Key Differences Between Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity and Backups

11 Nov 2019 by Mike Allen

Terms like disaster recovery, business continuity and data backups are often used interchangeably. However, these terms are not the same, and if you want to properly protect your data and mission-critical business systems, it’s essential to understand the difference.

We will examine each of these concepts in great detail below and look at how cloud-based disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) factors into the equation.

Business Continuity (BC) – A business continuity plan describes how your organization will respond to a disaster and how to recover from it.

Disaster Recovery (DR) – Disaster recovery is one element of a larger business continuity plan. It typically involves information technology (IT) solutions for keeping an organization’s data and critical systems safe so they can be restored after a disaster.

Backup – Application and data backups may be a part of your disaster recovery solution, but they aren’t traditionally automated for application recovery – a fundamental difference between data backup and replication technologies.

To elaborate, here are the main distinctions and considerations for each to help you craft your disaster recovery – business continuity (DRBC) strategy.

Business Continuity Planning: The First Step

A business continuity plan and the discussions around them begin in the executive suite. It’s essential that your executive team understands the business impact of critical systems going offline. Typical questions—which you must formally premeditate—include the following:

  • What systems do we absolutely need to continue delivering products or services at an acceptable level? Which systems are nonessential?
  • Will we continue to generate revenue if an application becomes unavailable? Or is losing the app is an annoyance but won’t hinder operations?
  • How will we respond to a disruptive event such as a natural disaster, cybersecurity threat or employee who has gone rogue?
  • If our office becomes inaccessible, how will our employees continue to work? Do we need to consider business continuity suites?

Answering these questions helps define which systems and data are mission-critical, how frequently they need to be backed up and how quickly they need to be restored when they fail.

How’s your business continuity plan? Approximately 25 percent of organizations have a formal plan for disaster recovery or business continuity. This includes defining and documenting the systems that need to recover first and describes the impacts a disaster will have on revenue.

The other 75 percent lack a business continuity plan and would benefit greatly from working with a third party to conduct a formal impact analysis.

Business continuity planning is the first step in formulating a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy. Unfortunately, the majority of business continuity plans often get put on the back burner and their importance is only fully recognized after catastrophe hits.

Disaster Recovery Plan: The Next Step

Assuming you’re in the 25 percent of organizations that have a business continuity plan, your next step should be to move forward with disaster recovery planning. This should always start at the business level and doesn’t fall exclusively under the purview of the IT department.

Do you have a disaster recovery plan checklist? If not, download yours by clicking here.

A disaster recovery plan starts with figuring out what’s needed to support your organization’s applications and essential data. An expert disaster recovery consultant can use various tools and platforms to help answer the following questions:

  • What operating system (OS) is your server or virtual machine running?
  • How many compute resources are tied to this server?
  • How much storage is being used?
  • Are hardware versions relevant, and if so, what are they?
  • What technologies can you use to replicate required workloads?

At this stage, it’s necessary to document dependencies between servers and virtual machines. An application may reside fully on one system. However, in some instances an application resides on multiple VMs or servers, affecting the disaster recovery process considerably.

Backups, Replication or Both?

Does your organization have a regular schedule for data backup? Is it performed on-premise by your IT department, offsite at a colocation data center or do you relying on a cloud provider to do it for you?

Many organizations mistakenly choose either data replication or traditional backup based only on their application’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). However, data backups should never be your standalone disaster recovery solution.

Replication includes the software, platforms, and providers that have near real-time data replication to a new location. With replication, data can be restored in as little as 15 minutes and can augment your strategy.

What happens when your organization suffers a disaster with data replication? Your organization and IT department will immediately focus on retrieving data from the last recovery point. However, many organizations and IT departments run their backup daily and this elevates the risks of losing hours of data including sales, service, billing, inventory and everything else – assuming your previous backup finished successfully and replicated offsite.

You will also need to restore the applications that have access to your data. Offsite backups may only back up the application data, omitting the applications themselves. And if it excludes the operating system and application, you’ll have to coordinate replacing them before beginning the restoration.

When is the last time that you tested your backup and replications systems? Do you have a schedule for testing? If not, you should create a process for testing and make sure that both onsite and offsite are in sync.

Other Considerations: The Rise of Cloud DRaaS

In the past, planning for a disaster required a substantial investment in IT infrastructure. Given the rise in popularity of cloud technologies and virtualization – as well as replication – advanced disaster recovery technology is now within easy reach of most organizations.

Cloud computing has dramatically reduced (or eliminated) capital expenditures, and software-defined processes decrease errors and reduce recovery time. Consequently, organizations and IT departments have better access to disaster recovery strategies that keep systems up to date at a secondary site or in the cloud and can bring them online in minutes.

Notably, cloud disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) reduces complexity by providing the target environment, infrastructure, technology, and professional staff to help you quickly recover.

Demand for DRaaS rise steadily over the last few years has been driven by cost reduction or cost avoidance. Certainly, greater adoption of cloud technologies and the associated benefits make DRaaS is an avenue worth exploring for many organizations.

Given the many uncertainties that stem from a disaster – potentially including power loss, water damage, user error, malware or a natural disaster such as a hurricane – the people you need to restore backups and get your business up and functioning may themselves be affected. Since no one knows what the situation will be, it’s best to keep your disaster recovery solution as simple and automated as possible. Simpler, orchestrated disaster recovery is always more successful in disaster tests and during actual emergencies.

Top Cloud DRaaS Providers

There are many cloud DRaaS and BaaS solutions in the market. How do you know which one is right for your Organization? Contact Us - An Independent Datacenters.com disaster recovery and business continuity consultant. We are an authorized partner for all of the major DRaaS and BaaS providers. Here are just a few of the top cloud DRaaS providers we represent.

Zerto
Zerto offers an all-in-one IT Resilience Platform, converging Disaster Recovery, Backup, and Cloud Mobility in one simple, scalable platform. Their platform reduces the cost and complexity of application migrations and data protection with Zerto’s unique platform utilizing Continuous Data Protection. Orchestration built into the platform enables full automation of recovery and migration processes. Zerto analytics provides 24/7 infrastructure visibility and control, even across clouds.

Veeam
The Veeam Availability Platform is designed to guide you through these stages. It’s the most complete solution to help make your data smarter, self-governing and available across any application and any cloud infrastructure. Veeam helps customers evolve the way they manage data from policy‑to behavior‑based and make it smarter and self‑governing, and ensure it's available across any application and any cloud infrastructure.

Microsoft Azure Recovery
Microsoft Azure Recovery allows you to achieve low recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) targets for every major system in your organization, simply and cost-effectively. Eliminate the hassle and cost of secondary data centers and tap into nearly infinite capacity at a moment’s notice with a cloud-based data recovery solution designed for the needs of enterprises.

Achieve business goals for continuity and compliance throughout the lifecycle of your apps. Help secure your data with industry-leading protection offered by encryption features.

Carbonite
Carbonite Recover securely replicates critical systems from your primary environment to the Carbonite® cloud. This ensures that an up-to-date secondary copy is available for failover at any moment, minimizing downtime as well as costs. You pay for what you use when you use it – and not for idle resources.

Carbonite provides byte-level replication maintains constant synchronization between the source and target. Push-button failover helps you keep critical systems online during an outage. RTOs as low as minutes, RPOs as low as seconds.

Final Thoughts on Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity, and Recovery

It’s time to make sure your business-continuity and disaster recovery plans are current and that your team is strategically positioned. With the advent of cloud-based services like DRaaS, the economics of scale for disaster recovery have shifted, and organizations of all shapes and sizes can more easily afford the disaster recovery planning their organizations require.

Author

Mike Allen

Mike Allen serves as VP of Solutions & Engineering and engages with clients directly to determine the best course of action for their IT infrastructure based on current and future requirements. Mike has an extensive technical background having worked for some of the largest carriers both domestically and Internationally. He specializes in data center, network, cloud and communications. He holds several certifications including CCNA and SSCA.

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