Alternate Sites Are Evolving
Sun, 10/31/2010 - 8:00pm
Decades ago when the need for disaster recovery or technology recovery was recognized, it was primarily a mainframe requirement caused by the explosion of online systems and organizations’ growing dependencies on this technology. The cost of redundant technology was prohibitive, however, and so the commercial hot site was born.
The concept was simple: a vendor would buy technology, install it in a fully-functioning data center, and write long-term contracts (typically five-year) for the right to test and recover on that technology. These “rights” were sold to as many as 40 different organizations. This is called the shared-risk concept. The number one advantage of this model is that the cost was, and is, dramatically less than that of an in-house dedicated solution. The obvious disadvantage is the risk that in a regional disaster, a subscriber may be denied access because resource demand exceeds supply. These types of contracts are still in use today, protecting mainframes and all other technology, but there have been some significant changes.
One key evolution is that there are more vendors offering solutions, even for mainframes. When you include work group (or user group) recovery requirements, the number of hot site solutions in the U.S. alone numbers in the hundreds. This is a major plus for business continuity because now a work group solution can be found near the business people for whom it is intended. Most users will not travel hundreds of miles away for recovery just because “it’s their job.” Unfortunately, many in the industry still don’t understand this and think recovery is only about technology. Of course, the need for proximity to the business users’ must be weighed against the risk of a regional disaster knocking out the workplace and the recovery center. That’s why it’s good to have a “back-up to the back-up.”
Another important change is that work group recovery centers now have the ability to install client-provided hardware, typically servers. And then there are co-location facilities, which can also support client-provided technology, and by
using these, you have yet another option to support short RTOs (12 hours or less).
Historically, it was very expensive to go from a shared-risk to a dedicated hot-site solution, because the costing algorithm for the shared-risk floor space keeps the cost of the solution dramatically lower. Making the move to a dedicated solution will typically bring a ten-fold cost increase. Add to that equation the cost of dedicated bandwidth from the client’s data center to the hot site, and you find many organizations won’t invest in a dedicated hot site solution simply because of the cost.
The healthcare industry is an excellent example of this dynamic. Patient data is critical, but a ten-fold increase in expense just isn’t going to happen. By using work group or co-location facili-ties near the client data center for dedicated mirrored technology, the cost of floor space and bandwidth is dramatically reduced. Combining this strategy with a traditional hot site allows for an economical solution to achieve short RTOs.
Boil It Down
Considering all implementations, there are about 1,000 alternate sites in the U.S. But they aren’t all the same. Be cautious – understand what you’re getting. Many co-location facilities call themselves hot sites, but they may or may not be. Consider the details. When looking at a work group recovery facility, investigate the number of stalls in the ladies room – many facilities do not have enough. Ask about the work group recovery center’s policy and provision for children. If there is a regional disaster, schools will be closed and children may need to accompany a parent to the recovery site. Find out about the alternate facility’s own recovery plan – many facilities have no formal plan in place.
In conclusion, in the over 30-year history of disaster recovery, there have never been as many good, economically-sound choices as there are today. Investigate at least six different solutions before signing a contract. And make sure that your BIA is current and end-user driven, or else your contract may not meet your true requirements. CI
Edward (Ted) B. Brown III, CBCP, CBCV, is president and CEO of KETCHConsulting and a retired regional manager of a major hot site provider who has worked on thousands of hot site contracts and has worked with hundreds of alternate sites. He can be reached at (570) 563-0868 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.