Disaster recovery site options

Cold site

A cold site is rented space with power, cooling and connectivity that's ready to accept equipment. With recovery times of a week or more, a cold site is only an option for business processes that can be down for an extended period. Cold sites are also used to complement hot sites and warm sites in case of disasters that last a long time. "Some of our customers sign up for a cold site as contingency to migrate equipment from the shared infrastructure to the cold site in case a disaster lasts more than six weeks," says Recovery Point Systems' Langer.

It's the customer's responsibility to provide equipment for the cold site during a disaster. A DR plan that relies on a cold site must clearly define the process of procuring and delivering equipment to the cold site when a disaster strikes. It's a risky strategy to rely on purchasing the equipment on the open market when it's needed as it may not be possible to get the equipment in a timely fashion. A better option is to consider subscribing to a quick-ship service available from companies like Agility Recovery Solutions. "You can rent equipment for as little as $50/month with an option to buy it if needed," says Recovery Point Systems' Langer.

In-house DR vs. outsourced DR

Whether to create a DR site in-house or to outsource it is a fundamental decision that needs to be made when putting a DR strategy in place. The in-house approach may be tempting, with the assumption

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that the work related to DR can be performed by existing staff. Unfortunately, experience shows that in-house DR is more likely to fail than outsourced DR services.

According to an IDC study, enterprises that didn't outsource lost on average $4 million per disaster incident across a variety of business functions (e.g., sales/marketing, financing, e-commerce). In contrast, enterprises that outsourced to a third party lost an average of $1.1 million per incident. The study adds that companies that leverage an in-house model spend 32% more than those opting to outsource.

It further shows that outsourcers can provide a shorter window of recovery, as measured by RTO over in-house operations by a reduced factor of 0.62. The study concludes that primary and DR data centers are more likely to get out of sync if DR services are performed in-house.

One of the primary reasons why in-house DR scores so poorly is the risk of taking shortcuts and burdening users already overloaded with other work. When a person's primary role is in conflict with their DR role, the primary role usually wins, to the detriment of the DR plan.

What to ask when selecting a DR facility

1. What type of facility should be used?

  • In-house using another office location
  • A collocation facility
  • Managed collocation space from the likes of Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., IBM Corp. or SunGard Data Systems Inc.

2. For in-house disaster recovery (DR) facilities:

  • Is the facility equipped to deal with the increased load during a disaster (bandwidth, power, cooling, etc.)?
  • Is designated DR staff available?
  • Is equipment designated or at least ensured to be available in case of a disaster?
  • Are resources available to periodically test failover?

3. For collocation facilities:

  • Is the collocation facility a far enough distance from the production site?
  • Does the collocation facility have sufficient bandwidth options and power to scale and deal with the increased load during a major disaster?
  • Who will manage the equipment in the DR site? If it's managed in-house, many of the considerations of in-house DR apply.

4. For managed collocation space:

  • Based on recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs), determine the type of site required (hosted, hot site, warm site or cold site)
  • Ensure that DR testing is included in the proposal.
  • As hot sites and warm sites typically limit how long they can be used during a disaster, clearly understand your options in case you need the DR site longer.

This was first published in January 2009

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