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According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 20 percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and 43 percent don’t reopen after catastrophic data loss. Completing and executing a data recovery (DR) plan may seem like a daunting task, but the potential risk makes DR planning a necessity for all businesses.

The offsite backup center is the core of many DR plans, and there are three major options available to managers:

  • A standby, redundant, private data center, built, owned and run by your company
  • Traditional cloud systems
  • A third-party data center (which may offer hybrid cloud capabilities)

Unless you have the budget for a complete standby data center and the requirement for very little downtime, we can rule out the first option. A cloud-based solution can appear financially attractive, but you sacrifice control of the underlying resources. In my experience, the benefits of a third-party data center far outweigh the potential negative of not owning the system. Many companies choose to rent space from a commercial data center. Before doing so, do your homework around security, access and disaster recovery planning on the data center’s end. Your data is only as secure as your contract, so be sure to read and understand the fine print.

Your data is only as secure as your contract

What about the cloud? Amazon Cloud or other cloud-based solutions seem to provide a cost-effective option – where it’s there when you need it. However, with Amazon or other cloud services, the decision of which machines your data resides on is left up to the service provider. They could select machines that don’t meet your security standards or are too physically close to your office to offer peace of mind during a natural disaster.

If you go with a third-party data center, make sure that the backup site is far enough away so typical weather events (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.) won’t affect both your backup site and your office. This site should also be on a different power grid as your headquarters to avoid loss of data at both sites. A 40-mile distance is about the minimum to ensure continuity in the event of a disaster. Furthermore, a cloud-based configuration is likely on shared resources and you need to be careful about security and impact of other companies overloading those resources.

An alternative option to consider is a “hybrid” cloud backup: your data still exists on physical servers, but you have access to it via the cloud. Hybrid clouds give you more control over the resources. For example, a company may rent space at a data center and create a private cloud environment from a mix of internal resources and network and facility services from the data center provider. A mixture of our private resources and those from the service provider offer a good option if you’re uncomfortable giving up a certain degree of control to a purely cloud-based provider.

Above all, the sensitivity of data will dictate which solution works best for your company.

Above all, the sensitivity of data will dictate which solution works best for your company. If your company is in need of spare computing resources and security isn’t much of an issue, the public cloud may be more efficient. If you have data that you want to protect and replicate on a frequent basis, a combination of physical and virtual resources could best serve your needs.

The key is to understand the data that you need to backup, the security that must surround that data, and how long you can be without the computing resources before your organization suffers long-term or permanent impact.