Backing up data in enterprise IT systems is as old as enterprise IT itself. Banks, for example, have been backing up to prevent data loss in the event of a natural disaster. But in the last two decades or so, acts of corporate espionage, terrorism and employee sabotage are other reasons for taking frequent data backups.
Today, companies are taking onsite or offsite backups of data using tape backup, a secondary computer, and more recently on a cloud hosted backup solution. Backup is required as protection against accidental mishaps like a theft, mistaken deletion of a file, and technical issues such as crashed HDDs. The backup ensures that a copy of the data is always available, easily accessible and quickly restorable.
However, Data Backup has its own disadvantages:
- To begin with, Data backup has limited coverage. It's designed to protect data-intensive file types like Word or Excel and common databases like Access, SQL, Oracle™, and the like.
- Data backup is still dependent on working systems to restore the data that is backed up. This is useless when there is a hardware failure as during a natural disaster or act of sabotage. In these instances, you must first replace and reconfigure the hardware before the data is restored.
- Data backup requires scheduling processes. Should one take daily, or weekly, or monthly backup? And for how long? Months or years. Not having this clarity or being dependent on long-term backups can make it an expensive exercise.
In lieu of these disadvantages, a more sophisticated form of Data Backup has emerged in recent years, aptly called – Disaster Recovery.
Disaster Recovery or DR is an approach that replicates the map of the entire IT system covering end-user computers, network files, all software programs and all data in such a way that they can be recovered quickly in case of an incident. DR is not hardware dependent. This means, all data; databases; software programs; OSes and their settings can be restored to new hardware even if they have no software loaded on them (called a "bare metal" restore). When new hardware is being ordered, or when a hardware failure has occurred, DR will restore the entire IT system onto the cloud and the same is recovered once the hardware is in place.
Needless to say, DR is costlier, more complicated, and requires thorough planning and policies on part of the organization to implement a fool-proof program. Despite this, it's a superior option over data backup from a business continuity perspective.
Knowing the difference between Data Backup and Disaster Recovery is critical to a company's operating model. You could use a mix of data backup for less critical data and DR for more critical data, or a hybrid option like Unified Backup and DR. Whatever strategy is adopted by the organization, the focus should be not be on reducing costs in the short term but minimizing risk in the long term.