2024 Gartner® report: Tips to bolster your disaster recovery program
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April 16, 2024

The synergy of backup and disaster recovery: an essential pairing

Data backup and disaster recovery (DR) are often mistakenly seen as interchangeable concepts. While both are crucial for business continuity, they serve distinct purposes that, when combined, create a powerful shield against data loss and downtime.

This article overviews key differences between backup and disaster recovery and the key benefits of an aligned approach.

How data backup and disaster recovery are different

Data backup and disaster recovery (DR) are two crucial components of your backup disaster recovery procedures and cybersecurity strategies, but they address different aspects of protecting and restoring your information. Here's a breakdown of their key differences:

Data Backup:

  • Focus: Creates copies of your data at regular intervals. This data can include files, databases, applications, and system configurations.
  • Objective: Restore lost or corrupted data due to incidents like accidental deletion, hardware failure, or malware attacks.
  • Scope: Limited to data. Doesn't involve restoring entire systems or ensuring business continuity during an outage.

Disaster Recovery (DR):

  • Focus: A comprehensive plan for restoring IT operations after a major disruption. This includes backup and disaster recovery procedures for bringing systems back online and minimizing downtime.
  • Objective:  The recovery of all or specific portions of IT infrastructure and business functions quickly after a disaster such as a ransomware attack, widespread power outage, or human error.
  • Scope: Broader than just data backups. Encompasses both on-premises and cloud disaster recoveries for networks, systems, and applications to maintain business continuity and regulatory compliance.

To put in succinctly, backups provide the raw materials (data) for recovering systems, while IT disaster recovery defines the plan and strategy on how to use those materials (backups) and other resources to rebuild your IT infrastructure after a disaster.

Together, this synergy creates a robust shield for your business against data loss and downtime.

The synergy between backup and disaster recovery 

So why does a backup and disaster recovery plan work synergistically as one?  As we said earlier, think of data backups as the raw materials and IT disaster recovery as the blueprint.  Here's how their synergy creates a robust posture for recovering applications on-premises and in the cloud:

  • Faster recovery: Backups provide the data, while the disaster recovery plan dictates the most efficient and automated way to use it. This streamlined process gets your systems back online quicker, reducing disruptions.
  • Enhanced security and data integrity: A strong DR plan often involves restoring data from a last known good backup, further protecting your data and systems from cyber threats.
  • Improved business continuity: By minimizing downtime, the combined approach ensures your business operations remain uninterrupted even during a crisis.

Implementing a synergized approach

Data backups and IT disaster recovery (DR) are the cornerstones of resiliency. While they serve distinct purposes, their true power lies in their complementary nature. Here's how to implement a holistic approach that leverages their strengths:

1. Define Your Needs:

  • Data classification: Identify critical, sensitive, and everyday data types. This helps determine backup frequency and storage tiers as well as locations of protected last known good snapshots of data.
  • Recovery time objective (RTO) & recovery point objective (RPO): Define the acceptable downtime (RTO) and tolerable data loss (RPO) for your business functions. This guides your backup schedule and chosen disaster recovery strategy.

2. Craft a robust backup strategy:

  • The 3-2-1 Rule: Maintain at least 3 copies of your data on 2 different media types (e.g., local storage & cloud) with 1 copy offsite for disaster protection.
  • Backup methods: Choose a combination of methods based on data type and RPO. Options include:some text
    • Full backups: Regular backups of all data for initial disaster recovery.
    • Incremental backups: Backup only changed data since the last full backup, improving efficiency.
    • Differential backups: Backup all data changed since the last full or differential backup, offering a balance between speed and storage usage.
    • Continuous data protection (CDP): Capture data changes in near real-time for minimal data loss.

3. Design your disaster recovery plan:

  • Identify your important business services: Segment you critical applications and infrastructure where an outage could cripple your business operations.
  • Develop recovery procedures: Define detailed tasks in automated runbooks for failing over to a new data center or cloud availability zone, including tasks to rebuild applications, restore data, and resume IT operations.
  • Testing and training: Regularly test your disaster recovery plan.  Build in automations for manual, repetitive tasks and train personnel on their roles and responsibilities for more complex decision making.

4. Continuous improvement:

  • Regularly review and update: Reassess your backup and disaster recovery plans as your business needs and IT infrastructure evolve.
  • Stay informed: Keep up-to-date with emerging technologies and best practices in disaster recovery and backup solutions.

By implementing a complementary approach that combines comprehensive backups with a well-defined disaster recovery plan, you create a robust shield against unforeseen events. This ensures faster recovery, minimizes downtime, and safeguards your business continuity. Remember, a well-designed plan combined with the right tools is your best defense against a disaster.

The importance of an IT backup and disaster recovery plan

Here's why an IT backup and disaster recovery plan is essential:

  • Data protection: Backups safeguard your valuable information from accidental deletion, hardware malfunctions, and even cyber attacks. A recent copy of your data allows for quick restoration, minimizing downtime and data loss.
  • Recovery of services: Disasters happen. A well-defined disaster recovery plan ensures your business can bounce back quickly after a disruption. It outlines the steps needed to restore critical IT systems and get your operations back online, minimizing the impact on productivity and revenue.
  • Reduced downtime: Time is money. By having readily available backups and a clear disaster recovery plan, you can get your systems back up and running faster. This translates to less downtime for your employees and minimizes disruptions for your customers.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing you have a backup and disaster recovery plan in place allows you to face potential threats with confidence. A comprehensive backup and DR strategy reduces stress and empowers you to focus on core business activities.

The challenges of a backup and disaster recovery alignment 

While backups and disaster recovery are a powerful duo, achieving perfect alignment can be a balancing act. Here's a look at some key challenges you might face:

1. Mismatched recovery needs and backup strategies:

  • RPO vs. RTO misalignment: Your recovery point objective (RPO) defines acceptable data loss, while your recovery time objective (RTO) dictates tolerable downtime. Choosing a backup strategy (e.g., full vs. incremental) that doesn't align with your RPO and RTO can lead to delays in recovery.

2. Testing and validation gaps:

  • Untested backups: Regularly testing your backups ensures they are complete and readily recoverable. Skipping these tests can leave you with a false sense of security during a disaster.
  • DR Plan disconnect: Your disaster recovery plan should be tested alongside your backups to verify its effectiveness in restoring data and resuming operations.

3. Data sprawl and siloed backups:

  • Fragmented backups: Data residing across various applications and cloud services can lead to siloed backups, making it difficult to have a centralized and consistent recovery process.
  • Unidentified critical data: Not all data is equally critical. Failure to identify and prioritize critical data can lead to inefficient backups, wasting resources on less important information.

4. Security Concerns:

  • Backup insecurity: Backups themselves can be vulnerable to cyber attacks. Implementing robust security measures for your backups is crucial to prevent data loss from these threats.
  • Access controls: Disaster recovery procedures often involve granting temporary access to restore data. Ensuring proper access controls are in place during recovery is vital to maintain data security.

5. Resource constraints:

  • Storage costs: Maintaining comprehensive backups can require significant storage space, both on-site and potentially in the cloud. Balancing backup needs with storage costs is essential.
  • Technical expertise: Implementing and managing a robust backup and disaster recovery strategy can require specialized IT skills. A lack of internal expertise might necessitate outsourcing these tasks.

Achieving backup and disaster recovery harmony

By acknowledging these challenges, you can take steps to achieve better alignment:

  • Clearly Define RPOs and RTOs: Understanding your recovery needs guides your backup strategy and DR plan development.
  • Regular testing and validation: Schedule regular tests for your backups and DR plan to ensure their effectiveness.
  • Centralized backup management: Consolidate backups from various sources for a holistic recovery approach.
  • Prioritize critical data: Identify and prioritize critical data for focused protection and faster recovery.
  • Implement robust security: Secure your backups with encryption and access controls to prevent unauthorized access.

Remember, a well-aligned backup and disaster recovery strategy is an ongoing process. Regularly assess your needs, adapt your approach, and invest in the right DR automation tools and expertise. By implementing a comprehensive strategy that incorporates both elements, you can ensure your business is prepared to weather any data storm and emerge stronger.

How Cutover provides the linkage between your data backups and disaster recovery procedures

Cutover provides a centralized SaaS platform to execute your IT disaster recovery plans where you can combine both automated and manual tasks via Cutover’s dynamic, automated runbooks. Precision orchestration provides integrations to data backup platforms for consistent task sequencing across your complex critical architectures and data, enabling you to reduce the time it takes to execute cloud recovery processes. With Cutover’s runbooks you can capture multi-threaded task flows so you can understand what needs to  happen and when.

Learn why Cutover is trusted by world-leading institutions, including the three largest US banks and three of the world’s five largest investment banks for disaster recovery.

Book a demo of Cutover’s automated runbook platform today!

IT Disaster Recovery
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