Computer Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

April 22, 2015
Posted in Blog
April 22, 2015 Richard McElroy

Computer Back up, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity are words that are often bandied about with regularity. But, as many business owners know, the definition of the terms can vary from publication to publication and IT Service Provider to IT Service Provider.

Like many technical areas, IT has more than enough jargon. Sometimes people use jargon to be deliberately obtuse or perhaps make something simple seem complex, in the case of back up, disaster recovery and business continuity, it is more likely that these phrases get used interchangeably because each term describes a physical process(es) that contains some or all of the features of the other. But they reflect very different states and planning around each is crucial for a company to avoid destruction.

60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.

Backup is the backbone of a good plan

In terms of information technology, back up at the most basic level, is the act of copying files and/or programs to a location or device that is physically separate from the original files or programs.

The main goal of a backup is to be able to recover data that has been lost either by accidental deletion, physical disk failure or some other corruption. Virtually all computer users have lost or deleted files on their personal or work machines at some point.

The secondary reason for a backup is to be able to restore previous version of a file. This number of versions of a file or the retention time of files is set within the data retention policies configured within the back up application or process.

Backup data can be stored on a tape, disk, at an off-site location or in the cloud.

The main concept to remember when considering backup is that backup solutions are about data and not systems. After a disk crash, system failure or physical disaster all systems will need to be rebuilt and configured from scratch and only then can the data be loaded onto the systems.

Disaster Recovery

While backup is a simple form of disaster recovery and is a component of any good disaster recovery plan it is not, in and of itself, disaster recovery.

In Information technology, the term Disaster Recovery is used to describe how the IT portion of a business can recover their physical systems, applications, and data in the event of a disaster to the physical infrastructure such as fire, flood, earthquake, etc.

The Disaster Recovery Plan is built around pre-determined parameters of how long the organization considers an acceptable recovery period and what is the most satisfactory recovery point that can be achieved with minimal data loss considering budget parameters.

Typical Disaster Recovery strategies employ Data Backup solutions and other technologies such as Bare Metal Restores of hardware, which allow for an image of one machine to be overlaid onto a physically different machine.

The main concept to remember when thinking of Disaster Recovery solutions is that Data Recovery is about both data and systems. The goal of Disaster Recovery is to get an organization up and running within a specified time parameter.

Business Continuity Planning can save a company

While Disaster Recovery aims to allow an organization to recover its systems and data within a specified time frame that may be hours or even days, Business Continuity’s goal is to allow an organization to maintain continuous access to its IT services and data during and after a disaster with zero or minimal downtime.

In a Business Continuity solution, an organization will typically include all of the above solutions. In addition to Backup and simple Disaster Recovery technologies, a Business Continuity solution will incorporate Virtual standby technologies that uses the most recent image of the system, applications and data and converts it into a virtual server on a device that resides both locally and in an off-site data center. A virtual standby machine can be turned on easily and very quickly in the event of any unplanned system outage.

For higher end Business Continuity solutions, an organization can add a High Availability solution. High Availability solutions include redundant systems and storage that reside at a different location than the primary systems. The primary and redundant systems are kept in sync by software that replicates each piece of data in real time. In the event that the main system becomes unavailable or even unreliable, the sync software detects the outage or corruption and fails over to the redundant system.

Each solution listed above has its benefits and drawbacks. Each organization needs to look at its budget and the amount of downtime that it can realistically afford and make its decision accordingly.

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