Data Backup and Disaster Recovery: A Comparison

Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

What’s the difference between Data Backup and Disaster Recovery and how do I know which I need?

What it is

Data backup is a method in which your computer and network files are replicated in such a way that you can reinstall them in the event of a data loss. Data backup is designed to protect data files such as Word and Excel files and databases such as Access, SQL, Oracle, and the like.

Advantages of Data backup

  • Requires less storage than other means of replicating data
  • Data backup is easier to set up than some more sophisticated data protection solutions such as Disaster Recovery.
  • It is also less costly than Disaster Recovery
  • Data Backup provides good protection in the event of a data loss, especially when it is set up to follow the 3-2-1 backup rule. It’s a great solution when the loss is only files, folders, emails, etc.

Disadvantages of Data Backup

Data backup requires the user to have a working system in order to enable a restore of the backed-up files, so it’s not the ideal solution when there is a full-blown hardware failure. When the hardware that’s holding the data dies, the user must first fix or replace the defective hardware and reconfigure all the settings before the data recovery can begin.

Data backup also enables a more sophisticated data retention policy that encompasses how long to retain the backups and what versions. For example, do you keep with a standard backup schedule such as maintaining daily backups for 10 days, then weekly backups for 5 weeks, monthly backups for 13 months, yearly backups for 5 years?

Disaster Recovery or DR

What it is

Disaster Recovery, or “DR” is a strategy for your computer, the network files and all the software programs are replicated exactly, and in such a way that you can “recover” your entire system in the event of a data loss. Disaster recovery protects the entire “workload” (the server or the PC) including data, databases, programs, operating system, and settings. It can even restore to new hardware that has no software loaded on it – called a “bare metal” restore.

Advantages of Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery provides excellent protection. Hands down it is the best solution when there is a hardware failure or site disaster. For example, if you’ve experienced premises or a site disaster (such as the OVHCloud fire). with a disaster recovery program you can restore your entire system to the cloud. This feature is terribly critical when you need to replace hardware because you simply can’t pop into your favorite office supply store and pick up a decent server or three. The turn-around time to spec, price, order, and receive new servers is usually measured in weeks. That delay is often too costly for any business. When using a Disaster Recovery solution, you’ll be able to continue operations from the cloud – and from anywhere — with little interruption.

Disadvantages of Disaster Recovery

Since a disaster recovery solution is restoring an entire network system, it certainly requires more storage. Add to that, the complexity of configuration for a disaster recovery solution means there is more effort to the setup, and DR costs a bit more to operate and support.

Disaster Recovery is not as flexible as data backup in the event you need to select a single application to roll back the data. For example, if you had a virus corrupt files in your accounting program and need to roll back to install to a date 90 days ago – and you’ve updated the program since that point in time. You might need to install the previous version of the program and then reinstall the data. Keep in mind as well, the retention policy is more difficult because of the increase in complexity to roll back to older versions of data. Planning your rollback scenarios requires more forethought than with a data backup solution.

Unified Backup and DR

What it is

Unified Backup and DR is a method in which your computer, the network files and all the software programs are replicated exactly, and in such a way that you can “recover” your entire system in the event of a data loss. You can also reinstall data from any point in time.  Unified Backup and DR combines the functionality of both data back up and disaster recovery solutions – it is a true hybrid solution.

Advantages of Unified Backup and DR
This hybrid data backup and recovery system allows for quick and easy backup and restore for files, folders, emails and databases PLUS a complete DR solution if needed. It’s truly the best of both worlds as you can recover data from any point in time, and you can recover the entire system in the event of a natural disaster.

Disadvantages of Unified Backup and DR

This hybrid solution tends to be more expensive than straight Disaster Recovery because you’re getting the functionality of both data solutions. In the example we used previously regarding the virus corrupting the accounting files, with a Unified Backup solution, you would be able to roll back the data and then roll back the programs to have a full recovery of the data.

The following chart summarizes the advantages of each option:

  Data Backup Disaster Recovery Unified Backup and DR
What does it protect best? Data Files, data bases, email Full system backup Both
Roll back data to a point in time? Yes No Yes
Best for file failure Yes No No
Best for hardware failure No Yes No
Recovery Time for hardware failure 🙁 😀 😀
Best for complete failure No No Yes
Ease of Use 😀  😀  😀 😀  😀 😀
Cost $ $$ $$$

Global Data Vault provides a full range of Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Unified Backup and DR solutions.




  1. Wayne Walker

    Great blog post regarding data backup as well as disaster recovery. Differences were discussed, coupled with the pros and cons in utilizing them.

    • Wayne Walker

      Such a great read wherein I enthusiastically shared it to my colleagues and they loved it. Yes, this is so vital for organizations towards a much safer and smoother flow on business transactions.


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