Backup vs. Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity

Written by Joe Kozlowicz on Friday, January 25th 2013 — Categories: Disaster Recovery

Simply put, backup, disaster recovery (DR), and business continuity are separated by the time it takes to restore/recover your data and get back to work.

Recovering and restoring an organization’s data from just a backup can require days or weeks when the primary environment suffers an unplanned outage or disruption. It involves spinning up new servers, re-installing operating systems and applications, etc. 

Disaster recovery and business continuity strategies speed up recovery time from days or weeks to just minutes or hours. Systems, data, and processes can become quickly available either at a second physical location, or can be accessed remotely via a laptop or tablet (as happened during Hurricane Sandy when many people were forced to work from home).

Let’s take a look at a few different backup, DR, and continuity options to get a feel for some of the key differences.

Onsite Backup: Provides a practical element of a disaster recovery procedure and usually utilizes some kind of physical storage option. These solutions are capable of imaging servers and storing data locally so you can quickly recover from incidents such as server hardware failure, isolated water damage, lost documents, and other minor events.

Offsite Backup: Moves critical data to a different physical location. Daily or weekly backups mean that your recovery is only as good as the last time you backed up. An effective solution requires a smooth and thought-out restoration process. Offsite backup is often implemented in direct response to compliance mandates.

Colocation: The first step to a modular recovery strategy. Ideally, you are backed by an enterprise-level facility with high bandwidth, built-in backup services, and an infrastructure designed to stay running via redundant power, air conditioning, and network access. (Hint: Green House Data!)

“Cold Site” Virtual Machine: Provides critical application availability via virtual machines at a secondary facility. In the event that your primary environment suffers an unplanned outage, remotely stored data can be restored to a virtual environment, usually within a few hours. Employees can access systems hosted at the secondary site while your IT team works to rebuild your primary infrastructure. This DR procedure depends on a reliable offsite backup solution running concurrently.

“Hot Site” Virtual Machine: This is the only true business continuity plan. Allows for virtual environments to be available at the very moment a disaster strikes. There is no need to ship tapes to a recovery facility to rebuild your environment. This solution is engineered to ensure that your virtual environment is consistently replicated from your virtual infrastructure. In the event of a failure, virtual machines can be up and running in minutes and users can access servers and applications via any web browser.

A business continuity solution is a required approach for organizations that demand maximum uptime and operational continuity. Green House Data utilizes a variety of software technologies, depending on the client needs, including: VMware, EMC Avamar, Veeam Backup software, and Double-Take replication software.



What It Is


Onsite Backup

Storage device at a primary location equipped with backup software.

DR component allowing for faster onsite resources.

Backup administrator can recover and restore files and systems on request.

Offsite Backup

Storage device at secondary location equipped with backup software.

DR component allowing for timely restoration from offsite facility.

Staff contacts backup administrator to recover and restore files and systems on request.

Colocated Backup

Data replicated at secondary location.

DR strategy with component managed by staff.

Staff connects to secondary location via internet to access files during unplanned outage.

Cold Site VM

Resources reserved at secondary site to stage virtual platform needed to support data restoration.

DR strategy typically allowing between 12 and 24 hour restoration.

After emergency outage, staff can prepare virtual environment, restore data, and verify network connectivity.

Hot Site VM

Secondary virtual environment consistently synchronized with primary site.

Business continuity solution allowing for failover within minutes or hours.

Systems automatically failover. Facility staff manages configuration changes to ensure operational continuity.