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Comparing the costs of hot sites and cold sites

Learn the differences in cost between hot sites and cold sites in this Expert Response from Paul Kirvan.

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Can you compare the costs of hot sites and cold sites?

Hot sites are fully equipped data centers that run live customer data. In that sense, they are replicas of existing data center operations. Cold sites are empty facilities, such as trailers specially equipped for emergency use; or simply empty buildings that are wired for power, communications and HVAC but are otherwise empty. Hot-site pricing is usually based on the amount of processing power and data storage needed, networking needed to support operations, voice and data communications for company employees, desk space for employees relocated to the hot site, conference room space, and other conveniences needed to support potentially extended stays at the site. Hot sites are largely in move-in condition so that employees can be productive within hours of declaring a disaster.

Cold sites require advance planning to locate primary and alternate suppliers of computing systems, data storage and networking equipment, data center infrastructure equipment (e.g., equipment racks and emergency power supplies), office equipment (e.g., desks, chairs, lighting and copiers), and supplies (e.g., paper, forms and pencils) to support a predetermined number of employees. In addition, arrangements to have these assets delivered and installed at the cold site are needed, preferably in advance.

Monthly hot-site fees are based on a number of parameters, including technology requirements, the number of seats required, plus amenities, as noted above. Users have a choice of dedicated seats (which are more costly) or first-come, first-serve seats (which are less costly). Ongoing monthly fees can range from under $1,000 to as much as $50,000 per month for very large and complex configurations. Disaster declaration fees may also be assessed (and are often collected) prior to employees appearing on-site. These can range from $10,000 to $100,000 or more, again depending on the requirement.

By contrast, the cost to obtain a cold site will be much less. Investments in cold sites may be as little as nothing (assuming the investment will be made at the time of disaster) or nominal (e.g., a monthly fee to "hold" the site for your organization). The cost to outfit a cold site and make it usable can be expensive and will take time, often several days or a week or more. For example, Cort Furniture, a company that specializes in outfitting offices with temporary furniture, claims to be able to outfit an office area within 48 hours of order placement.

The delivery of systems and technology may take longer, depending on what is needed, the location of the supplier(s), and any other situations, such as a large-scale regional disaster that affects many organizations.

This was first published in July 2012

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