In a year in which the unthinkable happened — a worldwide pandemic — it might be a good idea to revisit your company’s disaster recovery plan. The key word here is “disaster”.
This is not a back-up plan or response to a glitch or temporary hiccup in operations, but a recovery plan for a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, flooding, and even civil disobedience. Your disaster recovery plan is a playbook for what to do when the facility where your critical infrastructure is hosted is no longer operational.
In creating your disaster recovery plan, you must weigh costs vs. risks and one of the biggest decisions is what type of recovery site to incorporate.
Disaster Recovery Plan Basics
When disaster strikes, your company needs to implement a disaster recovery plan that can provide your business with a base to operate from. Basic disaster recovery plans should include:
- Data Recovery
- Maintaining System Functionality
- Alternative IT Infrastructure
The goal of your disaster recovery plan is not to replicate operations for every employee but to allow key personnel to operate core business functions. Your disaster recovery plan team should include both IT and business-side decision-makers to ensure all mission-critical processes are covered in the plan.
In the event a disaster disables your building or corporate campus infrastructure, your plan should include an external or back-up site to temporarily base operations.
- Hot Site (fully operations data center with live customer data)
- Warm Site (Equipped data center without customer data)
- Cold Site (data center with basics but no technology installed)
Each option has different costs and time it will take to get your operations back up.
Hot Site: Expensive, Little Downtime
The most expensive option is the hot site which functions as a copy of your operations and infrastructure.
There should be almost no downtime with switching to a hot site because the alternative site is a mirror of your production site, including personnel, network systems including hardware and software, power grids and has real-time backups of all your data.
Characteristics of a hot site include a facility that is fully functional and manned 24/7 so that it is ready to operate quickly when disasters strike.
- Phone systems with lines connected
- Data networks with all routers and switches plugged in and ready to go
- Servers with all needed hardware functioning
- Desks with PCs installed and connected
The convenience and piece-of-mind of the hot site option comes with an expensive price tag
Warm Site: Partially Equipped Option
The warm site disaster recover plan provides the convenience of infrastructure and software installed at an alternative location but at lower costs. In this option, there will be downtime, but it could be just hours to several days. The equipment at your warm site will not be equal to your normal set-up, but enough for critical operations.
The biggest delay in getting operations up and running will be retrieving data from your latest back-up as the warm site is not synchronized.
A warm site set-up will include:
- Phone systems with lines connected
- Data networks with some manual configuration needed
- Servers with needed hardware waiting to be put online
- Desks with PCs installed but not configured
Cold Site: Cost Effective but More Downtime
A cold site is the most cost-conscious option but will have the most downtime in a disaster because it offers mostly basic alternative space that will need to be outfitted. Your cold site will have power, telecoms, and environmental controls but all other infrastructure will have to be brought in and set-up. Data recovery will also have to be performed.
Your company saves money by not having simultaneous operations, or having hardware and software ready to go, but the trade off is it could take a considerable amount of time to get operations up and running.
To help with your decision you can use a calculator to weigh disaster recovery plan options vs. the costs of downtime.
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