For businesses, it’s imperative to ensure the highest availability of data and uptime for both customers and employees. With the threats of unplanned outages such as natural disasters, human error, and malicious activities, many IT departments have some form of procedures in place to help mitigate any risks and downtime. The never-ending conundrum in today’s IT world is whether you are protecting yourself enough and implementing all possible scenarios of business continuity. One way to help increase continuity is implementing a secondary site to your primary data center.
Let’s be clear about secondary sites first, implementing a secondary site doesn’t mean that you are completely covered and preventing all types of failure. There are multiple “levels” in which you can build your secondary site. The level you choose will correspond to the amount of redundancy and availability that is needed in your specific environment. As with most things, the more redundancy and availability you need, usually means more costs are involved. However, when comparing business continuity costs versus the costs of losing customer data and experiencing downtime, (Ponemon Institute estimates it at $7,900 per minute) the investment is solid choice.
Cold Secondary Site (Level One)
Implementing a cold secondary site is one of the more cost effective ways to increase disaster recovery and business continuity. However, a cold site is nothing more than a skeleton of your primary environment. Yes, you have equipment and secure data center space, but you are unable to transfer over to the cold site and resume running your business with a flip of the switch so to speak. With a cold site typical recovery time can be anywhere from 3 to 7 days. The time it takes to recover is completely dependent on your abilities to get your environment properly installed and operating fully. This level of secondary site may be favorable for companies that don’t require instantaneous failover or have less critical data in their environment and a lower operating budget.
Hot Secondary Site (Level Two)
With a hot secondary site, transferring over from your primary site is a much more time efficient process than a cold site. In a hot site environment, your equipment is powered on and ready and most likely you’ll have a current or recent copy of your data in a fully functional environment. While this type of site can be more expensive than the cold site, it has its advantages. Instead of a recovery time of 3 to 7 days, you’ll now be able to be back up and running in 24 to 48 hours. While this may still seem like a long time, the additional time saved from a cold site environment or no secondary environment at all can mean tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. An additional advantage of hot sites is that administrators and managers can test their failover procedures to ensure everything is in working order in case a disaster strikes.
Active-Active Secondary Site (Level Three)
An active-active secondary site, the grand Poobah of secondary sites, is your most efficient and most secure option for failover redundancy. An active-active site is a complete replication of your primary environment and is running side-by-side with it in case of a disaster. Recovery time with an active-active site can be anywhere from instantaneous to 12 hours. While this is the most expensive option for secondary sites, the cost savings can be astronomical depending on the type of your business and the piece of mind knowing your site can be back up and running in minutes helps IT Directors and CIOs sleep a little better at night.
Finding the right secondary site for your business is dependent on your requirements and needs. A solid understanding of how a disaster would impact your business and customers and selecting which disasters you need to or should be protecting your company from is a great place to start. Not all businesses have the same amount of data values, technologies in place or budget’s for elaborate continuity solutions. However, one thing is consistent between all organizations; data loss and downtime are expensive and can cripple an organization.
Not sure where to start looking for a secondary location? Read our recent blog entry, Reasons Charlotte is Your Ideal Colocation Destination.