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The Difference Between Backup and Disaster Recovery


23rd June 2020

In the event of say, a network outage or security threat, your IT needs to have a plan b: downtime can cost your business thousands. What many businesses may forget though, is that backup differs from disaster recovery. Backup is merely a copy of your data. Disaster recovery, on the other hand, is a full proof insurance plan that guarantees a return to normal in any scenario. Here’s an outline of the key differences in detail.

They have very different use cases

If you’re archiving data long term or you need to quickly access data that’s lost or damaged, then backups are your friend. Disaster recovery, on the other hand, is about quickly restarting your entire businesses’ IT functionally after an unforeseen event. Anything from a cyber-attack to a fire.

They have different recovery speeds

Or in other words they have different RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (Recovery point objective). RTO is the time needed to recover data after an incident before significant harm is done. RPO is the maximum length of time/data lost that can be endured before suffering significant harm. Backups have longer RTOs and RPOs. This means they’re pretty ineffective in adequately restoring business-critical data after a disaster. Much of this is because…

They use different levels of resources

Disaster recovery requires a separate physical site. It must also be perpetually alert and ready for possible disasters at any time. Backups are compressed. They can be easily forgotten about and, whilst this will depend on the type of media, they won’t usually require much storage space.

They require different levels of planning

On the whole, backup is done automatically, without much hassle. However, complete disaster recovery requires far more planning. Critical systems must be determined and a communication process must be drawn up. There are also details like ensuring you have a secondary location. One where your business can operate from should your primary option be compromised. Most importantly, the planning process requires outlining a mechanism for performing an adequate test.

The best way to view a backup strategy is as an initial step in building a full disaster recovery plan. As mentioned, everything must be tested and verified. The only thing that makes disasters more disastrous is discovering your plan has holes in it. One other thing to note, the term “disaster” is quite broad. Earthquake, is one example. But it could equally be something as simple as an entire network crash, preventing any work from being done. Businesses need to offer an “always-on” approach in case the worst should happen. And if the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that “the worst” is perfectly plausible.