Choosing a Business Continuity Recovery Site

If an organization experiences a ‘denial of access’ or ‘loss of premises’ due to incidents such as extended power outage, flood or fire, an alternate location for critical business processes and staff needs to be established.

An Alternate Site is the premises to which a business unit may transfer its operations in the event of a business continuity incident. This is sometimes also known by the name Fallback Site or Recovery Site.

There are a number of different options that can be used as an Alternate Site depending on organization’s overall BCP strategy, recovery time frame requirements, budget etc. These are:

Commercial Recovery Site
In most capital cities there are organizations that provide both dedicated and shared recovery seats and some provide IT recovery infrastructure as well. Annual leasing fees are paid based on the number and type of seats required as well as for any IT equipment, storage of your IT equipment and other related services.  

Internal Property Assets
Sometimes organizations may have other property assets which have vacant, underutilized or lower priority business functions housed there. These could be designated as an Alternate Site  for a higher priority business function should the BCP need to be invoked. This is why it is important to have a clear prioritization of your business functions from the BIA as it will ensure lower priority business functions are vacated in the event of a significant business disruption to enable operations of a higher criticality to continue. It is also vital to have a displacement plan in place for the regular staff of the Alternate Site so everyone knows where they are going. Other considerations when planning how to use the displaced Alternate Site are transport, parking, seating, security access and IT requirements.

Often staff are already geared up to telecommute and this does offer a low cost solution that suits many business functions. However there still needs to be a clear plan around which business functions are expected to telecommute and to ensure they have the resources such as IT equipment and remote access in order to do their jobs.

Vacant seats or displaced seats at a partner third party organization
On some occasions there is a partnerthird party organization that have capacity to house additional staff should the need arise. This may be a reciprocal arrangement. If an organization needs to rely on this type of arrangement it should be formalized and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the seats are able to be made available should they be needed and to outline any commercial terms.

Commercial Serviced Offices
A commercial serviced office will certainly have the meeting room, seating and internet access required to get many people up and running initially. However, as this is a first-in first-served arrangement it is not recommended that this be relied upon as the sole recovery site for critical functions. If the serviced office is likely to be subject to increased demand from other organizations affected by the incident, you may not be able to get in as expected. It is still a useful contingency to have the contact details for some serviced offices both near the office and geographically separate as well.   Hotels are also another option as they will typically have a business centre and meeting rooms.

In all instances it is best practice to maintain geographic distance between your primary site and your Alternate Site(s) in case there is a widespread incident affecting the general area of your primary site, for example, a large power outage. If your Alternate Site is too close, it may be affected as well. 

Whichever type of Alternate Site is selected it is vital to include this as part of your regular Business Continuity and IT Disaster Recovery testing exercises to build staff familiarity and ensure that they can activate and function as you planned.