The potential price tag on outages -- $50,000 for four days worth, for example, based on Symantec's numbers -- might not slow down a Fortune 500 firm, but could stagger smaller companies with tighter cash flow. The longer-term damage could be worse: 54% of SMB customers in the survey said they have switched vendors before because of unreliable IT systems.
"It could be a very simple ROI, very simple math," Laroche said, for SMBs concerned about the costs of a disaster recovery measures. He added that a disaster recovery plan can become part of a company's sales pitch, and that some large enterprise clients will often have minimum requirements in this arena just to enter a bid for their business. "Having a DR plan in place becomes almost a competitive advantage in some cases."
Businesses that already have a disaster recovery plan were frequently motivated by a previous incident -- half of them implemented their plan after an outage or data loss. 52% said their plan was less than six months old.
"When something happens, they are acting fairly quickly," Laroche said, but they may be acting too late.
Companies that are taking precautions prior to a problem may not be doing enough. Though the study did not directly address the effectiveness of existing disaster recovery plans, Symantec advised two fundamental steps to ensure the such a plan will work: First, test it regularly with simulated outages and other disaster scenarios. Second, make employees aware of the plan and actively promote compliance. The survey found that among those SMBs with a plan in place, only 28% have tested it.