Backup and Disaster Recovery: What’s the Difference?

Published: February 9, 2017

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Unexpected downtime and compromised files are major threats to modern businesses as attack vectors continue to expand. As a result, many organizations are working to better protect their information through backup and disaster recovery. While these two initiatives have similar goals – protecting a company and its data – they should not be used interchangeably.

Backup and disaster recovery are two separate assets that can be used in tandem for an effective business strategy. Knowing the differences between these initiatives will help managers understand what they entail and where they fit into the grander scheme of business continuity efforts.

Backup business data

Backups are essential to disaster recovery strategies, but not every situation that calls for backups happens on a disaster scale or causes major business downtime. For example, if an employee accidentally deletes an important file, he or she can easily retrieve it if the document was archived or backed up. A backup initiative is the first line of defense against losing files due to human error or equipment failure, BizTechMagazine contributor James E. Gaskin noted. Backups are the most basic form of file security and accessibility that an organization can utilize.

Backups are the first part of a disaster recovery strategy.Backups are the first part of a disaster recovery strategy.

Traditionally, companies would back up their important data onto tapes on a scheduled basis. However, the physical nature of this technology made it vulnerable to adverse conditions and prolonged use. Once security in the cloud improved, a new doorway was opened up for businesses to store and access their critical information. It's highly advised for organizations to evaluate their documents and back them up according to priority. Backup initiatives should follow the 3-2-1 rule: three backup copies, stored across two different mediums like hard drives and the cloud, with one stored offsite. Using this method, organizations can ensure that they always have an up-to-date version of their data available.

Prepare with disaster recovery strategies

As noted earlier, backups are a significant part of disaster recovery, but they are just the beginning. In order to have a truly effective disaster recovery strategy, businesses must have the right recovery systems connected to its data to reflect the production environment as well as the right people and processes in place when needed, Forbes contributor JP Blaho noted. Such a plan improves resiliency against events such as adverse weather events, cyberattacks, outages and other disaster situations.

"It's vital for operations to get back on track."

Disaster or unexpected downtime can severely impact a business's ability to recover and retain its unblemished reputation. It's vital for operations to get back on track as soon as possible, and a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy is the guideline that will help organizations get there. An industry survey of IT professionals found that 54 percent of respondents had a data outage of at least eight hours within the past five years, The Wall Street Journal reported. These events happened for a variety of reasons, including hardware malfunctions, power outages, human error, malware attacks and data corruption. However, despite these events, 40 percent of participants didn't have a documented recovery plan. Organizations must not only ensure that they create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, they must also train employees and test their strategies at least once a year to identify any gaps that need improvement.

Protecting a business is no easy feat, but backups and disaster recovery are major pieces needed for this effort. Understanding the differences between the two initiatives and the situations where they are used will help organizations utilize them more effectively and establish a clearer strategy for business continuity. Preparing today can help avoid critical events in the future.

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Eric Tabor

Chief of Staff | Vice President- Strategy & Operations at ISG Technology
Eric joined ISG Technology in 2012 bringing with him experience from ISG’s parent company, Twin Valley Telephone, Inc. He is a member of the Twin Valley senior management team that managed the company’s organic and acquisition growth strategies resulting in the company tripling in size from 2005-2010. Prior to joining Twin Valley he held sales and operations leadership roles at Southwestern Bell/SBC in multiple Midwest locations. He holds a B.A. in Mass Media and Communications from Washburn University. Eric currently resides in Olathe, KS with his wife and their two children.

Eric joined ISG Technology in 2012 bringing with him experience from ISG’s parent company, Twin Valley Telephone, Inc. He is a member of the Twin Valley senior management team that managed the company’s organic and acquisition growth strategies resulting in the company tripling in size from 2005-2010. Prior to joining Twin Valley he held sales and operations leadership roles at Southwestern Bell/SBC in multiple Midwest locations. He holds a B.A. in Mass Media and Communications from Washburn University. Eric currently resides in Olathe, KS with his wife and their two children.

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