Strategies for locating a recovery site

Locating a disaster recovery (DR) site requires careful preparation and research. In this tip, Paul Kirvan discusses several factors that must be addressed upfront when considering the option of an alternate recovery site.

Locating a disaster recovery (DR) site requires careful preparation and research; it's not just a matter of finding the cheapest space. When considering the option of an alternate recovery site, several considerations must be addressed right away:

  1. Why do you need an alternate recovery site?
  2. What systems, applications and data do you need to recover?
  3. How quickly will you need access to those assets?
  4. How many people will be needed to support the recovery site?
  5. What will the recovery site do when it's not being used for a recovery?
  6. What do you stand to lose, e.g., revenue, competitive position, if you can't recover within an acceptable time frame?
  7. How much can you afford to invest?
  8. What other alternatives to a recovery site are available?

Before you even consider the location of a recovery site, perform the due diligence suggested above. Advances in technology have yielded numerous options for a recovery site as compared to 10 to 15 years ago. Among the new options are the following:

  1. Virtualization of data center operations: This means your operational assets do not have to be in one location; they can be in multiple sites. If you have multiple office locations, one or more of these can be configured as a backup data center.
  2. Storage area networks (SANs) provide access to multiple data storage systems via high-speed networking; this multiplies your storage capabilities, minimizes the chance of a massive data storage disaster and ensures that your critical data can be replicated in more than one location.
  3. Specialized data backup centers are facilities that specialize in backing up critical data that is dynamically replicated at the main, and stored in secure data facilities.

Also, the traditional options of third-party hot sites, cold sites and outsourced data center/recovery operations are all still relevant. IT managers have plenty of options for backing up their operations before investing in a new data/recovery center. In fact, given the advances in technology, it is now possible to reduce the number of data centers a company needs. This is indeed a major market trend, and companies thinking about building a second or third data center would be well advised to consider the many alternatives available.

Assuming your firm has done its planning to either build a new data center or lease space and convert it, the following location issues are critical:

  1. The new facility should be on a different power grid than the primary data center.
  2. It should have access to at least two telecommunications service providers.
  3. It should have multiple telecom and power access routes into the building.
  4. It should not be near external situations that could present problems, e.g., near a major highway or rail line; close to fuel or chemical storage facilities; or close to a major airport, especially on/near the glide path.
  5. If located in an industrial park or similar site, there should be at last two access/egress points.
  6. Ensure that fire hydrants, the local fire department and emergency medical teams are nearby.

  7. It should be sufficiently distant from the main data center that a major disaster, e.g., blackout, brownout, severe winter storm, hurricane or earthquake does not impact the new location.
  8. Staffing the data center may require relocating existing staff or hiring new people. The investment in building the site could be considerable, factoring in the cost for construction, equipment, network assets, HVAC components, security and staffing.

About this author: Paul F. Kirvan, FBCI, CBCP, CISSP, has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA Chapter.

This was first published in October 2008

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