Main Differences Between Disaster Recovery and Backup [Updated 2023]

Gloria updated on Feb 22, 2023 to Knowledge Center

Are you debating whether to invest in disaster recovery, given that you currently have data backups? You can make a more informed decision with the help of this article. Most businesses and individuals believe there is no difference between data backup and disaster recovery. The two storage solutions, however, perform very distinct functions, so in no way is that viewpoint correct.

Even though they both function as storage options to keep your data available during an outage, they differ in terms of their objectives and the kind of help they offer. With that in mind, availability and ease of access are the primary differences between disaster recovery and backup. Moreover, understanding the differences between disaster recovery and backup might help you or your company immensely during downtime.

So, in this article, we'll go into detail about what you need to know about disaster recovery and backup, along with what makes them different from one another.

disaster recovery

What Is Disaster Recovery?

From a more general point of view, disaster recovery is a plan to offer an immediate but temporary backup for a server when it has been compromised by an attack, natural disaster, or another issue. It is a more organized type of storage solution that helps prevent prolonged downtime, as you can stream your server from the DR site until your primary site is up and running.

Once configured, DR storage solutions are primarily automatic and require little effort to resume following an unexpected occurrence. However, it all depends on the recovery timeline established by the DR team to ensure the maximum amount of time that could elapse before you finish disaster recovery (RPO) and the amount of time acceptable to be in downtime following a disaster (RPO).

In the event of failures or disasters, disaster recovery ensures a quick continuity of your operation and reduces the loss of customers and severe loss of data. 

What Is Backup?

Backups are simply copies of your files that are kept elsewhere so that you may retrieve them if the original file is damaged, accidentally destroyed, or attacked. The goal of backup is to make the files accessible when needed, regardless of whether they are physically or virtually stored. Your files will still be accessible for as long as you wish to retain them in the backup location, provided there are no problems with the backup site that could result in data loss.

However, to be on the safe side, it is advised that you save your files in multiple places while performing backups. When you run into problems with your files, corporate servers, or data in general, backups are essential to avoid receiving a severe setback. The reality is that every server may experience an outage, which is why you should constantly think about having backups ready.

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Disaster Recovery vs. Backup: Main Differences

Let's imagine you run an application your employees utilize on a server in your business. If you were to experience a hacker attack or a natural disaster that rendered the server unusable, your employees would no longer be able to run the stated program. You could assume that in this situation, having a backup in place would be wise since you could restore the server using the backup you created. 

However, this server is likely composed of enormous files that will require a lot of time to restore, say more than a day in some cases. This option will be disastrous for your organization, resulting in prolonged downtime that could have been easily fixed via disaster recovery. The compromised server's clone, known as disaster recovery (DR), could serve you during outages until your primary server is back up and running.

That is a scenario comparison of disaster recovery vs. backup, which should give a good insight into the difference between the two options. 

Basis of Comparison Disaster Recovery Backup
Purpose Ensure business continuity wherever unforeseen circumstance like disaster or attack occurs Make a copy of files available in case the original file is lost
Complexity DR is usually tasking  Creating a backup is relatively simple
Outcome IT system streams  File copy
Cost of running Little expensive  More expensive 
Failure Region-wide failures and large-scale attacks Basically, for critical attacks Small-scale attack, host failure
Target devices Big servers, virtual apps Servers and device storage
Mode of running  Usually automated  A mix of manual and automatic process
Downtime Minimal downtime Prolonged downtime
Credibility  It makes it easier to get your system back to running  Create a compromise in your service since it’ll take more time to use the backup to get your system back to working condition
Data replication interval  DR replication interval is continual  Within an interval based on the type of backup being used

Those are the differences in which we can compare disaster recovery and backup.

Wrap Up

While always having backups available is essential, you should also consider creating a disaster recovery plan if you operate a large server on which an application or a system is running. This will prevent profound data loss or protracted outages that could hurt your business.

FAQs About Disaster Recovery vs. Backup

1. What are the three types of backups?

The three main backup types that we have are as follows: 

Full backup: As the name implies, a full backup is a case when your entire data gets backed up any time you perform a backup. Though it's easy to set up, it will take a lot of storage and network bandwidth.

Differential backup: This type of backup occurs when only the files that have been changed since your last full backup only get backed up. It's pretty efficient, faster, and saves a lot of storage compared to performing a full backup every time.

Incremental backup: It gets better with this type of data backup, as only what was changed in the file or data since the last backup is backed up when using incremental backup. Unlike differential backup, the only file containing a change that was made gets backed up, and with time, it takes too much storage, more like a full backup. 

2. Why do we need backup and disaster recovery?

If a storage device or server that houses your files or hosts an application you use is compromised, backups and disaster recovery will be beneficial. You will still have a chance to restore your system using disaster recovery and the backups you created in each scenario. However, if you don't have these things set up, you'll probably lose access to the lost data.

3. How will you back up data for disaster recovery? 

You only need to make a copy of your system model that will temporarily keep your system running after a disaster to get the primary system back to working conditions after creating a good discovery plan that includes knowing things essential to keep your system running after a disaster. Depending on your desire, you can make this clone either on-premises or in the cloud. 

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