The Difference between Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

The Difference between Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

This is a topic I discuss with many business owners and focus on in many webinars and seminars. What is a good backup? How do I know I have what I need? What happen if…? Did we test them? How long will it take to get things running again if we are impacted?

All of these are valid questions, and ones you should know he answer to. If you don’t know the answer to any one of these then you need to read on. I will discuss the difference between Backups, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity and why you need a Disaster Recovery Plan for your business.

It really doesn’t matter what business you are in; if you store customer data of any kind, rely on email to communicate with clients, or use any kind of CRM, ERP or Accounting System, then you need to have a Backup & Disaster Recovery Plan (BDR) for your business. There is a lot of information you can find about this but I’d like to give you one very important fact that every business owner needs to know: 86% of business that sustains a major loss of critical company data, without the ability to restore it, are out of business in 6 months. Statistical fact, not fiction.

So lets dive into it:


Everyone knows what a backup is, but do you know what you should be backing up and for how long?

Depending on the business you are in, there are regulation that govern the security of customer data, such as HIPPA and PCI. These regulations make sure you are implementing a basic standard of protecting your customers data and how it is stored, shared, and archived. I’m going to start with some basic business practices for backup.

Local Backup – This is a method that grabs a snapshot of your critical data and communications history(email) on a daily basis and stores it on a dedicated storage medium as your primary backup. Use specialized backup software that can perform synthetic backups, storing an original copy, then augmenting the original with daily changes that can be merged with the original. Set a standard minimum of retention for 2 years. Email is now a legal communication method in a court of law. Most states have retention laws for business and 2 years is a good standard if your not sure. I would check with any local laws that affect your business, especially for HIPPA and PCI compliance. You should be able to restore any data from your backup by file name and date. Backups should be tested on a regular basis. Automate the backup process as much as possible but check it to make sure its being done properly. The human element in this equation is usually the one that fails. Most find out their backups failed only after a catastrophic failure when its to late.

Off-site Backup – Lets say you’ve done what I described above. You’re religious about your backups or your IT company manages them for you. You’ve covered the bare basic. Many businesses reside in multitenant buildings. What happens when a fire starts a floor below you, in a kitchen or break room overnight. You get a call from an employee opening the office at 7am that your office is inaccessible and damage is unknown, but your office was affected. Where is your local backup stored? Attached to the server. Unfortunately your server room was affected and the backup device destroyed along with the server. You’ve got a real problem now. Here’s where off-site backups protect you.

  • Old School – an employee takes a tape(really old) or drive home every week and trades it out with a second left on-site. The human element in this always fails. People get busy and forget. Backups are not tested and often fail.
  • New School – Cloud based backups fix most of this issue. They provide all the options of a local backup, but with the protection and benefit of being off-site in a data center. Most provide secure encrypted transmission, automated testing and easy restore methods. Your connection speed becomes an issue sometimes.

Business Continuity

This is an area many businesses need as they are dependent on working infrastructure to maintain their business. Most companies over 25 employees are looking to Business Continuity Solutions to insure everyone can continue to work and be productive after a catastrophic event in very short order. Business Continuity ensures the business continues to do business in the face of any catastrophic event.

Cloud Solutions such as Desktop as a Service(DaaS), put the entire operational side of the network at a data center where employees use Remote Desktop Solutions to access their work from anywhere without missing a beat. Cloud Service Providers have hardware, software and environmental redundancies, as well as site-to-site replication between data centers that make being down, under any circumstances, a thing of the past.

Cloud based phone systems such as RingCentral keep the operational part of your phone system in the Cloud across 17 international data centers to ensure someone can always answer the phone for customers.

These solutions do not rely on the environment of your office to host solutions and allow for companies to conduct business anywhere you can connect to the Internet.

Disaster Recovery

This is more than just a service. Disaster Recovery is about having an action plan for certain types of failures that employ many methods and/or services as well as a documented procedure to follow in case of such an event. It would employ some or all the methods mentioned to combat day-to-day accidental deletions, virus, malware, ransomware, natural disasters, and security breaches.

I hope this help you understand what is really needed to maintain a business IT environment and helps you feel more comfortable about what these terms mean, and why they are important. As part of what we do as Managed Cloud Services Provider, we can build a Disaster Recovery Plan for you to help you determine and implement the most cost effective methods to insure the continuity of your business.

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