Once you’ve made the decision
about the functions
of disaster recovery (DR) that you want to outsource
, the next step is
finding the right partner. Don’t necessarily equate an outsourcing firm’s size
with quality of service. Your primary goal is to match the service or services
you require with a partner that specializes in those areas. The one exception
may be when you are looking specifically for a colocation hosting facility. In
that case, the size of its data center will be important in evaluating its
capacity for handling your data. TechRepublic’s download, “Evaluate
external data center providers with this 36-point checklist,”
will
give you a start on some of the aspects that you need to consider.

The choice of what partner to go with will be highly
influenced by how much of your organization needs to be outsourced. If you’re
just looking for a company to manage off-site storage of tape backups, you’ll
have a lot more flexibility in terms of what companies you can use. If you need
someone to handle your entire DR plan, there are a limited number of
specialized firms that can offer the entire package.

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Also keep in mind that just because a firm is able to perform
a function that you need, it doesn’t mean you should go with them. Tape backup
storage is something just about anyone can do, if they have the space. However,
you should remember that tape storage is a niche industry, and your preferred
partner should have dedicated storage space that is climate controlled, along
with the ability to return the tapes to you immediately if you need them. The
best companies can offer a four-hour (or less) return of any tape in storage.

Many firms provide rented space (racks, power, shared servers, etc.) for you to use to host your DR solutions. They can also offer “hands and eyes,” or trained personnel that can provide you with the ability to remotely administer your systems for reboots and the like. Solutions providers—as opposed to hosting providers—can also provide you with expertise and monitoring, while handing off to either your own data center staff or rented space from another firm. This can allow you manage your DR systems without adding the mind-share under your own roof. Some firms can offer both types of resources, so this could mean using one firm for both services and space, or splitting it up to allow you to manage them independently. Either solution set can work, but you’ll need to think about this before going forward to ensure you don’t leave anything out of the mix.

Outsourcing to foreign entities is a hot topic these days. Once
more, I would like to point out that this column will not get into the
political factors, as that choice is usually more of a business decision than a
technical one. Using off-shore outsourcing firms can sometimes provide services
at a lower price-point, so long as you have the expertise in-house to manage
the outsourcing firm. This is the case in any outsourcing situation, but even
more so if the partner is in a different time zone, or speaks a different
language than your staff. Use the same criteria in evaluation of off-shore
firms that you would to find a local firm, but keep in mind that you will have
to find a happy medium between low cost and high-maintenance. There are also
security issues to consider, since some countries do not operate under the same
privacy guidelines, and if data theft occurs,
it may also be more difficult to investigate and prosecute.