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Which Disaster Recovery strategy is right for my organization?


Author : Karan Kirpalani
Date : August 31, 2015
Category : Disaster Recovery

The first question that an IT professional responsible for disaster recovery planning should ask himself is whether his organization will be prepared if a disaster were to strike? If you are able to answer that question in affirmation then it means you have adequately prepared your organization for any eventuality that may strike your business. Being prepared to face a disaster requires investing time and of course finances to build a fail proof disaster recovery plan.

Selection of a DR site is a crucial decision for disaster recovery planners. Most of the times DR planners have to do a cost vs. performance evaluation to arrive at a decision. However, when making such decisions one should always consider the organizations’ specific need for a DR plan/solution and the criticality of resuming operations so that there is minimal impact on the business. For e.g., for financial institutions, even a few hours of downtime can seriously impede business operations, hence they need to have a robust DR plan in place and make investments as per.

So ultimately for your organizations’ DR planners, it all boils down to the restoration aspect of data recovery – the time required to restore your systems to get the operations back on track again, in the event of a disaster. Downtime usually is accompanies by both tangible and intangible repercussions – loss of revenue, disgruntled customers and a damaged reputation.

Therefore, a DR planner must consider the need for hot, cold and warm DR sites as per the specific needs of his organization. So what are these Hot, Cold and Warm DR sites?

Cold Sites – The economy class

This is the minimalistic approach to disaster recovery. Cold sites come equipped with the basic infrastructure such as power, cooling, heating (HVAC) and network connectivity for running a data center in the event of an outage. These sites are equipped to provide backup in case of long-term outage of a primary site caused due to a fire or floods or any other such incident that leaves the primary site non-functional. In the event of an unforeseen event, the organization will have to procure the necessary hardware, install applications and restore data from backup tapes. This process requires time and therefore recovery times from cold sites are measured in days or weeks.

Planning for a cold site – you do not need to invest in a facility that remains unused unless needed. You can either lease or reserve a space in a third party data center that can be used when required (in the event of a disaster). Also ensure a considerable distance between the two sites; if a disaster were to strike your region, you systems can start running from this secondary site thus ensuring business continuity. Alternatively, you can also create a cold site in a facility owned by you and keep it ready with the basic infrastructure required to use when there is a need.

Warm Sites – Looking for the middle ground

The long activation time that a cold site requires can be a potential business risk for most organizations. A warm site adopts a realistic approach by moving beyond the basic infrastructure approach of a cold site by having hardware to restore operations as well. Subject to the nature of the warm site, operating systems and/or applications can be loaded to the installed hardware to resume operations in the event of a calamity. Warm sites make sense for aspect of the business that is not critical, but requires a level of redundancy.

A warm site may include a copy of the data in the form of backup tapes that may be uploaded in the event of warm site activation or it may include storage systems with replicated copies of the data. How soon can a warm site be activated? The time required to activate a warm site depends on how you have configured the warm site.

  • Can the storage system storing the organization’s data be directly accessed through servers or has to be restored from the tape?
  • Has the hardware at the DR site been preloaded with operating systems and applications?

If the answers to the above two questions are in affirmative, the organization can activate the warm site in a couple of hours. If they are negative, then it make take several days for the site to be made active and this could be detrimental to the business.

Hot Site – Expensive but Sturdy

Hot sites are the ideal disaster recovery (DR) sites offering recovery in real time should your primary site fail. Hot sites take warm sites to the next level by building on them and ensuring that the hardware at a hot site is preloaded with data, operating systems and applications that would be required to resume operations in case of failover of the primary site. A hot site allows your organization to resume operations within seconds of a disaster striking your primary site and making it inoperable.

You can also adopt a hybrid approach to data restoration and resuming operations from your DR site – in such a case mission critical applications that are crucial for running the business can run from a hot site while the others, where time is not such a big factor in resuming operations, can be run from a warm site. If your organization is considering a hot site, make sure that you enter into right software license agreements with the service providers – you may be required to purchase additional licenses or your service provider may allow for installation of software at no additional cost, given the fact that only one site is in operation at a point in time.

In the end, choosing the correct option for a DR site for your organization depends on the budget, sensitivity of the data, amount of risk you are willing to take on, and the amount of time you are able to take before fully restoring your business operations. It is absolutely essential for you to take an assessment of your organization’s specific needs and requirements and the budget that you are willing to allocate for a DR site. Still not clear about what to choose…write to us at and let us guide you in the right direction.

Author : Karan Kirpalani

Karan represents a new generation of Product Marketing Managers that can cover core product development & management activities as well as product marketing activities. To his customers & colleagues, he is the Go-to-guy for consultations.