What is the difference between backup & disaster recovery?

What is the difference between backup & disaster recovery?

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Backup and disaster recovery are terms that probably everyone has heard until now, but not many people realise their importance and what exactly is the difference between the two. Every business, organisation or institution should get to know these terms and what stands behind them. 

Today, almost every type of business works with digital data, applications and systems. Unexpected events can occur at any time, and a few examples include malicious software or activity, natural disasters, hardware, software and other system failures, data breach and more. All of these can cause irreversible consequences for your business and finances and permanently lose customers. 

It is crucial for business owners and IT professionals to acknowledge that prevention and preparation are far more productive and money-saving than thinking about the problem after it has already happened. Every professional should think about their backup solutions and disaster recovery solutions.

Today’s blog post will discuss the definitions of backup and disaster recovery, key terms you should know, the difference between them, and what you should choose for your business.

What Is Backup?

Most people have heard of data backup, but not many know what exactly it refers to. Backup is an essential step every small or large business should take towards protecting their business data and ensuring business continuity. 

Definition of Backup

The term “backup data” used in technology refers to creating copies of data that you can, later on, restore if the original data is deleted, lost, etc. You can backup files in different locations to ensure maximum safety. 

For example, you can store the copy on physical hardware (hard drive, computer, data centre etc.) or create a virtual copy stored on the cloud. 

Types of Backup

We can categorise data backups according to how frequently they occur or where the copied data is stored. Terms you can see online include full backup, differential backup, incremental backup, cloud backup, and local (traditional) backup, but let’s discuss each one separately. 

Types of Backups According to Their Frequency

We can further break down backups into full, differential and incremental according to how often and what data you copy.

Full Backups

Full backups are used to copy complete data sets and store them at the designated location. That means you will have a copy of all new updates and new files. 

The main disadvantage of this backup method is that the software copies lots of information simultaneously, which results in a slow process. That’s why people usually do not perform full backups on a daily basis.

Differential Backups

Differential backups detect file updates and copy only data that has changed since the last full backup. This process usually takes less time and data storage than the full backups, but if lots of time passes since the last full one, the chances are that your data changes are rather significant, and it might take an extended amount of time.

Incremental Backups

One can easily mistake incremental backups for differential ones because they are similar in that they only copy files that have changed. However, incremental backups are way faster, require less data storage and can be performed daily because they only save changes from the previous backup and not from the last full backup.

Types of Backups According to Storing Location

When you back up your business data, you create copies that you need to store at a safe location. This location is usually local (traditional) or somewhere on the cloud. 

Local backups give you physical control and access to your data. Typically, people use disks, external hard drives, other computers or entire IT infrastructures such as data centres to store their local backups. 

Cloud backups use the internet and give you web-based control over your data. There is no hardware, only a safe location on the cloud where your business data is stored. It is easy to increase your storage capacity if your business needs to expand.

What Is Disaster Recovery?

Another critical aspect of business continuity is disaster recovery (DR). That is why millions of businesses and organisations implement a DR plan as part of their IT solutions.

Definition of Disaster Recovery (DR)

Disaster recovery is typically associated with a carefully designed plan. Such plans are necessary in case of natural disasters affecting business premises or cyber-attacks and ransomware disrupting the workflow. 

While the causes might be hundreds, the effects of such events are usually the same – financial loss, legal issues, reputation loss, client mistrust and more. Planning a disaster recovery involves setting your goals and objectives in case of such events that mainly require recovering functions, data and business-critical processes quickly.

What Does a Complete Disaster Recovery Plan Involve?

The main goal of such a plan is to reduce disruption and downtime to a minimum. 

It is essential to identify and define the core functional components of your business and your objectives, including:

  • Key systems and for how long you can function without them
  • How much and what data can your business afford to lose?
  • Maximum recovery time without causing losses
  • Manual or automated recovery systems
  • Where will your work tasks transfer during the disaster recovery process?

Key Terms Used in Disaster Recovery Plans

You can undoubtedly encounter terms you might not know of just yet when talking about DR. 

Below are the most common expressions you need to know :

  • Business continuity – plans and procedures to keep business operations running
  • Risk assessment – identifying business risks based on occurrence likelihood
  • Business recovery team – the people who will execute the DR plan
  • Application recovery – restoring business software
  • Mission-critical – the crucial system or application that runs the majority of the business
  • Recovery time objective (RTO) – the maximum allowed time to recover (from the point of disaster to the point of complete system recovery)
  • Recovery point objective (RPO) – defining the point to which you need to recover data and system functionality.
  • Production/Primary data centre/site – the site where the original data is stored
  • Secondary/Recovery site – a secondary site built from the primary, activated in case of a disaster.
  • High availability – refers to your production or recovery environment having a high uptime.

Key Differences Between Backup and Disaster Recovery

First off, although connected, the two terms refer to completely different actions. A backup strategy takes care of creating and saving a safe copy of your valuable data and apps. 

It is a critical part of a disaster recovery strategy that aims to recover business function and relations in case of worst-case scenario events. Implementation of backups and disaster recovery contributes to business continuity and strategic resilience. 

Backup vs Disaster Recovery: Purposes

The purpose of performing regular backups lies in the necessity of being able to retrieve lost, accidentally deleted or mistakenly updated files. Making a second copy of your file stored at a safe location will allow you to restore backup data to a specific version you need at any time.

On the other hand, disaster recovery aims to prepare for disastrous events that present risks to your business continuity. Such events might be natural disasters like fires and earthquakes, ransomware and malware, cyber attacks, internal and external threats. The DR recovers business functions and workflow as soon as possible and keeps the business running.

Backup vs Disaster Recovery: Storing Location

Backups are usually compressed versions of the original data and do not require significant amounts of free storage. People typically store them locally (onsite) or on the cloud (offsite). 

Usually, organisations and businesses that implement disaster recovery strategies in their business plans invest in renting or buying separate premises or remote data centres with complete IT infrastructure. These centres are where the tasks and functions of the primary system are transferred to when a disaster occurs.

Backup vs Disaster Recovery: Timeframe and planning

When you plan your backups, you need to consider what type of backup you will use, how often it will copy files, how much and what data it will cover and how quickly you will need to be able to retrieve it. Most businesses can quickly answer these questions, organise a backup routine and retrieve lost data if necessary.

On the other hand, disaster recovery takes much more time to plan and execute properly. You need to consider all the factors, including possible risks, RTOs, recovery point objectives (RPOs), recovery team, production and recovery sites, client communication, public relations, etc. 

Creating such a plan will require evaluating risks, prioritising data and apps, all possible outcomes, estimation of data loss and human resources.

What should you choose for your business?

Backup and disaster recovery are equally important to ensure business continuity and recover normal business operations. Whether your business is small or large or what sphere you work in, backing up your data regularly and implementing a disaster recovery plan is crucial. 

Data shows that the leading causes for IT disasters can be categorised into three distinctive types: operational failures, natural disasters and human-induced disasters. 

The two most common reasons for each type are:

  • Power failure
  • Hardware failure
  • Hurricanes
  • Floods
  • Human error
  • Malicious outsider

All of the above and other causes are known to completely erase information, share sensitive data without consent, or disrupt work processes, such as call centre activities or working finance apps. And these are just a few examples. 
Studies show that 50% of businesses that have experienced data loss for ten or more days went bankrupt immediately. As frightening as these statistics sound, they show why you need to choose both solutions for your business.