Remember the scene in the latest Game of Thrones season where (spoiler alert) the undead dragon melts “The Wall,” releasing hordes of White Walkers? That’s kind of what downtime feels like to the modern enterprise—utterly disastrous.

There’s no shortage of data center downtime horror stories—airlines leaving passengers stranded, e-commerce sites parting with millions of dollars worth of missed opportunities, financial services being rendered useless. We’re living in an age of always-on technology. When IT equipment fails, productivity plummets and revenues recede.

It’s no wonder Grand View Research projects the disaster recovery market will grow at a compound annual rate of more than 36 percent through 2025. Disaster recovery is the last line of defense between business as usual and a dragon-like hit to your bottom line. It’s the wall behind the wall, so to speak.

As such, choosing a DR site is a big decision—one that should be based on the core factors we examine in this post. 

But first: Should you outsource completely?

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) can look appealing since it puts everything in the hands of a third-party provider. However, it’s not always ideal for organizations that want to have greater control over their information systems and the ability to manage backup workflows internally. And depending on the scale of company, DRaaS isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. 

Granted, the opposite extreme—building a new data center from scratch—takes a Herculean effort. Why buy land, construct a campus over it, connect it to the grid, etc. for a facility that you hopefully won’t have to rely on too often? 

Many enterprises have embraced the popular middle ground of leasing space from a colocation data center with existing infrastructure (electricity, cooling, security, etc.). This lets them deploy their own hardware and software and commission an in-house team of IT specialists to manage it. Think of it as a pre-built wall of ice stocked with rangers you trust and weaponry of your choice. 

Tips for choosing a DR site

With that in mind, let’s review a checklist to help you strategically select a backup site:

1. Connectivity

The DR site you select must support adequate connectivity to allow you to service your client base in the event of an outage. That is, after all, why you’re paying for the site—to support normal operations by keeping mission-critical servers online.

2. Safe distance from headquarters

Your DR site should be far enough away from HQ to be unaffected by any geographic disasters such as storms, flooding, etc. What’s more, remote management largely eliminates the need for proximity. The exception is active-active architecture, which should be situated within 30 miles or so to support ultra-low latency – e.g., Sabey’s Quincy and East Wenatchee facilities in Washington are close to business hubs in Seattle but still at a relatively safe distance from HQ.

3. Climate stability

Consider factors such as proximity to flood zones, geological fault lines, hurricane paths and other potential climate hazards. It’s also worth noting that cooling costs will likely be higher in lower-latitude sites.  

4. Uptime and availability

Backup servers aren’t “mission-critical” until, of course, they are. If you work with a colocation data center provider, make sure that they have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and redundant cooling. Your backup facilities need to be as resilient as your primary facilities. Also, make sure you ask about concurrent maintainability. This refers to a provider’s ability to perform maintenance on any facility equipment (electrical, mechanical, lighting, etc.) without disrupting power delivery to servers.

5. Security and monitoring

This almost goes without saying, but on-site operations and security teams should be staffed around the clock to handle any issues that arise and to safeguard the premises. Colocation providers are also responsible for implementing fire detection and suppression systems, temperature monitoring, video surveillance and other monitoring systems that ensure the safety and performance of facility infrastructure.

6. Total cost of ownership

Let’s face it: money matters, even in DR. In a colocation data center setup, tenants should primarily pay for the power that’s used to keep their IT equipment online, and as little as possible for the energy that supports it (cooling and other sources of overhead).

To this end, inquire about the provider’s average annualized power usage effectiveness (PUE). This metric is a ratio of power entering the facility to the amount used for the IT load. An average annualized PUE of 1 means that, over the course of a year, all energy used by the facility goes to servers and switches. The best recorded PUEs range between 1.1 and 1.2—but make sure the provider you choose gives you a number that reflects actual operations, rather than a calculation or theoretical value. 

Floods, hurricanes, cyberattacks, meltdowns, dragons—it’s an unpredictable world. Reclaim some peace of mind with a carefully selected DR site.