Disaster Recovery Sites: How Far Away is Far Enough?

The recent devastation from Gulf Coast hurricanes raises an important question for enterprises: How far away should your disaster recovery site be?
Posted October 4, 2005

Drew Robb

Drew Robb

New Orleans domain name and hosting provider Directnic.com adopted an interesting strategy during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- dig in and grind it out. Situated in a high rise in the central business district, IT staff and its crisis manager battled through winds, floods, looting, Army raids, power cuts, diesel shortages, water shut-offs and more to keep the data center running.

''We made sure that our critical infrastructure, which supports 400,000 Internet clients around the world, did not go down,'' says Sig Solares, CEO of Intercosmos Media Group, the company that operates Directnic.com.

While the company made it despite facing hell and high water, it's no surprise that management is now talking about implementing additional backup and disaster recovery options outside of New Orleans. But how far away should alternate sites be located to be safe?

Imagine a company from New Orleans with a backup data center in the vicinity of Houston or Galveston. Such a business would have been in severe jeopardy due to recent events.

''You have to be far enough away to be beyond the immediate threat you are planning for,'' says Jim Grogan, vice president of consulting product development at SunGard Availability Services in Philadelphia. ''At the same time, you have to be close enough for it to be practical to get to the remote facility rapidly, preferably by car.''

One Rule of Thumb

Take the case of a company where the biggest threat is tornadoes. Any recovery site would obviously be located outside of that weather pattern. Similarly in California, you don't want your DR site located on the same earthquake fault zone.

''You have to be far enough apart to make sure that conditions in one place are not likely to be duplicated in the other,'' says Mike Karp, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates of Boulder, Colo. ''A useful rule of thumb might be a minimum of about 50 km, the length of a MAN, though the other side of the continent might be necessary to play it safe.''

He tells of one major corporate IT room in a Midwestern city whose ''remote'' site is literally two city blocks away from the company's primary location. While they have little to fear from hurricanes, floods or earthquakes, the entire IT operation and much of the shareholder value might evaporate in case of an unforeseen local disaster.

This article was first published on EnterpriseStorageForum.com. To read the full article, click here.

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