We live in a digital world where data is a critical constituent for business success.

But bad things happen to good data.

Disaster is real and may cause harm to any business of any size and any segment. There are so many related concepts and terms and it is becoming vital to understand these terms to ensure data availability.

If you were looking for a guide on what is business continuity, disaster recovery and other associated terms — you are in the right place. Understanding the disaster recovery can be tricky, but it’s never too late to learn the basics: make yourself comfortable, we are about to start with the nuts and bolts!

What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery (DR) is a set of procedures which must be taken due to an unplanned event (disaster) that disrupts the company’s resources and puts day-to-day processes and operations at risk. Disaster may come in all forms and sizes and may happen due to multiple reasons: natural disasters, hardware failures, human errors or cybercrimes. The number of potential threats to your company is infinite: from an accidental fire (electrical equipment and appliances may be caused by things such as plugs, cables, etc.) to full-blown natural disasters and power outages (e.g. thunderstorm, flood, etc.)

The goal of DR is to keep the company’s operations as close to “business as usual” as possible.

Disaster recovery vs business continuity — Understanding the difference

When talking about disaster recovery and business continuity it can be easy to fall under the impression that these terms represent the same thing. Well, is there actually a difference?

The short answer — yes, there is!

Even though business continuity and disaster recovery are firmly connected in your data protection strategy, there are distinctions between these two concepts. Here are the differences:

Disaster recovery revives the company’s operations and processes once disaster strikes, it IS about bringing things back (e.g. applications) — this is how you respond to a disruptive event.

Business continuity is focused on mission-critical services that your business needs in order to properly function. It IS about services and putting users back to work.

Imagine that you’re using Microsoft’s communications tool, the Microsoft Teams app, for instant messaging within your organization. Disaster happened. Due to a power outage and API errors, all servers are down and unavailable.

To give you an illustration of what that means if we talk DR and BC definitions — look at the table below:

Disaster recovery vs business continuity — Understanding the difference

Disaster recovery is a part of business continuity planning, thus the two expressions are used as BCDR in industry. Together they answer, “What if disaster happens?” question and both determine what the next steps are that need to be taken to keep your business afloat.

RTO and RPO — Key metrics of business continuity

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) are two core parameters that enterprises consider when maintaining business continuity.

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is a time, within which all operations must be back to normal after disaster strikes.

Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is a maximum period (measured in minutes and hours) on which data and operations can be lost between the last backup and the disruptive event. RPO is set by the business continuity plan.

RTO and RPO metrics can differ from company to company but should be defined with a business priority to ensure data availability — this can depend on several factors from an organization’s size to its business type, structure, existing in-house resources and other parameters.

Understanding RTO and RPO improves business continuity.

Disaster recovery planning components

Dozens of fires flared up in Australia in late 2019. Consulting company SGS Economics estimated up to $50 million (AUD) a day in disruption. These costs relate to different matters, such as employees missing work because of health issues or insurance losses, as well as costs associated with data corruption and the absence of a disaster recovery plan and its testing.

It’s difficult to believe that some companies still don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place. But why it is so hard to get it implemented? What are the key elements of a DR plan? Let's sort this out:

1. Know your applications and hardware

Document information about every piece of software and hardware you have, keep it up to date and make sure you have technical support details for each item.

2. Define your RTO and RPO parameters

Assess what is an acceptable recovery time for each business function, as well as every program, operating system, server and storage device to get back up: First — applications, second — services.

3. Determine the SLAs for an outsourced DR solution

Ensure that you have documented service level agreements (SLAs) with an outsourced vendor in the case of a disaster.

4. Document a data backup plan

What happens to your data if disaster strikes? How many copies are being created? Are they stored off site? These and other questions must be defined in your backup plan.

5. Compliance — Make sure you’re compliant

It’s the company’s responsibility to ensure reliability and availability of its data. Non-compliance is not an option and can lead to both reputational and financial risks.

6. Define roles and responsibilities within your staff in the case of a disruptive event

Assign roles to members of your organization and make sure it’s well communicated: there should be a specified plan of action in the case of a disaster event.

7. Create an emergency communication plan

Document how you communicate with people, whether it’s your customers or employees, until business operations are back to normal.

8. Again and again test your DR plan

Having a disaster recovery plan isn’t enough. If you don’t test your plan — you can’t rely on it, therefore disaster recovery testing is a difference maker here. Regular, full-scale testing is a must to the success of a rigorous disaster recovery plan, especially for multi-site environments. Once you have a DR plan in place — make sure you test it frequently and thoroughly.

Alternatives? Disaster Recovery as a Service

Gartner estimates that businesses will have invested more than $3.7 billion in the Disaster Recovery as a Service market through 2021. From small businesses to immense corporations, organizations are adopting cloud technologies at a rapid pace. This is clearly a trend that looks set to continue. But before going any further, let’s quickly define the basic terms of cloud disaster recovery.

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is an outsourced (hosted by a third party vendor) cloud-based model, which is essentially a replication of physical and virtual servers. DRaaS can be primarily useful to enterprises that lack the required expertise to build and test an efficient disaster recovery plan. 

Undoubtedly, there are certain benefits of DRaaS, such as:

  • Affordable cost — DRaaS is pay-as-you-use managed service. Use of off-site storage also leads to meaningful savings in storage and software needs
  • Accessibility — You'll be able to access your system from any location. All you need is an internet connection
  • Ease of use — You will get full expert support from a service provider to handle unexpected events, efficiently and quickly

While enterprises embrace a multi-cloud world, whether in addition to or separate from an overall data protection strategy — choosing a right DRaaS solution can be challenging.

Here’s how Veeam solves disaster recovery, orchestration and automation challenges

At the age of Digital Transformation business continuity should be a priority for companies and Veeam can help you in addressing these challenges listed above — whether you’re looking for a DRaaS solution or if you would like to improve your DR processes and migration while maintaining service continuity.

Veeam defines DRaaS by offering it as part of a comprehensive availability strategy, providing a consistent user experience and reducing the overall cost to protect your data. If you want to learn more on how to get affordable, efficient, imaged-based replication for true DR — please check out this page.

What about intelligent orchestration for DR? Veeam offers Veeam Availability Orchestrator, a solution that delivers reliable, scalable and easy-to-use orchestration and automation, allowing DR failover and restore plan creation, documentation, testing and execution in VMware vSphere environments.

Feel free to check out the Veeam Availability Orchestrator user guide to learn more about its features or you can go ahead and download a free trial now.

May your data stay safe!

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