Local disasters demand long-distance availability service providers

With such a large amount of geographic space affected by the recent blackout in the Northeast, maybe it's time to consider long-distance availability service providers. What do you think about choosing a service provider based on location?

You've probably heard that location is the only thing that matters in real estate. Perhaps that idea should be extended to the location of availability service providers as well. Given the recent power outages experienced by much of the Northeast in August, having your offsite availability service provider only a few miles away may not be the best solution. Here’s a quick look at the advantages of using nonlocal availability service providers. In addition, make sure you offer any insight you can on this issue by visiting our Discussion Center when you’re done reading this article.

The obvious advantage
Because disasters are normally focused in one area, be it a city block or the entire Northeast region, being "geographically dispersed" can be an especially wise move. For example, if your company is located on the East Coast, and the East Coast is experiencing some form of disaster, you can rest assured your data will be safe if you are using an availability service provider located somewhere in the Midwest. Any closer and your service could be experiencing the same problems as you are. While the thought of depending on far away locations for emergency situations sounds risky, from the recent example of the August blackouts, it’s clear that some emergencies require long distance solutions.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket
To make sure you don’t become locked in to one locality, you should create disaster recovery plans with more than one availability service provider. Typically these organizations (such as SunGard Availability Services) offer a range of services, from specialized data backup and recovery to mobile command centers that can drive to locations and provide the “jumper cables” necessary to keep a business running.

You are better off selecting from a menu of these services so you can rely on disaster help both locally and from a distance. With each choice you make, you should carefully weigh the convenience of nearby service providers against the idea that that yours might be the one area affected by a disaster and that a faraway service provider might offer more security in a crisis.

Complete redundancy is costly
Since 9/11, millions of dollars have been spent preparing for the next big disaster, yet cost-conscious IT managers must recognize the risk of putting too much emphasis on disaster planning. Creating a completely redundant operation that is able to handle any size emergency is not only cost prohibitive, but a gamble, considering the lost opportunity of investing those resources elsewhere.

Using long-distance availability service providers can help you avoid this type of redundancy. One of the benefits of using long distance availability service providers is that they cater to any size disaster. However, most clients tend to focus on recovery of mainframe and distributed computing systems. While end user considerations are important, a cost savings can be achieved when a well-researched business continuity program places data availability as the highest priority.

What’s your take?
Since the August blackouts, many professionals in IT are taking another look at where their disaster recovery plans fall apart if large geographic regions are experiencing a disaster. Do you feel there is any merit in contracting with availability service providers that are not located near your headquarters? At what size operation does this issue become a concern? What are some of the disadvantages of using a remote service provider? Feel free to chime in on these and other questions associated with long distance availability service providers by joining the discussion below.


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