Mobile data recovery services for disaster recovery FAQ

Paul Kirvan discusses mobile recovery services for disaster recovery (DR) in this FAQ. Paul has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the United States' chapter of the Business Continuity Institute. He details the pros and cons of mobile recovery services, mobile recovery service vendors, and important things to consider when deciding if a mobile recovery service is right for your needs.

His answers are also available as an MP3. Click on the link below to listen:

Mobile Recovery Services FAQ MP3

Table of contents:

>> Mobile data recovery services defined
>> Benefits of mobile data recovery services
>> Drawbacks of mobile data recovery services
>> Who needs mobile data recovery services?
>> What are the major mobile data recovery service vendors?
>> What do you need to consider when selecting a mobile data recovery service provider?

What are mobile data recovery services?

Mobile data recovery services are either purchased or contracted to facilitate operational recovery. They can include computers, workstations, telephones, electrical power, office equipment and supplies, etc. Typically, they are what would be called a "transportable operating environment" -- usually configured as one or more large trailers -- complete with office facilities and computer equipment that can be delivered and deployed to a suitably equipped site at relatively short notice. A mobile support team from the vendor usually coordinates the launching of the mobile recovery facility once it arrives on site.

The equipped trailers are delivered to an agreed-upon location, each with fully configured systems that reflect specific (and prearranged) business and operational requirements. Each trailer includes office space for a specific number of people; possibly kitchen facilities; one or more uninterruptible power supplies; plus possibly also a diesel, propane or a liquid natural gas (LNG) generator.

Typical configurations include:


  • Preloaded hardware and software
  • Network connections, either by hardwire or satellite
  • Multiple telephone/fax connections
  • Sound-proofing, insulation and ceiling tiles
  • High-output HVAC system
  • Fire protection
  • Multi-station work space with overhead lighting
  • Lighted walk-up access doors (4 ft. x 8 ft.) for remote access or dock-level walkway access (8 ft. x 8 ft.) for direct attachment to building facilities
  • Each is custom-configured to user specifications

Additional IT equipment can be added within the constraints of available space. Using appropriate cables and connectors, the trailer can be connected into a location's power and communications infrastructure so that authorized users operating remotely can also access the restored systems, if needed.

Mobile recovery equipment can be parked adjacent to an appropriately configured site. When combined with hot- or even cold-site recovery strategies, mobile on-site recovery capabilities provide a significant disaster response.

What are the benefits of using a mobile data recovery service?

For a catastrophic outage in which access to a business location is no longer possible, a mobile data recovery facility may be the answer. Locating the mobile facility becomes the challenge. If the affected site is still in place but non-habitable, the mobile site can provide useful temporary facilities during recovery. If the site is destroyed, the mobile facility can serve as a new operational center until a replacement site can be located and prepared. In the greatest number of cases, mobile recovery is used to support IT recovery operations, since (according to IBM Corp.) an estimated 65 percent to 80 percent of disaster recovery service invocations are IT outages. Mobile sites are most often configured as a suitably equipped data center plus office space. Others can be configured for multiple seats, such as a backup call center.

Mobile services can be invoked any time of the day or night, any day of the year. Trailers can be loaded, prepared and delivered to agreed locations anywhere in the U.S. within 24 hours to 72 hours, depending on the desired configuration and driving time to the site.

During service tests and invocations, a technical and engineering team can be available to support and/or facilitate the recovery. Be sure that an annual test is included within the service contract to make sure that the recovery process works.

What are the drawbacks?

Mobile recovery can work in situations where the  recovery time objective (RTO) is upwards of three to four days. For incidents where recovery must occur within a few hours, mobile services are not recommended. If an extended timeframe for recovery is indicated, mobile data services may be useful, unless alternate company offices/data centers or third-party hot site arrangements are being used. Trailer units have finite equipment and people capacities; for larger recoveries multiple trailers may be needed. Furthermore, if the company location is in a city then access and parking for the tractor-trailer unit might not be practical or even possible. It's also desirable to have preconfigured connections for power and communications in place if a mobile recovery strategy is being used.

There's also the cost for a mobile solution, which can range into the tens of thousands of dollars every day for a large, multi-trailer arrangement. In situations where a very serious, regional disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, occurs, mobile assets may be commandeered by government and/or military agencies, usurping any previous contracts with end users. The demand for mobile resources may also strip away available inventory of trailers and tractors.

Who really needs data mobile recovery services? Why not just set up a remote facility or use some kind of cloud-based service?

Arranging for a mobile recovery solution is a major decision, partly because of the cost, and also because of the logistics and arrangements that need to be made in advance. Medium to large companies, particularly those with critical data centers, call centers, or other operational requirements, are likely candidates. In-place recovery solutions, such as hot/cold sites, may be a more cost-effective solution, especially if there are very severe RTO requirements.

On the plus side, mobile data recovery services are typically a single-customer solution, and there is no line awaiting access to a hot site, especially if many users have declared a disaster. Of course, in a major disaster, this could dramatically change, as we mentioned earlier. Given available technologies, and assuming the affected company has multiple locations, a remote facility could be easily put into service (assuming it has been preplanned and configured) as a backup site. Advances in network technologies now make it possible to link operations virtually anywhere in the world. The key is to determine, in advance, what operational requirements may be required, based on a number of different scenarios.

Who are the major vendors in the mobile data recovery services market?

The industry leaders in terms of facilities, vehicles and overall experience, include AT&T, IBM, Rentsys, and Agility Recovery Services. Among the major firms offering mobile recovery services are the following:


  • Agility Recovery Solutions

  • AT&T

  • CDI Medical Systems, Inc.

  • Dynamic Options Group

  • Fibrebond Corp.

  • IBM

  • ProfitStars

  • Mobility Resource Associates

  • MPA Systems Inc.

  • Recovery Solutions Inc.

  • Rentsys Recovery Services

  • SkyPort Global Communications Inc.

  • SunGard Availability Services

  • Weatherhaven

  • Wells Cargo Inc.


What is the most important thing to consider when selecting a mobile data recovery service provider?

The most important consideration is business need. Companies must determine their operating requirements; figure out the minimum configuration needed to resume an acceptable level of business operations; and understand the timeframes needed to recover those critical business functions. Results of a good  business impact analysis can be very useful in deciding to utilize a mobile recovery solution.

Other decision criteria include:


  • Mobile recovery company experience and reputation
  • Customer references
  • Pricing and warranties
  • Available hardware, software, vehicle types
  • Minimum/maximum configurations per trailer
  • Time frame from disaster declaration to arrival/connection of mobile services
  • Location(s) of mobile recovery facilities, proximity to customer locations

This was first published in May 2009

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