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Cloud backup vs. disaster recovery: what do you need?

The emergence and rapid spread of cloud services have considerably changed the IT industry landscape, which, in turn, is the main engine of almost any modern business. The cloud allows organizations to manage their resources online rather than using servers in offices and data centers. This will enable companies to access their data anytime, anywhere. So it’s no surprise that Gartner forecasts that public cloud spending will exceed 45% of all enterprise IT spending by 2026, up from less than 17% in 2021.


Here’s a list of just the main benefits that cloud services bring to organizations:

  • Cost reduction
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Access to virtually unlimited storage
  • Disaster recovery possibilities

In this article, we will look at the last two items from this list, study cloud backup and disaster recovery in more detail, compare them with each other and advise you which of these cloud services is more suitable for your organization.

What is cloud backup?

Cloud Backup is a cloud-based remote, online data backup service. Essentially, it’s a strategy of copying physical or virtual servers and saving their backups in the cloud. It serves as “insurance” from hardware failure, disaster, or other unforeseen circumstances that can harm the integrity of your data. Cloud backups are hosted by third-party service providers in offsite storage, typically certified for security, privacy, and uninterrupted service. Cloud backup can be either part of the mission-critical data protection strategy along with the traditional backup approach or even the foundation of this strategy when completely replacing the standard method. 

The first step in implementing the cloud backup is a complete replication of the data that’s going to be protected. This process is lengthy and can take hours or even days, depending on the size of the data set. Subsequent backups usually update only those parts of the data that have been changed – this helps save time and resources. These backups are created automatically with a predefined frequency using the service provider’s software.

Once a disaster happens, a user initiates restoring data and, consequently, gets back a data set corresponding to its state at the time of the last backup.

Using the cloud backup service, a client pays an amount depending on the storage capacity used, the amount of data uploaded and downloaded, the data transfer bandwidth, the number of servers used, the number of users, and the number of times the data is accessed. And while the cost of the resulting backup infrastructure maintenance may become higher due to the cloud spend, this is more than offset by its ease of use and, as a result, cost reduction of an IT team’s headcount.

What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery is a cloud service that deals with data and IT infrastructure so that mission-critical data and processes are quickly restored after any, even grave, IT disaster.

Disaster recovery is resorted to when simple data backup is not enough, and it is also necessary to minimize the downtime of business-critical processes that can stop working due to internal failures, cyberattacks, and other natural or human-induced incidents. Thus, disaster recovery is an essential part of a business continuity plan, a strategic approach that helps organizations bounce back after a disaster.

To implement disaster recovery, a parallel IT infrastructure is created in the cloud; it stores copies of data and real and virtual servers. In the event of an accident, this infrastructure takes on the role of an auxiliary system, replacing the main one until it becomes operational again.

At this point, it’s important to say a few words about the main characteristics of disaster recovery that determine the cost of a disaster recovery solution and the amount of damage to a business in the event of an outage depends on – RPO and RTO.

RPO stands for the recovery point objective and determines the point of time to which your data will recover – hence the “point” in the abbreviation. It’s the maximum acceptable amount of time between your data backups, so it is selected based on the amount of data, the loss of which will be insignificant for the business in the event of a disaster.

RTO, in turn, stands for the recovery time objective, which is the maximum tolerable amount of time needed to take critical systems back online and fully functional after a disruption. Since different systems require different recovery times, the overall RTO corresponds to the most extended period of recovery time for any of them, or, which often happens with a well-designed and adequately implemented disaster recovery strategy, the time to switch to the auxiliary infrastructure in the cloud.

RTO and RPO values ​​are inversely proportional to the cost of disaster recovery as a service. Their choice depends on how long your business can afford to be down (or, in other words, what is your threshold MTD, maximum tolerable downtime) and how much you’re willing – and it’s worth the while – to pay for RPO and RTO reduction. The rule of thumb here is that your estimated maximum tolerable downtime should not exceed the recovery time objective to keep your business safe. Also, it would be best to determine how much data loss you can withstand without impacting your business.

Cloud backup vs. disaster recovery: head to head

Even though, at first glance, the difference between cloud backup and disaster recovery is not that obvious, those two approaches are entirely different, starting with the principle of operation and how the recovery process is organized and what resources are required for their implementation, ending with what the role of these approaches in business continuity is and what result they give.

Cloud backup:

  • Implies regular automated copying of data (based on a predefined schedule).
  • Performs data recovery in case of loss (usually initiated manually).
  • Uses cloud storage and the service provider’s software as resources.
  • It does not provide failover or part of the business continuity plan.

Disaster recovery:

  • Implies quasi-continuous replication of IT infrastructure to the cloud at high frequency (depends on target RTO and RTO).
  • Performs automatic switching to a backup infrastructure in case of a disaster.
  • Requires a reliable DRaaS provider and an IT disaster recovery plan.
  • It is the cornerstone of a business continuity strategy.

Cloud backup or disaster recovery: what should you choose?

There is a widespread belief that the choice between cloud backup and disaster recovery depends on the business size you manage. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Yes, disaster recovery requires more time and effort than cloud backup because it implies a more thorough approach (remember that disaster recovery is a specific part of the broader business continuity concept, and it requires creating and implementing a sound disaster recovery plan). However, the ubiquity of cloud services has led to the fact that high-quality DR solutions are now becoming available to medium and small businesses.

In addition, the degree of dependence of a company on IT infrastructure does not always correlate with its size. So, cases are common when a tiny startup is a provider of online services and relies entirely on high availability, which means that even a short disruption may seriously threaten such business existence. On the other hand, a large organization can be content with cloud backup because its key processes will not be interrupted during an IT disaster, and all it needs is to save data from the risk of loss and be able to restore it in case of necessity.

Final thoughts

No matter what you’re looking for – cloud backup or disaster recovery, it’s always a good idea to use tools that will help you leverage the cloud services while keeping costs as low as possible. 

Hystax Acura is a versatile cloud-native disaster recovery solution that ensures best-in-class RPO and RTO values. Besides that, the tool has features enabling companies to minimize downtime through powerful failback to production. Moreover, it allows them to build their own Disaster Recovery, migration & self-healing scenarios with sophisticated user and rights management.

Hystax Acura supports cloud backup scenarios with hot and cold storage, ensuring enterprise-grade business continuity.

Find out why your company needs a FinOps specialist, what skill set they should possess, and what benefits they will bring to your business  → https://hystax.com/why-every-it-team-needs-a-finops-specialist

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