How long could your business survive in the event of a problem which resulted in the loss of your entire IT system?
How you answer that question might significantly influence the type of emergency IT standby arrangements you put in place.
The standby solution that reduces your 'downtime' to perhaps almost zero is called 'hot standby'.
What is 'hot standby'?
It is essentially the provision of a complete IT infrastructure that mirrors your existing live system.
Typically, though not necessarily essentially, that mirror-image of your system and its data is in a third-party location. That's because should a major environmental problem (e.g. a fire) at your normal site cause the total loss of your infrastructure, it might also destroy any mirrored systems should they be in the same location.
What does it do?
The basic idea is that if you lose your normal live IT systems, you can automatically or at the flick of a switch, simply switch over to another identical system to enable you to keep running your business.
Your downtime is therefore reduced to somewhere between virtually nothing and perhaps more practically, a few minutes, as you throw the appropriate switches to connect you to your hot standby site.
What is required for this type of standby service?
The exact specifics will vary considerably depending upon the nature of your production system.
You will normally contact a specialist IT service provider who will work with you to analyse your requirements and build a mirror-image of your systems on their own IT infrastructure. It will also be important that on a normal day-to-day business, your live data is frequently updated on to your mirror site in order for it to be up-to-date.
That's because cutting over immediately to a hot standby site in a crisis might not be of great use to you if its databases are hours, days or even weeks out of date.
Can I mirror my entire IT establishment on an emergency standby site?
Yes, you can though there may be some very minor differences.
It's important to note that there may also be some legal issues surrounding data protection. The law is very specific about your rights to move confidential customer data to a third-party site though allowance is usually made for things such as standby and disaster recovery contingencies.
Your specialist standby services provider will typically be expert in any legal issues that might arise.
It might be worth keeping in mind also that occasionally there could be issues with moving copies of your customer data outside of our domestic legal jurisdiction in circumstances where you choose to use an overseas provider of standby services.
That is something worth taking specialist advice on if you are considering doing so.
What happens if the disaster affects my office work space as well as my IT infrastructure?
There may be little point in having your main application and data systems replicated on a mirror site if, following a disaster, your staff couldn't actually access it because your office premises had been damaged or destroyed.
It is perfectly possible to take out a hot standby arrangement whereby an emergency office work space could be made available to you at another location within a very short space of time. That could then be your base of operations from which to use your mirrored system until such time as your own systems and premises were restored.
Once again, your specialist IT services provider will be able to offer further advice on that one.