Data Centers

Setting up a remote hot site

Our disaster recovery plan has migrated from a remote backup service to a remote hot site. We decided against using hosted services because of the ongoing monthly costs. In this update I detail the discovery process involved in setting up a remote hot site. The goal is instant fail over of e-mail and other services after a major disaster.

In my post last month on the pros and cons of remote data backup service, I wrote that our small business did not need continuous data protection, also known as high availability. I was wrong. After reviewing your comments on that post (thank you all very much) I met with the CEO to discuss our disaster recovery plan.

We discussed what will happen after the next earthquake strikes here in Southern California, and decided that at least two of our servers provide mission-critical services to the continuity of the business. The first is our Exchange Server and the second is our Flight Operations system (we are a small private charter jet business).

Remote Site Replication

One of the services provided by 4Service, the company that started me down this path of disaster recovery, is managed real-time replication for our critical servers to a secure remote data center. As I mentioned in the previous post, it is not inexpensive - about $3,300 a month. We decided to setup our own remote hot site.

In a comment from James, somewhere in London, I found the answer I needed: "For a full DR solution you need to be replicating at the application level to remote servers using SQL Log Shipping or for Exchange something like Neverfail or Double Take." We are evaluating these and this appliance from Data Domain.

Disaster Recovery is complex

This has turned into a major project. I can see how someone could easily specialize in advising businesses about disaster recovery. I have no desire to become a specialist. I just want to implement the best solution to provide my employer with instant fail over to backup servers in a remote location after the earthquake.

I have yet to discover if the MX record redirection can be automated. What if I can't get to a computer on the Internet after the earthquake? I am also beginning to realize that we will probably need a Terminal Server or Citrix Server at the remote site to host desktop sessions for critical employees in flight control operations.

An ongoing education process

I'll probably have to upgrade our Internet connection. A standard T1 is just not going to cut it if we're going to be continually sending data to the remote site as the records in the databases are updated. And what about software licensing? Am I going to have to buy more Exchange server and SQL Server licenses?

I'll keep you updated. The boss has already bought off that this is not an inexpensive project. He is expecting to buy at least two, maybe three new servers for the remote site. I'm thinking it will be at least $60,000 once we get all the components figured out. Being the Tech of all Trades makes for interesting work!

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