The Difference Between Disaster Recovery and Data Backups

The Difference Between Disaster Recovery and Data Backups

Backups and disaster recovery are critical aspects of any organization’s infrastructure, but they are often confused with one another.  This isn’t surprising as both involve mitigating data loss. The misconception we often see is that backups cover the full scope of preparedness for a potential disaster. However, they are simply one component and the two terms should not be used interchangeably. Read on for a little clarity!

Data Backups

Data backups are the process of backing up your organization’s data on a regular basis. If you’re been around long enough you probably remember swapping tapes in and out of the server every morning, or last thing before you hit the lights and locked up for the night. Depending on the nature of your data, the frequency may vary, but at an absolute minimum they should run once per day.

Data backups are important because they allow an organization to recover their data in case something goes wrong with the original file(s). If a user accidentally deleted important records, you could simply pull a copy from the most recent backup. So the more often you run backups the better, as you will have more options during a recovery to help minimize lost productivity.

Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery is the process of recovering from a disaster, such as a fire, hurricane, or data breach. Disaster recovery planning includes creating a plan for how you will recover your organization’s systems and data in the event of a disaster. This plan should include steps for activating your disaster recovery plan, restoring your data, and getting your systems up and running again.

Implementing the Correct Data Backup Strategy

The first step in establishing data backups is to identify the data that needs to be backed up. Not all data is created equal, and not all data needs to be backed up as frequently. Identify all of the data that is important to your organization and tailor the schedule accordingly.

The next step is to select the right backup method. What you choose will depend on the nature of your data. Some of the most common backup methods include image-based backups, file-level backups, and application-level backups.

Once the right backup method is identified, select the right backup media. The most common options include hard drives, tape drives (yes, still!), and cloud services. A complete solution will include several of these working in tandem.

Last, establish a schedule and stick to it. It is best if this can be automated so that the human element is removed and the possibility for forgotten jobs is eliminated. As mentioned before, make sure this is at least once a day, but if possible, back up data more frequently so that the business impact of a recovery is minimal.

Building a Comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan

A comprehensive disaster recovery plan should include both the data backup plan from above as well as clearly defined disaster recovery processes which outline how your organization will work through an event start to finish.  Building a comprehensive disaster recovery plan generally consists of the following steps:

  • Identify the most critical systems and components in your organization. 
  • Create an inventory of hardware and software needs. 
  • Conduct a risk assessment to determine which threats pose the greatest danger to your organization. 
  • Develop rollback strategies for lost data (e.g., what do you want to roll back to if a disaster occurs?). 
  • Plan for data restoration (e.g., where will your restored data reside?). 
  • Plan for system restoration (e.g., what systems will you need to rebuild your infrastructure?)

Take Care of Your Company

Set your company up for success - don't stop with just a data backup plan, establish a thorough disaster recovery plan, and don’t forget to TEST IT! Having all of this in place and ready to go will ensure your organization is ready when disaster strikes.

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