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Disaster Recovery vs Cloud Backup: Understanding the Difference

June 6, 2018

You want to protect against data loss and ensure business continuity, whatever your business’ size or sector. But do you simply back up your files, folders and databases – or do you back up your entire server? Disaster Recovery or Cloud Backup? What’s the difference? How does it all work? Which is best for you? These are the questions every business needs to address, especially with the advent of GDPR.

To answer them in the most informative and supportive way, let’s begin by clarifying the all-important distinction between the two…


What is cloud backup’?

Many individuals and small businesses simply opt to protect their files and data using cloud backup. As an alternative or addition to hard-drive back-ups, cloud backup provides reassurance that all is not lost, and enables quick recovery of data in the event of a sudden but small failure. For example, if you lose your laptop, or your desktop’s hard drive fails, you can restore data and files once the hardware issue is resolved.

Cloud backups are absolutely fine for protecting files and data on a larger scale, too. Individuals, organisations and businesses that create or depend on large amounts of critical data can easily automate backups from physical servers to cloud servers, and a business cloud server backup is a great way to protect business-critical data against hardware loss or failure. However, when we get into the realm of large physical servers that are crucial to day-to-day operations and business continuity, server cloud backups should be considered just one part of a wider strategy to keep files and data not just safe, but also accessible. This is where disaster recovery comes highly recommended…


What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery supplements the all-important back-ups that businesses and organisations make of their data by focusing on the IT or technology systems that support critical business functions. As such, it relates directly to business continuity – it’s all very well having data protected by server cloud backups, but if you don’t have a disaster recovery policy in place and can’t use that data while your servers are being repaired or replaced, business will suffer.

Disaster recovery procedures essentially involve having a complete replication of your set-up, so they go way beyond the basic data backup. It’s designed to help you restore business-critical systems as well as that data, and will typically include the repair of networking systems and servers, as well as the methodical reinstatement of lost data – from disk or cloud-based backups – to the right systems, applications and user privileges.


Tiers of disaster recovery

There are eight widely accepted ‘tiers’ of disaster recovery, and these apply according to business type, size, preference and need.

Tier 0: No off-site data

Here, there’s no business continuity plan, as there’s essentially no saved data to reinstate. At best this makes recovery extremely difficult, and it’s often impossible.

Tier 1: Data backup with no ‘hot site’

This involves backing up data onsite and then storing physical back-up devices offsite. While secure, this can cause several days, if not weeks, of data loss – plus it relies on replacement on-site systems.

Tier 2: Data backup with ‘hot site’.

This involves regular backups and off-site storage, plus an off-site facility for restoring systems from those back-ups. Recovery is time-consuming, but more predictable.

Tier 3: Electronic vaulting

In this tier, at least some mission-critical data is backed up electronically, and tends to be more current. The recovery process may also involve a degree of automation.

Tier 4: Point-in-time ‘PiT’ copies

Businesses that depend more on up-to-the-event recovery of data, and faster re-implementation, often opt for tier 4, and tend to apply disk-based solutions instead of tape-based. Data ‘outage’ can still extend to several hours, depending on the volume of data and how it’s stored.

Tier 5: Transaction integrity

These are used by businesses that depend on consistency of data between where it was created and where it’s backed up, and minimal data-loss.

Tier 6: Zero (or near-zero) data loss

These solutions often use disk mirroring, and aim for the highest levels of data ‘currency’, and are therefore popular with businesses that have little or no tolerance for data loss, and depend on fast and accurate restoration.

Tier 7 : Highly automated, business-integrated solutions

At the highest tier, solutions place additional emphasis on automation of recovery, making it much faster and more reliable.


Business continuity management

Data back-up and disaster recovery should ultimately go hand in hand as part of an effective business continuity management plan. The business continuity solutions you apply, and the balance you strike between Disaster Recovery vs Cloud Backup, will depend on the nature and volume of data your business creates.


Writing an effective disaster recovery plan

Once you’ve risk-assessed your business for data loss and recovery, it’s time to write and implement a cohesive IT disaster recovery plan. There are disaster recovery plan templates available to help you do this effectively, and many will include a disaster recovery checklist to ensure you match your plan precisely to your business’ needs.


Disaster recovery solutions

Of course, you may not have the knowledge and expertise in-house to identify the combination of disaster recovery vs cloud backup that best suits your business. Fear not – there are many specialist advisors and providers out there to help you select and implement the disaster recovery solutions that protect your data and support business continuity management most effectively.

About BackupVault

BackupVault provides fully automated, hassle-free, UK-based cloud backup services to organisations all over the world – from small business to schools, to public-sector clients and large corporate enterprises.