Extreme measures for offsite storage

How much should you spend on offsite backup? A lot depends on where you're located and what type of business you operate.

By Rick Cook

While knowledgeable system administrators know that offsite storage of backups is vital for recovery from a disaster or other serious problem, how important -- and how much the company should spend -- depends in large part on how critical the information in the backups is.

In most parts of the country today, there are data storage facilities aimed at providing an extremely high level of physical and other security for critical backups and other vital business records. For example, Vital Records Inc., headquartered in Flagtown, NJ, uses two underground facilities originally built by AT&T to keep the telephone system operating through a nuclear attack.

On the other side of the continent, DataSure Services in Victoria, B.C., Canada, had a facility carved into solid granite designed to withstand a Richter 9.5 earthquake or winds up to 150 miles an hour. There are similar facilities scattered around the continent, most of them fairly close to major airports. These often provide facilities for hot sites and emergency command centers for companies that have suffered a major disaster. Many companies like having their ultimate backups stored hundreds of miles away from the place of origin because it minimizes risk that the same disaster would affect both areas.

These companies typically provide courier service to pick up the backups and elaborate control systems to track each tape from the customer to its resting place in the company vaults. They are usually staffed 24 hours a day and many of them guarantee overnight turnaround if the backups are needed. They also offer custom packages of services fitted to each individual client's needs. All this isn't cheap, but the cost needs to be measured against the potential loss of critical business information.

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About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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