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The Difference Between Disaster Recovery and Data Backup



Protecting your data is an essential part of being in business.  If you lose access to your data, your business can be in real trouble.  On average, a company can be without access to its financial data for three days before serious issues start to settle in, including possibly even going out of business. In the area of data protection, two terms you will hear are “backup” and “disaster recovery.”  While both of these areas have the goal of protecting your data, backup and disaster recovery are not the same thing, and should not be treated as such.

What is Disaster Recovery?

It is all in the name.  Disaster Recovery is what you use to recover from a disaster.  The description hits the nail on the head.  In disaster recovery, we are not looking to back up individual files and folders.  The goal here is to create a full image of your server.  Full image protection means that the software is making a bit by bit copy of the server’s hard drives and storing the entire server as a single entity.  If you lose your server hardware due to a disaster, such as a fire, flood, or even a catastrophic hardware failure, your entire server can be restored either to the repaired server or entirely new hardware.   In a disaster situation, there is also the possibility of “failover.”  A failover is when you switch over from your production server, which is inaccessible, to the disaster recovery version of the server.  Failover can be a virtual image in the cloud, or on temporary hardware.  After your hardware is repaired or replaced, you would be able to “failback,” which is the process of moving your server’s data, including data that has changed since the failover, back to it’s new forever home. The goal of Disaster Recovery is to get your data back into production in the shortest time possible.

RTO vs. RPO

Two goals for disaster recovery are the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO).  Recovery Time Objective is the amount of time it would take to regain access to the server and the information.  An RTO of 72 hours means that you can expect to have access to your information within three days of the disaster. Recovery Point Objective is how old the restored data can be from the time of the disaster.  Since many disaster recovery systems copy data once per day, depending on when the last data synchronization was, the restored information can be up to 24 hours old.  If data is protected once per day, it would be an RTO of 24 hours. With updated technology, including cloud-based services and virtual machines,  that can monitor data as it is changed, we can now measure RTO and RPO in minutes or hours rather than days.

Data Backup

The other form of data protection is called Data Backup.  Backup systems protect servers and workstations down to the file and folders level.  With Data Backup, you can restore anything from a single file or folder to an entire directory structure.  With Data Backup, as opposed to Disaster Recovery, Data Backup does not assume that you have had a catastrophic failure of your equipment.  While Disaster Recovery systems will be utilized to protect from things like fire and flood, backups are there in case you accidentally delete or overwrite a file.   In both cases, you are protecting your data, and if you absolutely had to, you can use your data backup to restore data after a disaster, or you could use your disaster recovery services to bring back a file you accidentally deleted, but it would be overkill just like using a sledgehammer to put a push-pin into a cork-board. Both of these services are an important part of your business risk management, and if you have servers in your network environment, both should be properly implemented and managed. Protect your data and protect your company, contact Unfrustrating Computers at 516-679-5540 and ask us about our Data Backup and Disaster Recovery services.

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