Backup Data Center: How Far Away Should It Be?

April, 2005

Computer Economics was asked recently to advise a client on how far a backup recovery data center should be from the primary site. After researching industry and government standards, we had a surprising insight: it’s possible to have a recovery site that’s too far from the primary site.

Planning the location of the recovery site is an integral part of the overall process of disaster recovery planning (DRP) and business continuity planning (BCP). In today’s volatile business and political climate, many organizations are re-examining the importance that location plays in developing a recovery site plan. Although there remains no single, overriding standard, both the federal government and private industry have developed new guidelines that can be helpful in deciding the optimal distance between the data center and its recovery site. Based on various studies conducted over the past few years, it is clear that the placement of a recovery site too far away from the main data center can be just as devastating as placing it too close.

Too Far or Not Far Enough?
Regional events and/or accidents caused by nature, climate, industrial, and other traditional areas of concern still dictate the need to ensure the recovery site is located far enough from the main data center so as not to be affected by a single incident. However, new threats such as the events of 9/11 have shown that placing the recovery site too far way can cause significant problems that could severely impact recovery time. For instance, a regional terrorist attack could shut down major airports throughout the country, making it necessary to drive the required data, equipment, and personnel to the alternate site. If the site is too far from the primary work location this could become a major logistical issue.

Some observers have stated that there are other considerations that must be weighed heavily in the choice of a recovery location, such as not locating a recovery site in Northern California for a data center located in Southern California. This requirement grew out of the concern that a major earthquake could cripple both facilities simultaneously. New data suggests that this is an improbable scenario, indicating that distance, cost, and facility considerations should be considered above natural disasters that may impact geographic areas that encompass hundreds of miles.

The New Reality
The events of 9/11 have changed many aspects of doing business, making business continuity a front-burner issue. One of the most dramatic effects that 9/11 has had is how organizations will build a recovery site strategy for the 21st century. It is now of critical importance for companies to reexamine their assumptions regarding the optimal distance of the recovery site.

Information for this Research Byte was taken from our recent report on this subject, Data Center Recovery Site Planning: Geographic Considerations, which provides detailed information on the recommended minimum and maximum distance requirements. Subscribers can view this report for free, and non-subscribers can purchase it online via credit card, at following link: