same study found that this duration equates to $366,363 in costs a year. There are some hidden costs to experiencing downtime, however, such as lost revenue and damage to the brand. For example, when a major airline’s reservation system goes down for eight hours, it leaves customers stranded, scrambling to make other arrangements and thinking twice the next time they book a flight.

Organisations that use disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) providers reported cost savings as the leading benefit of using the public cloud for disaster recovery according to a study by research firm, the Aberdeen Group. According to the report, you don’t have to worry about a large capital investment; you can trade that in by contracting DRaaS.

Costs to work with a DRaaS provider vary depending on how many virtual machines an organisation needs to replicate and the size of the data. Costs can range from £40 to £80 per month per virtual machine and can vary depending on factors such as recovery-point objective (RPO), recovery-time objective (RTO), storage and so on.

2. DR Is Easy To Implement

Disaster recovery in the cloud is now more attainable for businesses of all sizes than it was five years ago. Before virtualisation, disaster recovery would cost at least three times as much because an organisation needed to have multiple data centres, specialised software and large network connections. To do this in the physical world is extremely costly. That’s why only the largest of enterprises were able to do it. Now, virtualisation makes disaster recovery easier by encapsulating virtual machines (VMs) into a few files, making the data portable and in turn reducing costs.

DR solutions also give users the flexibility to take a look at their applications and define how they want them to be recovered. Do they want to protect the entire infrastructure? Do they want to protect just Tier 1 applications? Do they need a variable recovery time and variable recovery point from Tier 1 down to Tier 3 applications? Gone are the days of having to build a secondary site identical to a primary site and incur all the additional management costs and operational challenges.

3. DR Reduces Data Loss

The risk of business interruption, loss of business-critical data and the length of time to recover are leading pressures driving organisations’ use of the public cloud for disaster recovery, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group. DRaaS users are able to recover three times faster and drive up the percentage of data they’re able to recover twofold.

4. DR Restores Quickly & Effectively

According to the same study, businesses that use DRaaS reported faster recovery time from downtime incidents as the second leading benefit of relying on the public cloud. Many believe backing up data on tapes is the equivalent of DR. Protecting data is important, but the ability to recover applications efficiently and quickly is essential in restoring operations. Having data on tapes or using data storage without virtual resources and the ability to easily test isn’t disaster recovery; it’s just off-site back up and not true business continuity.

5. Testing 1, 2, 3…

Businesses can put their DR plan to the test anytime throughout the year without bringing down production. It’s extremely important to ensure applications and data or IT environments come up on another site and no data is lost. Businesses can conduct planned or unplanned outages in the first few months of replication to ensure their DR plan works.

In a 2012 study, Forrester reported that only about half of companies conduct full tests once a year. Although organisations cite limited employee resources as the biggest stumbling block, cloud DR tests are now more automated and require less manual intervention. The value of DR testing is to ensure all systems you want to replicate are recovered and that you have access to them. Once you are in the middle of an actual DR event, it’s too late.