The Difference between Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity

Business Continuity

The Difference between Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity

If you think “data backup” is synonymous with “disaster recovery” and aren’t sure what “business continuity” means, you’re not alone. Most of the business owners we talk to make the mistake of not knowing the difference and end up paying the price when data is lost, a network goes down or a disaster prevents them from accessing their physical office and the server inside.

Causes of Data LossFirst, data backup simply means a copy of your data is replicated to another device or location. Tape drives, offsite backup, online backup and even USB devices provide data backup. Data backup is obviously important but only the beginning.  How fast you can access that data after a disaster is where disaster recovery becomes relevant.

Disaster recovery is the ability for you to recover all your files, software and functionality quickly, easily and without corruption. For example, if your server died, you wouldn’t be able to quickly get back to work if you only had data backup. In order for you to start working again, your server would need to be replaced, all software re-installed, data downloaded and copied, and then the whole system would need to be configured with your settings and preferences. This process could take days or weeks – and that’s if you have all your software licenses and a clean copy of your data.

Then there’s business continuity. This is the ability for your business to continue to operate even after a major disaster. For example, if you ran an accounting firm and your building burned to the ground, you’d be out of business if all your files were on the server only. However, if you had your a backup of all your PCs and servers in the cloud your employees could continue to work from home or some other location, giving your business continuity.

Knowing the difference between backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity is critical if you value your data. You need all three at some level, but at a minimum you need to make sure you have the right cloud backup and disaster recovery system for your tolerance for downtime.  The 6 Most Costly IT Mistakes for SMBs tells you how to calculate your actual cost of downtime. Also, know your recovery time objective (RTO) to within an hour or less. If a documented disaster recovery or business continuity plan is needed, a business impact assessment can be done delineating each step to continuing business operations based on events like power and Internet outages, user error, hardware failure, software failure, flood, fire, lightning, theft, etc.  You should review your system and plan annually.