What’s the difference between backup and disaster recovery?

I must admit that the line between backup and disaster recovery has become blurred to the point that the two terms have almost become interchangeable. In fact, a lot of IT providers are guilty of simply tossing around the words without making sure you know what the difference between the two is.

Backup and disaster recovery are, in fact, quite distinct concepts. Let’s use national geography to better understand their relationship. Backups are like Ontario and disaster recovery in this case is Canada. Ontario makes up part of Canada but I hope no one would say Ontario is Canada. Similarly, I would like to think that no IT provider would claim that backups are an entire form of disaster recovery. Just like Canada’s other provinces help form this great country, you need several other things including backups to create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

Of course simply knowing backup and disaster recovery are different terms isn’t enough to help you make a decision on what your business requires or how an MSP can help. You need to understand what these differences are to get a better idea of how your company will benefit from implementing backups, a disaster recover plan or both.

Backups – A necessary part of doing business

There is nothing worse than losing a document because you didn’t save it. It can be even more frustrating to lose a document you did save because something happened to the device or server the information was stored on. With a backup system in place, this doesn’t happen.
According to research from EMC Global, data loss and the resulting downtime costs the Canadian economy a staging CAD16 billion a year.

You probably don’t want to end up contributing to that sum so it’s best to have a backup system featuring both on- and off-site backups in place. When planning a backup system, you want to start by understanding your business requirements and then design that system around the technical elements. A good MSP can help set this up and will create multi-layered protection using both on- and off-site backups.

On-site backups

The first part of a comprehensive backup plan starts on-site. Keeping your data here is a good idea for numerous reasons. For starter’s, since everything is on-site, it makes it easy to restore data regardless of if you need one file or one million files. And since everything is at your place of business, you will be able to access the files without needing to be connected to the internet, something that’s not possible when data is stored off-site and only accessible via the cloud.

Off-site backups

A number of forward thinking businesses not only keep on-site backups but now also utilize off-site backups as well. This gives you an additional level of security should something happen to your physical servers. And since off-site backups are updated automatically and managed by your MSP, you don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about these.

Two is better than one

It’s fairly obvious why having on- and off-site backups make sense in case of a large disaster such as a fire, but in reality, there are other instances where having both will help. Let’s say your systems are affected with CryptoLocker, a nasty piece of malware that will prevent you from accessing your data unless a ransom is paid. If you have regularly updated backups off-site, you can simply restore your system using these and avoid having to meet the demands of the cyber criminals who have stopped you from accessing your files.

One thing to remember is that backups only take care of your data and files. While having access to them is great, you need to have the software and tools to use these files. Without the backup of these applications, your files might as well be rendered useless.

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Disaster Recovery – It makes the difference

As we mentioned before, backups are important to disaster recovery efforts but only play one part of the process. Think about it like this, if a fire hits your office and ends up damaging your servers beyond repair, having access to your data isn’t going to help all that much since the applications needed to use this info are gone as well.

You’ll need mission critical systems up and running ASAP. Creating an environment that can run these applications remotely is the fastest way to get this done. It might be days, if not weeks, to reinstall one piece of software at a company and having to install several can take months. Simply put, that is time you don’t have.

When sitting down with your MSP, it’s important to detail what systems and software you need to use right away and which ones you can do without for a few days. They should have the ability to create a virtual server that will let you and your employees have access to the systems you need in hours, or even minutes depending on how good they are. Your IT provider can then work on getting the non-critical systems back up and running before eventually getting everything working as it was before the disaster.

Once vital programs are operational, that’s where regaining access to your data becomes key. If you have a secure, off-site backup, you’ll be able to start using your data the moment systems are functioning.

Without a disaster recovery plan in place, you face an uphill struggle to stay in business let alone get work done should something happen at your company. A recent study revealed that 43 percent of North American companies who experienced a data disaster never re-open and 29 percent close within two years of it taking place.

A final note

One of the most troubling findings from the research presented by EMC Global had to be the fact that 55 percent of Canadian businesses don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place. This is astonishing when you consider that 72 percent of those same companies that were surveyed also noted that they had experienced some sort of data loss or disaster related downtime.

I’m still astonished by that revelation. A lot of business owners know trouble is around the corner and have experienced it first hand but still don’t seem to understand that with a disaster recovery plan in place along with proper backups, they will be able to cope with a disaster and keep profit loss to a minimum.

However, in order to organize a proper disaster recovery plan you, along with your IT provider, must understand how they are different from backups. If your MSP simply offers you off-site data storage and labels it as disaster recovery, you’re going to be in for a rude awaking when something does happen.

At Dyrand, we believe that not only should our clients be protected, but they should be educated as well. We’ll sit down with you and explain the differences between things like backups and disaster recovery and then tailor a solution that meets your requirements. Want to know more? Get in touch with us today!