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Best practices for selecting a disaster recovery facility

Deciding whether to create a disaster recovery (DR) site in-house or to outsource it is a fundamental decision that needs to be made when planning a DR strategy. Assuming that the work related to disaster recovery can be performed by existing staff makes the in-house approach tempting.Unfortunately, experience shows that in-house disaster recovery is more likely to fail than an outsourced disaster recovery service.

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.

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It further shows that outsourcers can provide a shorter window of recovery, as measured by a recovery time objective (RTO), over in-house operations by a reduced factor of 0.62. The study concludes that primary and disaster recovery 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 disaster recovery 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 disaster recovery role, the primary role usually wins.

Selecting a disaster recovery facility

Based on the size and needs of your business, you need to determine what type of disaster recovery facility to use; an in-house facility using another office location; a collocation facility; or a managed collocation space. Managed collocations spaces are available from vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., IBM Corp. or SunGard Data Systems Inc.

The following is a list of criteria that needs to be kept in mind when choosing a disaster recovery facility:

1. In-house disaster recovery 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?

2. Collocation facilities:

  • Is the facility far enough from the production site?
  • Does the 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 disaster recovery apply.

3. Managed collocation space:

As hot sites and warm sites typically limit how long they can be used during a disaster, you must clearly understand your options in case you need the disaster recovery site longer.

This article originally appeared in Storage magazine.

About this author: Jacob Gsoedl is a frequent contributor to "Storage" magazine.

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This was first published in March 2009

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