What Are the Differences Between Backups and Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery planning is an integral part of any business’s IT strategy, and is becoming more prevalent as security breaches and network outages have become common threats.

In the beginning stages of disaster recovery planning, decision makers are often mistaken about what constitutes a disaster recovery plan. Many times they are misled by the idea that data backup is sufficient precaution in the event of a disaster.

“Customers often come to us seeking disaster recovery services without realizing that simply backing up their data is not enough,” says Joe Palian, Solutions Architect at Expedient.

While having a backup strategy is important, it is not the same as a disaster recovery strategy; rather, the beginning stages of establishing a proper DR plan. A backup is a copy of your data; a disaster recovery plan is insurance that guarantees its recovery.

1.) Data retention requirements

Backups are typically performed on a daily basis to ensure necessary data retention at a single location, for the single purpose of copying data.

Disaster recovery requires the determination of the RTO (recovery time objective) in order to designate the maximum amount of time the business can be without IT systems post-disaster. Traditionally, the ability to meet a given RTO requires at least one duplicate of the IT infrastructure in a secondary location to allow for replication between the production and DR site.

2.) Recovery ability

Disaster recovery is the process of failing over your primary environment to an alternate environment that is capable of sustaining your business continuity.

Backups are useful for immediate access in the event of the need to restore a document, but does not facilitate the failover of your total environment should your infrastructure become compromised. They also do not include the physical resources required to bring them online.

3.) Additional resource needs

A backup is simply a copy of data intended to be restored to the original source.

DR requires a separate production environment where the data can live. All aspects of the current environment should be considered, including physical resources, software, connectivity and security.

4.) Planning process

Planning a backup routine is relatively simple, since typically the only goals are to meet the RPO (recovery point objective) and data retention requirements.

A complete disaster recovery strategy requires additional planning, including determining which systems are considered mission critical, creating a recovery order and communication process, and most importantly, a way to perform a valid test.

The overall benefits and importance of a DR plan are to mitigate risk and downtime, maintain compliance and avoid outages. Backups serve a simpler purpose. Make sure you know which solution makes sense for your business needs.