Disaster recovery site options

Hot site, warm site or cold site? Here's how to figure out the best disaster recovery strategy for your company.

The ability to recover from a disaster in an acceptable period of time is a critical issue for companies with increasing dependence on information technology. Once thought to be a concern for only larger organizations, being able to recover mission-critical applications within a predictable timeframe is a mandate for any size company today. But some users see disaster recovery (DR) as a pricey insurance policy, and may take shortcuts to try and save a few dollars. To avoid becoming victims of budget cuts, DR provisions and sites must be built around a few basic principles that allow management to decide what's required while candidly showing the possible business impact and consequences of retrenchments.

Guiding principles

Recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) are the key metrics to determine the DR level required to recover business processes and applications. They are reciprocally proportional to the cost of DR: The closer RTO and RPO need to be to zero, the more expensive DR provisioning will be. If recovery time can be days or even weeks, costs will likely be significantly less.

Determining the necessary RTOs and RPOs is the single most important exercise a business needs to perform to ensure the right level of DR without wasting money. RTOs and RPOs are

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derived through business impact analysis of business processes and applications to determine the value of business processes and the anticipated financial impact if they become unavailable. Obviously, this varies greatly by business process and application. "While for just-in-time manufacturing the critical threshold may be 15 minutes, it could be days for a marketing application," says George Ferguson, worldwide service segment manager for Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s business continuity and recovery services.

Very likely, determining RTOs and RPOs will be an iterative process because of two competing forces: available budget and required recovery objectives. "The challenge of contingency services like disaster recovery is to find the right balance between available budget and what's required to sustain the business," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group, Stillwater, MN.

This was first published in January 2009

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