Cold, Warm or Hot? What’s the best DR Site for your company?

So, you’ve decided to reassess your disaster recovery plan. The next step, and likely the toughest choice to make, is determining the best type of DR site for your organisation. Cold, warm or hot?

Realistically speaking, all three options can aid your company in times of disaster. With deliberate planning and revision, they can also protect your business’s critical data. Different DR sites vary in cost, which is a crucial factor to consider for budgetary reasons.

In this article, we will offer some guidance in choosing the most appropriate DR site setup. Hopefully, we will better prepare you on what to expect when outsourcing third-party services and private facilities.

What are Cold, Warm and Hot Sites?

Think of the various options as alternate sites established to protect data centres — hardware and software, systems and services, and operational data needed to run your business.

Fundamentally, there are two alternate site arrangements: internal and external. Organisations hosting large information requirements and vigorous recovery time objectives (RTOs) usually have internal recovery sites. This is a second data centre that provides recovery and business continuity resources following a primary data centre malfunction.

If your company does not have the funding or need for secondary sites, the external solutions — cold, warm or hot — prove effective for protecting data centres.

  • Cold Site:A data centre with associated infrastructure, i.e. power, communications, and environmental controls supporting IT systems only installed when DR services are activated. It is the cheapest choice of the three. However, it is only for an organisation or specific data that can be down for an extended period because it takes a comparatively long time to get the DR site running. 
  • Warm Site:A partially equipped data centre with network connectivity and the necessary hardware equipment already pre-installed. This is the closest that you can get to replicate the primary site. Data synchronisation between the primary site and warm site is performed daily or weekly, resulting in minor data loss. A warm site is perfect for organisations that can tolerate a short period of downtime. This type of DR site is the second most expensive option.
  • Hot Site: A fully operational site that has live customer data, equipped with computing hardware and software and supporting personnel. It is also staffed 27/4, ready for companies to operate IT systems when DR services are activated. This is the most expensive option among the three, but it is also the easiest and fastest to get your DR site running.

Source: ISO/IEC 24762:2008

Disaster Recovery (DR) Sites Deciding Criteria

The predominant benchmark most likely to influence your selection of DR sites is RTO and cost vs risk. For instance, mirroring critical data in real-time to an off-site premise may be appealing, but your budget may prohibit such ambition. In this case, costs would go into the services, mirroring technology, and the considerably high network bandwidth required for data transmission.

Since alternate sites are shared facilities, they represent a shared risk. Can your company risk data loss while using a solution without real-time mirroring?

Another thing to contemplate is the make vs buy. The criteria that influence this decision include RTO, cost and risk. Should you consider building an internal system, let alone fund it? Can your company afford the cost vs the risk?

Work-Area Recovery

Work-area recovery involves getting employees back to work rather than simply getting systems up and running. Numerous vendors are offering work-area recovery, making it the most significant growth area in the sector.

Of course, people are the foremost concern in traditional alternate sites. After all, where will they conduct business operations when primary offices are unavailable? The only thing left to do would be to temporarily relocate them.

A much-neglected issue is that some employees bring their children to work-area recovery centres. Leaving their children to work at a distant recovery location for an extended time does not seem feasible, especially not to parents. Moreover, work-area recovery pertains to human resources issues as well. Should you add this distant-working possibility to job descriptions?

Most big companies in public and private sectors have excellent IT recovery plans but lack an ideal work-area recovery plan for their staff. Thus, more education is necessary to shift senior managements’ perception of whether alternate sites are indeed valuable.

Final Thoughts for Consideration

It goes without saying that alternate sites must be far enough from primary offices to prevent effects by the same disaster that has rendered main facilities inoperative. When engaging DR service providers, keep in mind the aspects of site proximity, operational risks, and service-level agreements (SLAs).

Alternatives to conventional alternate sites include cloud-based recovery services, wherein your data resides in the “cloud”. Aegis is a cloud disaster recovery provider that caters to Warm or Hot DR sites, ensuring future-proof solutions and business continuity in difficult times. Complimentary DR seats are also included in Aegis service.

Learn more about our managed cloud DR services that come with complimentary and unlimited DR resources and testing all year round.

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