The Key Differences Between Backups and Disaster Recovery



Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: May 2, 2021

In the modern business world, no matter what sector or industry, a company’s collection of digital data is often its most valuable resource. This information must be secured and readily available at all times.

Trends in information technology, especially cloud computing, have made the process of data storage and security cheaper and easier to manage, but it remains a key responsibility for enterprise IT teams.

Data backups and disaster recovery are two of the most fundamental activities for companies who store critical information on local or cloud-based infrastructure. These concepts are related and can often be grouped together, but they still must be managed separately with independent planning and execution.

Basics of Backup Services

Enterprise backups can include any process where active data is copied to a secondary location for the purpose of archiving or redundancy. If your company’s operations run smoothly, then the best case scenario is that you will never need to refer to a backup version of data or perform any restorations at all. However, having such backups will reduce risk to a company and help prepare for unexpected incidents.

backups and disaster recovery

“A company’s backup collection needs to be inclusive of all relevant data, including external information created by customers and internal information managed by staff and employees”, says Ian McClarty CEO of PhoenixNAP a certified Veeam Cloud Connect backup provider.

The range of backup services will include file systems, databases, and even snapshots of workstations or servers that can be restored to a specific point in time. Any piece of data or repository that changes often should be on a backup schedule.

When planning your company’s approach to data backups, security should always remain one of the top priorities. If your live data is protected and locked down but your backups are not, then your business is still extremely vulnerable to outside threats and hacking. All backups should be treated as if they are live systems because they contain valuable copies of potentially sensitive data.

Backup Scenarios for Businesses

A company’s IT group should be responsible for managing the enterprise backup plan and schedule, as well as executing or automating the required activities. As an IT manager or executive, defining a comprehensive backup plan will save time and frustration for everyone involved. Backup plans should dictate exactly what systems and repositories are being backed up and the schedule for each activity.

Many third parties and vendors offer backup solutions that can help to automate tasks that would otherwise be very time-consuming for IT groups. These types of products come with many advantages, but they do not reduce the importance of diligent backups. Local IT staff should monitor backup logs on a daily basis to ensure that each activity has finished successfully. Any issues or errors should be investigated immediately so that the backup schedule can continue uninhibited.

Benefits of Backup Protection

Having a strong and secure backup schedule will provide peace of mind across an organization. It gives teams flexibility to push forward and drive change without having to worry whether a mistake could compromise the integrity of the company’s data. There’s nothing more frustrating than accidentally deleting a file from a computer and feeling that it will be gone forever. Backup protection makes that a non-issue and provides a very valuable service for organizations of all sizes.

Overview of Disaster Recovery

Data backups are a key piece of disaster recovery, but the topic is more wide-ranging and is often coupled with a concept known as business continuity. As a whole, disaster recovery is the practice of restoring a company to full operational capacity after a significant negative event, such as a natural disaster or malicious attack. For example, an earthquake near a major data center could bring all of a company’s application servers offline. The disaster recovery team is responsible for getting the whole enterprise running again after such an event.

backups and disaster recovery

Given their large scope, disaster recovery and business continuity have to be treated as cross-functional activities, pulling in resources both from IT and other areas of the organization. Any Backups and Disaster recovery require a specific plan and a set of tools to allow individuals to respond appropriately during a time of crisis.

Best Practices for Disaster Recovery

Given their responsibility for data backups and other digital services, IT groups are often put in charge of leading disaster recovery planning. When putting together a disaster recovery approach, you as the leader must envision a set of potential scenarios and outline the appropriate response steps for each one. But simply having a disaster recovery plan is not enough. You must also find a way to test the strategy without putting live operations at risk of interruption.

Fortunately, the growth of the cloud computing industry has made it easier to manage disaster recovery efforts. Companies can now house their primary live systems in one data center location while keeping a replicated environment in a separate geographic location. This type of redundancy acts as a continuous backup solution so that in case of an outage or incident with the primary data center, the company can quickly switch to the secondary system without sacrificing much downtime.

Risk Management and Disaster Recovery

By putting a clear and defined plan for disaster recovery into place as quickly as possible, a company can ensure its own business continuity and reduce its risk profile. Natural disasters and other unexpected incidents are impossible to predict, but with proper data backups and disaster recovery planning and execution, they do not have to turn into a cataclysmic event for your organization.

However, a disaster recovery plan can only remain valuable if it is treated as an evolving process. Any change to an IT system must be considered in the perspective of business continuity. If needed, the disaster recovery plan should be updated immediately to account for the change. Otherwise, when an event actually does occur, the disaster recovery plan may be out of date and at risk of failure.

It sounds obvious, but a company must also ensure that the actual documentation for business continuity is readily available to all team members involved in backups and disaster recovery efforts. Distributing hard copies to employees is a smart idea, because if the plan is only stored online and a natural disaster takes down all network services, then team members may not even be able to refer to the instructions and processes they need to follow.

Bottom Line

The differences between backups and disaster recovery should be defined by a company’s management group, with IT closely involved in both. Without a rigorous backup schedule and policy, disaster recovery efforts will typically struggle to succeed. But if a company can make all backup data secure and readily available, then the disaster recovery team will have the best opportunity to respond to major events and keep the business running smoothly.

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