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Disaster Recovery: The Sometimes Poorly-Understood Technology

What disaster recovery is, and is not.

If there’s one thing we know by now, it’s that it’s an almost criminal understatement to refer to technology as a “complex field.” Worse, it’s a field that’s self-catalyzing; every new development spawns new developments of its own. Those new developments spawn their own and so on to the point that, by the time you’ve learned the first one, most of what you’ve learned is moot. Disaster recovery is one such technology, and many times, it’s mistaken for a variety of other technologies. So let’s take a look at disaster recovery and how it compares to many technologies that are often similar but aren’t the same thing.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Disaster recovery and business continuity do share some commonalities, but also several differences.

One a part of the other.

Business continuity is actually a larger proposition than disaster recovery, making disaster recovery actually part of business continuity. Disaster recovery sets forth rules on how a business will recover from a disaster, but business continuity describes how a business will carry on after a disaster.

What disaster recovery is, and is not.

Different methods. 

Since disaster recovery is designed to get a business back on its feet, it’s accomplished much differently than business continuity, which is designed to get a business going beyond the disaster. Using disaster recovery methods as business continuity planning is actually under-planning significantly; it’s effectively the same thing as saying, “The disaster is over; business-as-usual starts now.”

Disaster Recovery and Backup

Here, the problem is reversed. Whereas disaster recovery is a part of business continuity, backup is a part of disaster recovery.

One part of many. 

Backup by itself is not really a disaster recovery plan, because it fails to address a range of issues that may be part of disaster recovery. For instance, if you have system backups, how do you control access to them? If you’ve had a disaster that makes your offices temporarily uninhabitable — a fire, flood or so on — what do you actually do with your backups? That’s the biggest difference between the two.

Backup has parts too.

It may get even more confusing, but backup isn’t just backup. There’s file-level backup, which addresses files, and there’s server-level backup, which also includes software and server configurations used. If you’ve only engaged in file-level backup, how do you access the files? You no longer have the software used to create the files in question. So backup has to go beyond the file-level unless all the software you’re using is common, off-the-shelf tools commonly seen in small businesses.

Disaster Recovery and Incident Response

Here, the differences get a little finer. Disaster recovery and incident response are both parts of business continuity, but since they’re both separate parts of a greater whole, they each have key differences.What disaster recovery is, and is not.

Specialization vs. generalization.

Incident response is designed to be what the name implies: a plan to respond to a specific incident. This incident can be related to systems, like a ransomware strike or a hacker attack, or to natural disasters like fire and flood. Disaster recovery, meanwhile, goes a bit beyond that. Whereas an example of an incident response would be to grab a fire extinguisher and put out the fire, disaster recovery would involve hiring a cleanup team to get the ash and foam clouds off the floor and put out a press release saying we had a fire but everything’s all right now.”

Duration. 

Since incident response is so specific in its nature, it also doesn’t last long. Incident response effectively lasts for the duration of that one incident. It doesn’t go beyond that. Once the incident is addressed, disaster recovery kicks in to take over the rest. Disaster recovery can go on long after incident response has finished its job.

Disaster Recovery and DRaaS

This is a very fine point, but it’s a point worth making. DRaaS actually is disaster recovery; that’s what the DR stands for. It’s disaster recovery as-a-service. But it’s that “as-a-service” part that makes all the difference here.

Location, location, location.

Since DRaaS is offered “as-a-service,” that means it’s being offered by another company, generally on a cloud basis. Disaster recovery, meanwhile, can be subcontracted out, or it can be maintained in-house. Disaster recovery can use as-a-service elements, but it doesn’t depend on these exclusively. That can allow companies more flexibility in terms of what they address or don’t address in their disaster planning.

Degree of difficulty.

Engaging in in-house disaster recovery, depending on what disasters you’re looking to recover from, can be a hazardous process. Many businesses actually aren’t comfortable engaging in disaster recovery, as it requires the use of several IT best practices. DRaaS, meanwhile, calls for far less technical expertise What disaster recovery is, and is not.because most of it is required on the service provider’s end of things. Better yet, DRaaS can provide interval operations. While disaster recovery has to be actively conducted at certain points, DRaaS can be pre-set at certain times to work whether you remember to do it or not.

Cost savings.

One major difference between disaster recovery and DRaaS is cost. While DRaaS requires a certain amount of costs, and sometimes recurring costs, disaster recovery requires hardware purchases. Infrastructure has to be established and sometimes at a remote location. What’s the point of having all your disaster recovery materials in the same place that just had a disaster? It’s like storing your backup files on the same server as the originals. What do you do when that server goes down?

What to Do When You Want the Best in Disaster Recovery

We’ve had a good look at what disaster recovery is and isn’t, and when you want to improve your stance in disaster recovery, the best place to start is by dropping us a line at UTG. We provide data recovery, systems recovery, and recovery management options to help you get back on your feet when a disaster strikes. So when you’re ready to protect your systems by making sure they’re ready to bounce back when something happens, get in touch with us to get started.

Eric Dykes

Eric Dykes


Eric was co-founder and CEO of United Technology Group, LLC (UTG), acquired by Coretelligent in 2019. In that role, he directed the company’s vision and strategy in partnership with co-founder Brian Miller and the company’s board. As the SVP of Operations for the Southern Region, he has operational responsibilities for this crucial geographic region.

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