Disaster recovery plans are essential for businesses to keep their operations protected. There are different ways to structure backup servers based on the needs of the business and the available budget. Using colocation facilities for disaster recovery is increasingly optimal because of the flexibility and advantages they offer.
A disaster plan that protects a business’s information is a vital step in making sure that the business is secure and viable in the event of an emergency. By using backup servers located far enough from the primary data location as to be unaffected by those same events, businesses can implement a disaster recovery (DR) center to minimize downtime costs and restore information after an unexpected network disruption.
Disaster recovery sites are essential to every business in making sure that valuable investments in data, applications, and business processes are protected from unexpected emergencies. These sites protect critical information from events like natural disasters, power outages, human error, connectivity outages, cyber-attacks, and equipment failure — ensuring that normal business operations are restored ASAP. But the data center for disaster recovery cannot be chosen in a vacuum: the ideal location and facility depend on your primary site attributes, which data you want to protect, and the level of protection the business needs and can afford.
Disaster Recovery Location
How does a business know what factors go into choosing the right data center for their disaster recovery plan? As a realtor might say — ‘location is key!’ When choosing this secondary location, a business must consider all worst-case scenarios from a location in terms of avoiding a natural disaster. They should stay far away from seismic zones and regions with extreme weather or flooding events. They should evaluate their business territory and consider all potential emergencies within. A business operating in Manhattan’s Financial District, for example, would want to consider a colocation center that is sheltered from hurricanes; and businesses in California may want to find a backup data center far away from an earthquake region. Since natural disasters (not to mention hackers, electrical outages, and other human-inflicted disasters) cannot be planned for in advance, keeping business data backed up in a separate and secure location is all the more imperative.
Keeping one’s recovery center far removed from their business’s primary location is an important first step in keeping data protected from emergencies, but it is not the only factor in choosing the right data recovery center. Picking between internal and external data sites for your backup servers can be just as critical a decision as keeping your recovery center far away from an active volcano.
Internal vs. External DR Sites
An internal disaster recovery site is one where the company owns and manages the data center facility as well as its servers, whereas an external site location is owned and operated by a third party. Companies that need their data back online quickly often choose to backup with an internal site, as this second managed data center allows information to be repaired and rebooted quickly following a disaster. While internal disaster recovery sites offer speed and certainty, they can be cost-prohibitive to manage for companies with limited capacity to manage data centers.
External sites are found in third-party data center colocation providers and can be set up for different disaster recovery needs and budgets. The types of external site configurations can be broken down and further categorized as ‘hot,’ ‘warm’ or ‘cold.’ Each has its own functionality, and depending on their business, may prove to be more cost-effective or even more useful than an owned and operated internal site. A ‘hot’ site is prepared with both data and equipment for the company, a ‘warm’ site has IT equipment ready to be populated with backup data, and a ‘cold’ site only has space and infrastructure to house the equipment – no data or equipment. In the event of an emergency, warm and cold external sites must be updated by the business before data can be restored. The organization itself will add customer data to a warm site, and, in the case of cold sites, hardware and software as well. It should also be noted that businesses will often put different types of data into different categories of external sites: with the most important data in hot sites, and less important information in warm and cold sites. This may work well for some businesses, but it is advised that cold sites should only be used by businesses that can afford to bide their time until their data is running again.
Hybrid Models in Disaster Recovery
Historically, an internal site was thought to be faster at recovering data than an external one, but increasingly, external sites are being utilized as hybrid cloud infrastructure allows for speedier data recovery. By using a mix of company-owned, on-premise data centers, colocation data center providers, and public infrastructure as a service (IaaS) such as Microsoft Azure, a hybrid cloud infrastructure can pass information between internal and external data recovery sites via a wide access network, or WAN. This allows businesses to access the storage resources of a public recovery cloud while maintaining critical data in a private cloud. For companies with a lot of data or high-volume computation, the hybrid cloud infrastructure allows for full, complex coverage in response to an unplanned disaster. By opting for a third-party colocation center as described here, companies are able to secure physical resources without the added difficulty of maintaining their own facility. The data they need to restore quickly following a disaster is stored on a public or private cloud, enabling them to get operations running again quickly; and the data they need to be secured is stored securely to be recovered in due time. In that sense, businesses that opt for this hybrid IT model are getting the best of both worlds: secure facilities, flexible storage, and an overall guarantee of protection in the event of an emergency.
When choosing a data recovery site, businesses need to review their needs and emergency priorities to evaluate what model is right for them. The location must be made a priority for factors beyond the distance from the primary facilities, as the data center must be far from environmental and human-derived disasters, accessible from roads and highways, and connected to well-maintained power generators and systems. Choices must be made between the different data center tiers and their respective reliability metrics, as different options are best for different types of data storage, depending on the business’s needs. And thought should be given to the center’s capacity for expansion, should the business grow and find itself needing more backup server space. Each decision impacts the overall disaster plan and affects the cost of putting the plan into action.
The value of a disaster recovery data center that is right for each individual business’s needs is not to be underestimated. Should an unexpected disaster occur, the businesses that take these precautions will be prepared because they evaluated their options and invested in a data center that was the right fit for their recovery needs. By preparing for the very worst, businesses are protecting their data, and with it, their customers. With the many options available, it is important that businesses evaluate these needs ahead of time, so they can rest easy knowing they are ready for anything.