While you may or may not take stock in the effects of global warming, one thing has been made abundantly clear in recent years: when nature strikes, practically nothing can withstand it. The best thing to do, of course, is prepare for the worst. As unsavory as that might sound, it’s critical to get a plan together before the worst does happen.

It is important to understand something right away: disaster recovery may not mean you will be able to recover everything right away. So the first thing to do is establish a prioritization plan that answers this one question: what do you absolutely need to keep your business going?

Assigning priority like this is key, because even if you have diligently saved every scrap of data and safely stored it off-site, just like all the disaster recovery specs tell you, you simply may not have enough computing and storage capacity to run that software and data right away.

Brian Proffitt is a veteran technology journalist, analyst, and author with experience in a variety of technologies, including cloud, virtualization, and consumer devices. Follow him on Twitter @TheTechScribe and Google+ at +Brian Proffitt.

So, what you need to do in your disaster recovery plan is determine the absolute minimum in applications, data, and hardware resources you will need to keep your business running. For example, you will probably need your customer database and all of your front-facing applications… but will you really need HR’s database right away? Or your development systems?

After you determine what needs to be started first, keep going on the list, figuring out which systems will be re-activated and in what order.

Such prioritization should also be applied to your data. What data needs mirrored or backed up in near real time? What needs just hourly or even daily backups? Get your data strategy in order and it will greatly smooth out your recovery process.

Virtualization will also mitigate the resource problem. If your systems are virtualized, they can be brought back online much more quickly and efficiently in a virtual datacenter. Virtual servers also have the advantage of being moved out of harm’s way, if you have enough time to prepare for a disaster, such as a flood or hurricane.

A disaster is just that; a disaster, and as much as you might want it, you will not be able to turn-key your systems back on the next day. Be realistic in your objectives, because even the best recovery periods can take time.