Why Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Are Not the Same

Click here to learn what differentiating factors there are between data backup and disaster recovery.

July 16, 2014 by Alex Collins, IT Services Consultant



On the surface, data backup and disaster recovery may appear to be the same. However, that is far from the case.

A backup is simply a secondary (or even tertiary) source of reliable information in case of a data loss or server failure.  Backups take place on a regular schedule determined by the network administrator. Depending on the amount and sensitivity of the data, the storage method can be anything from optical discs, to tapes, to the cloud. Once the backup is complete, it is usually brought to a secure off-site location for storage. Generally speaking, if the need arises to extract data from the backup, it takes an average of 24 hours to get the media back on site, load it, and retrieve the necessary information. Whether it is a lost file or a stolen laptop, backup is all about protecting data.

Disaster recovery focuses on the ability to recover from an event, such as a flood or fire, as quickly and completely as possible. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan includes not just the physical backup, but the entire recovery process. Disaster recovery is all about strategy.

That strategy needs to include more than just day-to-day data. It should include a complete image of servers and critical desktops. This allows for more complete and quick recovery, as opposed to just restoring the OS and then retrieving all the lost files from the backup. It is also important to have multiple copies of any data and images created and stored off-site in case of a failure of the primary backup. Offsite copies are essential, as this protects the data from onsite disasters. In the event that an issue affects one of the offsite backups, backup redundancy offers an important safety net.

Many businesses are utilizing the cloud as part of their disaster recovery strategy. This is an incredibly flexible solution for several reasons. The cloud service provider ensures that a business’ information and images are available around the clock. The data store is geographically-independent so it can be recovered to any location if the primary business site is no longer available. The cloud service provider also ensures that the hardware and supporting software is kept in tip-top shape. This means that the IT staff can focus on getting information back online in the most efficient manner.

A disaster recovery strategy also needs to specify the individual processes and personnel required to initiate and complete the plan. This is a living process that requires periodic reviews and updates. It should also include regular tests of the process in order to identify gaps, so they can be corrected. Finally, it should include an inventory of necessary hardware, and the order of events required to get the backup restored. A well-documented process is the key ingredient. It must be straightforward, well documented, easy, and accessible to all the main players.

Ultimately, disaster recovery includes a data backup, but a data backup is not disaster recovery.

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