Backups vs. Disaster Recovery: The Differences and How to Plan for Both

As business owners, we typically prefer not to think about what would happen if we suddenly lost all of our company’s data and crucial information through a breach or accident. With client trust on the line and a possible lack of compliance with regulation, there’s a major potential for disaster. Ignoring this is a blind spot that puts our business, and our customers in jeopardy. While IT support can help, we still have to be mindful of planning ahead.

If you’ve been through a personal data loss with your own computer or phone, then you know there are often ways to restore information, but that still takes time and effort. And the “disaster recovery process” only goes smoothly if you’ve completed backups.

The Difference

To take a step back, it’s important you understand there’s a distinction between a backup and disaster recovery. A “backup” is the process of creating an extra copy (or multiple copies) of data. You back up data to protect it. You might need to restore backup data if you encounter an accidental deletion, database corruption, or problem with a software upgrade. “Disaster recovery”, on the other hand, refers to the plan and processes for quickly reestablishing access to applications, data, and IT support and resources after an outage. That plan might involve switching over to a set of servers and storage systems until your main data center is up and working again. Or, working with your IT support to develop more solutions.

Creating a Plan for Both

Remember, a backup strategy is different than your disaster recovery strategy.  Copying your data is the first step and creating a disaster recovery plan as insurance that guarantees its recovery is the second one. To create your company’s disaster recovery game plan, what you should consider is the cost of downtime for your business and these three plays.

  1. How often are you completing back-ups without errors or exceptions?
  2. What are your data retention requirements?
  3. How would you recover data if an event took place?

Include your personnel in the plan, your internal team members, and your IT support, and determine how frequently backups should be performed, who will perform them and who will be on call to restore data in the event of an emergency. Also build a QA process into your plan to ensure the data that is backed up is consistent and free of errors.

Backups are typically performed daily to ensure the data is retained. But, your team should consider what your RTO (recovery time objective) is in your overall plan, so there’s a baseline understanding of what the maximum amount of time is that your business can be without IT systems.

Would you have your IT support team ready to step in and help support new infrastructure if your hardware or resources became compromised? It’s important to consider the little details. How are you actually double-checking the relevant data you need is backed up? Do you understand the type of files and whether that type needs to be backed up? What is your IT support team responsible for versus your internal staff? Building a complete disaster recovery plan means sitting down with your team and thinking about every scenario.

By having a process in place, disaster recovery planning does become an integral part of your business’ IT strategy, and when you plan, you show your customers you truly care about keeping them safe too.

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