Disaster Recovery vs. Cloud Backup. What is the difference?

Written by Sarah Doherty, Product Marketing Manager, iland

Data loss and security breaches are becoming increasingly common events in the today’s world. It is not a matter of when, but if a disaster of any kind will happen.  All of an organisation’s information must be protected and readily available at all times in order for a business to survive. Considering this fact, the importance of backups cannot be overestimated. However, while backing up vital data is an integral part of any business’s IT strategy, having backups is not the same as having a disaster recovery plan.  Differentiating backup from disaster recovery can help you develop effective strategies for avoiding the consequences of downtime and business disruptions.


Understanding the basics of backup and disaster recovery is critical for minimising the impact of unplanned downtime on your business. Across all industries, organisations recognise that downtime can quickly result in lost sales and revenue, interrupted service, possible supply chain disruptions and loss of reputation due to bad press about an outage. Unfortunately, natural disasters, human error, security breaches and ransomware attacks can all jeopardise the availability of IT resources. Any downtime can disrupt customer interactions, employee productivity, destroy data and freeze business processes.


What is backup and disaster recovery?

There’s an important distinction between backup and disaster recovery. Backup is the process of making an extra copy (or multiple copies) of data. You back up data to protect it. You might need to restore backup data if you encounter an accidental deletion, database corruption, or problem with a software upgrade.  It is important to have a backup solution in place. Backup protects your data in case of theft (a single laptop to office break-ins), employee accidents (deletion of an important file), or a technical issue (crashed hard drive). With this protection, you can access a copy of your data and restore it easily.


Disaster recovery, on the other hand, refers to the plan and processes for quickly reestablishing access to applications, data, and IT resources after an outage. That plan might involve switching over to a redundant set of servers and storage systems until your primary data center is functional again.  Don’t get caught up on the term “disaster” and believe it has to be a major incident. A disaster can be your entire network crashes and your employees can no longer work for the day (or longer). With a disaster recovery plan, your employees can continue to work by using the mirrored system. With your employees set, your IT works on fixing the problem with the original network.  Having an inadequate DR plan can negatively impact your organisation leading to interrupted service, lost sales and revenue, high costs, potential supply chain disruptions along with possible loss of reputation due to the bad press around an outage.


Some organisations mistake backup for disaster recovery. But as they may discover after a serious outage, simply having copies of data doesn’t mean you can keep your business running. To ensure business continuity, you need a robust, tested disaster recovery plan.


What are the key differences between Backup and Disaster Recovery?  

If backup and disaster recovery are compared, there are several distinct differences that exist between the two:


  • Different Purposes. Backups work best when you need to gain access to a lost or damaged file or object, such as an e-mail or a PowerPoint presentation. Backups are often used for long-term data archival, or for purposes such as data retention. However, if you want your business to quickly restore its functions after some unforeseen event, you should opt for disaster recovery. With both the DR site and DR solution in place, you can simply perform failover to transfer workloads to the VM replicas at the DR location, and your business can continue to function as normal even if the production site is unavailable.
  • Distinct RTO and RPO. Setting up Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is crucial for any business. Backups have longer RTOs and RPOs and thus are not suitable for business-critical data that you need quickly restored after a disaster. Disaster recovery, on the other hand, implies replicating your critical VMs with the aim of quickly performing failover if necessary, which means that DR can accommodate much shorter RTOs and RPOs.
  • Resource Allocation. Backups are usually stored in a compressed state and do not require much attention or storage space. Disaster recovery, on the other hand, requires a separate site with fully operational IT infrastructure that should always be ready for possible failover at any time.
  • Comprehensive planning. The backup process is rarely complicated: an organisation simply needs to create and stick to their Recovery Point Objectives as well as requirements for data retention. With disaster recovery, things immediately become more complicated. Besides the need for the additional resources, a business needs to evaluate the importance of business applications and prioritise the recovery order of the VMs running such applications.


Your organisation cannot afford to neglect backup or disaster recovery. If it takes hours to retrieve lost data after an accidental deletion, your employees, customers or partners will not have access to vital data prohibiting them from completing business critical processes that rely on your technology. And if it takes days to get your business back online after a disaster, you may permanently lose customers and business revenue.  Given the amount of time and money you could lose in both cases, investments in backup and disaster recovery are completely justified.

Don’t wait for disaster to happen.  For most organisations, backup and disaster recovery strategies are absolutely critical to maintain the future of the business.  Organisations must address IT recovery by creating a comprehensive solution that encompasses people, process and technology.   iland Secure Cloud solutions can help you evaluate and update your strategies, which can help you control complexity and cost.  Backup and disaster recovery plans can help only if they are designed, deployed and tested long before they are needed.  iland offers cost effective, scalable and secure cloud backup and disaster recovery as a service for all of your business essential data.