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Volume 32, Issue 3

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Monday, 15 July 2019 15:28

Geodiversity: An Essential Part of Any DR Plan, Despite Company Size


We’ve recently seen severe weather conditions worsen in America with the intensity of hurricanes increasing by 10 percent last year, and the frequency of tornadoes quadrupling. Recently, California suffered an alarming 7.1 magnitude earthquake. These extreme weather situations can cause major damage to businesses, affecting their offices, their power and even their data. Hurricane Harvey, the hurricane in 2017 that devastated Mexico, the Caribbean and some southern states, cost the U.S. around $125 billion in economic loses and that number is still growing two years later.

These horrific natural disasters can cause terrible loss for communities and the businesses within them. Impacts can range from businesses being down for a few hours or days—or even having to close if the damage is long-lasting enough.

Natural disasters can cause power outages that last for a long period of time; it took Puerto Rico nearly a year to reiceve power after the hurricane in 2017. Power outages can cause a loss of most (if not all) technllogiews used to run businesses – payments, communication and tracking are just a few of many ways a lack of power can negatively impact businesses.

With statistics showing that 92 percent of small businesses use the cloud, and 66 percent of small businesses couldn’t operate without wireless technology, the loss of businesses in these instances can often lead to unemployment and a dip in the local economy. While geodiversity may not be able to fix all the technical problems that severe weather conditions can bring, it can help businesses get back on their feet.

Geodiversity, short for geographic diversity, refers to the distance between two or more data center facilities. In the case of a disaster recovery plan, it is important to ensure that you have geodiversity configurations. The idea is that you want to maintain adequate distance between your primary and backup sites in the case of a catastrophe, thus ensuring that your data is always secure.

But it’s not always extreme weather that can cause a backup site to fail. It can be something like a virus or theft, or even something as simple as a wire being tripped over or a power outage. Having a backup data center that is several miles away (industry experts recommend somewhere between 60-200 miles) means that you will have a greater capability to recover any lost or damaged data.

But having a second data center hundreds of miles away is often seen as unfeasible for most small to medium sized companies. It used to be exclusively accessible to large enterprises. The cost of setting up one data center is exponential, let alone a second or a third. However, recently, cloud-based solutions have changed that. Companies are now able to benefit from data centers provided by IT solutions providers who offer data protection and disaster recovery services via the cloud.

The addition of cloud hosting to IT services has allowed for the cost of disaster recovery services to drop, and for smaller companies to afford this vital piece of technology. Managed security service providers (MSSP) are now able to utilize the cloud to lower the cost of transferring data between data centers, and even between data centers and clients. This has allowed a multitude of companies tobenefit from geodiversity.

Baystate Health is a great example of this. The integrated health system provider had its entire data center operations located in Springfield, Massachusetts, and they lacked geodiversity in their disaster recovery plan. With Springfield being above the Massachusetts state average for tornados and earthquakes and above the country’s average for natural disasters in general, geodiversity was something needed for Baystate Health. However, while geodiversity seemed like the logical option for Baystate, it had to work within tight budget parameter and meet the health system’s requirements to have operations back up and running in less than two hours.

Baystate Health was able to use one of the IT solutions providers that took advantage of cloud, making it more affordable and accessible. Through this partnership, it was able to stretch its network to a fourth site in Michigan, managed by a third-party IT solutions provider, which would guarantee recovery of their operations within minutes.

With the cloud making geodiviersity more accessible for smaller companies, the options have become vast. It’s important to keep in mind some specific criteria when deciding which IT solutions provider to use. The location of the data-center to your primary data storage facility is vital, as it is the key element of creating a disaster recovery plan that has a strong geodiversity factor. However, you should also be aware of the natural disasters and security of the area that the additional disaster recover plan is in; ideally you want to pick a provider that can offer a data-center that has significantly reduced amount of natural disasters than where your primary storage facility is situated.

You should also be aware of the scability of your IT solutions provider. The type of business as well as the demand for data your company requires whill implement the features and capacities you will require; there is not a one-size-fits all when it comes to data-centers.

Like Baystate Health, having geodiversity as a part of your disaster recovery plan is important, and with the advances in cloud, it is achievable. While geodiversity is something that should be implemented by all companies, it is especially essential if you operate in an area that is prone to natural disasters, power grid redundancy is common, or you have to comply with certain regulations like HIPAA or PCI.

With the increase of severe weather conditions and the fact that more businesses are becoming reliant on data to operate, the need for geodiversity is more important than ever. Local businesses are the backbone of communities and the rapidness in which they can recover greatly benefits the communities and can lessen the lasting impact of natural disasters. Thankfully, the cloud now makes it feasible for non-enterprises to have access to a second data storage center through IT solutions provider, and while this may not heal the multitude of losses caused by natural disasters, it can help communities get back on their feet quicker.

Amanda Regnerus is executive vice president of product and services at US Signal.