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3 min read

What is Failover? – Ask an IT Guy

The saying goes, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The same is true in any small business scenario. Life happens, and it always happens fast. Your system could be at the mercy of natural disasters, viruses, or even a fire. That’s where failover comes into play.

Imagine a whole system that could offer you uninterrupted, seamless work continuity in an emergency state. That’s what failover is all about.

Jonathan Barger, Technology Advisor at VC3, Inc., spoke to us about the role that failover plays in business continuity and backup plans.

What is Failover?

Failover is a recovery system that prevents you from losing valuable work hours if something momentous happens to your server, building, software, etc. Unlike your disaster recovery plan, this is a backup plan because it deals with the immediate need to avoid downtime or displaced work hours.

“A true failover copies all your server(s) to an offsite data center. Your server(s) should be synchronized in real-time, or at least several times a day, to ensure that the sync is perfect or as close to perfect as possible. The failover’s only function is to be your server(s) if your location goes down.”

The best part about your local server and your failover site is that the two systems are set up to communicate with one another.

“If you go offline, the failover will take over. Your system is designed to know where both of those are by default. So, at most, you should only experience a blip of time-lapse. For example, if you are sending an email, it may hold on for just a second. But you should be back online with the failover system nearly in real-time.”

How to Pick the Best Failover Option for Your Business

When your company is considering failover options, there are some key strategies. Just like in business, location is EVERYTHING.

“The biggest thing to consider is geographical separation. Suppose you are in a part of the country that is prone to certain types of natural disasters. In that case, you want to be geographically far enough away that whatever disaster might hit your building won’t hit the failover housing location. Outside of location, the most important things are power and Internet. Any good data center will exceed your standards on both.”

Besides natural disasters, the same rules apply – power and Internet reign supreme.

When it comes to both, everyone wants bigger, faster, and more robust. Work with your IT department to figure out what you currently have, if you have other options, or need changes to support your company in a failover situation.

Failover Tiers

Failover sites come in levels that vary in price. Think of it like Goldilocks and her porridge -- you must find the right temperature for your company’s needs. 

Cold Failover

“A cold failover is a synced server that is offline. If your server blows up, it takes some work to turn on the cold failover. Some things may need to be reconfigured, and then once it’s ready, pointing devices towards this server can take some time. Of course, this option is much cheaper than other tiers.

Hot Failover

“The hot failover is ready on standby all the time and can take over at any moment. It can be configured in a lot of ways, but in theory, you want it to be as seamless as possible for the end-users. For example, if your company’s location goes down, a hot failover takes over, and people wouldn’t notice. This tier is pretty high, and so is the cost.”

Picking the right tier comes down to what dollar amount makes the most sense for your company.

Working with your IT department or managed IT service provider, consider your business’s needs not only right now but in the future. Then, weigh the cost of each option and the price you would pay if your business went down.

Your IT provider is a wealth of knowledge. They can help in picking the best failover option for your company.

Questions about failover? We’d be happy to shed some light on the subject. Give us a call at (800) 481-4369 anytime.

🔎 Related: The Difference Between Data Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity

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