What Is a Disaster Recovery Site?

A disaster recovery site, also known as a backup site, is a place that a company can temporarily relocate to following a security breach or natural disaster. The site is just one facet of the company's larger disaster recovery or business continuity plan.

Key Takeaways

  • A disaster recovery site is a place that a company can temporarily relocate to following a security breach or natural disaster.
  • A disaster recovery site ensures that a company can continue operations until it becomes safe to resume work at its usual location or a new permanent location.
  • When selecting a disaster recovery site, a company should consider the following factors: location, time frame, cost, and resources required.
  • There are two fundamental disaster recovery site options: internal and external.
  • Mobile- and cloud-based disaster recovery sites are becoming increasingly popular.

Understanding a Disaster Recovery Site

A disaster recovery site is part of an actionable backup plan in case a company's primary location or systems become inaccessible due to an unforeseen event, such as fire, flood, or data breach. If a disaster occurs and a company has a plan in place, it can continue operations at a disaster recovery site until it becomes safe to resume work at its usual location or a new permanent location.

What Should a Company Consider When Choosing a Site?

It can be challenging to weigh the costs and benefits of different types of disaster recovery sites, but a company should keep the following factors in mind when choosing a site:

  • Location: How far is the disaster recovery site from the parent site? If it's too far away, it might be difficult for people to get to work. If the parent location is close to public transportation, and some employees rely on that resource, moving to a remote site can be a problem. The company should also consider the surrounding location based on safety and amenities important to its employees.
  • Time frame: How long might the company use the disaster recovery site? This is hard to know in advance, but it's good to have a plan in case the company needs to spend a long time there.
  • Cost: How much is the company willing to spend for an adequate disaster recovery site? Generally, the more resources available, the higher the cost. Therefore, the company has to weigh the cost of the site against its benefits.
  • Resources: What company resources and technology are essential to the business to continue its operations? Is it necessary to have access to all data, or can employees operate independently of the systems?

Internal vs. External Sites

An internal recovery site is organized and maintained by the company, while an external provider maintains an external recovery site. Internal recovery sites are often set up with full access to the company's data, which is ideal for a firm that relies heavily on its information. This infrastructure means internal sites tend to be more expensive than external. External sites can range from hot sites to cold sites. Hot sites contain all customer data and information that employees have access to at the company's primary site, while cold sites have no company data. The benefits of external sites include lower costs (for cold sites) and not having the responsibility of everyday maintenance. 

Mobile and Cloud Disaster Recover Sites

Mobile disaster recovery sites are becoming an increasingly popular option—these often come in the form of trailers and can be arranged in specific locations and fitted with the requisite technological infrastructure. Companies may also use a cloud-based recovery site. The cloud minimizes the need for data center space, infrastructure, and resources—often providing a more cost-effective option for smaller companies. However, firms must consider their security and bandwidth needs when setting up a cloud-based disaster recovery site.

Practical Example of a Disaster Recovery Site

Cantey Technology, an IT company in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, that hosts servers for more than 200 customers, had fire breakout on its premises due to a lightning strike. The natural disaster destroyed the company's infrastructure, melting all of its computer hardware and rendering its office unusable. However, as part of the firm's business continuity plan, it had moved its client servers to a remote data center, which also stored backup files. As a result of the disaster recovery site, Cantey's customers were mostly unaffected by the fire.