Seeing the Sites- A Guide to the “Where” of Disaster Recovery

Seeing the Sites- A Guide to the “Where” of Disaster Recovery

February 20

You’ve got your hardware and your backups, so you’re set, right? Well, have you ever thought about where you’ll actually do the work? You’ll need hardware to recover to but where are you getting power and internet access?

Disaster recovery planning involves thinking a lot about where things will happen. Where will I store my data? Where will I recover to or from? There are various places that serve different purposes when it comes to data recovery. You’ll have to think about their functions when you’re thinking about the “where” of disaster recovery and business continuity.

Theoretically, you could work in an alley with extension cords, a laptop, and 4G hotspots, but following an emergency, you need some sort of command center to serve as a temporary business site until your main or live site is rebuilt or deemed safe if you had to evacuate. Let’s take a look at different places that are set up for different disaster recovery purposes.

We’ll use the glossary from the risk management and business continuity website Riskythinking.com to help us sort out some of the vocab.

Hot Site

A hot site is ready to take over your main operations with very little notice when your primary equipment is compromised. For a large company this is usually a whole extra data center with fully configured equipment and communication links—a full hardware and infrastructure backup. With a hot site, data is frequently or continuously replicated from the live site to the hot site via data communication links or physical transport of backup media.

Hot sites can provide a very high level of disaster protection because they are ready to take over at any time. The issue is that building this type of redundancy can be extremely expensive. Although an SMB might be able to set up redundancies at lower costs, there are better options we’ll explore shortly.

Cold Site

A cold site is basically anywhere that can power and cool equipment: your basement, another office, whatever. If your primary site is destroyed or goes down, you’ve got another location that does have power. The issue with a cold site is that they generally aren’t equipped with any computer hardware and might not have communication links, which makes failover pretty difficult since you’ll need hardware to recover to. Though mobile technology makes it easier to use cold sites, it’s still important to note that you will still need hardware or your cold site only acts as room with some plugs and an Internet connection.

Warm Site

A warm site is a hybrid of hot and cold sites. They generally contain data links and pre-configured equipment but no live data. In order to continue operations from a warm site, data will have to be restored to the equipment, which will generally only be equipped with rudimentary functionality until data is restored.

Mobile Site

A mobile site is a site on wheels. This can be as simple as a trailer with heating, cooling, power, and hardware (probably powered by a generator), and may or may not be equipped with computer hardware. A mobile site allows you to set up temporary offices and computer rooms. An example might be the mobile command centers a few of our partners set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to help their clients get back up and running.

Alternate Site

Synonymous with offsite, this is basically any site you can use aside from your primary site in the event that IT infrastructure fails in a large emergency. This could even be the cloud or any data center you might use for collocation. The cloud can be used as a hot site that you don’t actually own, you rent. It’s much less expensive than building redundancies and offers the same level of disaster protection at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Ultimately, you need a combination of these sites that fits your business. A large corporation might need to have a hot site available, while a very small home business might function from a friend’s basement.

Regardless of the type of site you might need, you’ll need extra equipment should your primary equipment go down and you’ll need a place you can power that equipment if you hope to recover quickly following an emergency. Along with the hardware and power needs, you need your data. If your computer systems are destroyed it’s likely that your local backups were as well. That’s why in addition to local backups, you should backup to an alternate site whether it’s a public or private cloud. As long as you’ve got offsite backups, your data will be safe and as long as you’ve got hardware and power, you can use it.

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