Business Data Basics: Differences Between Disaster Recovery, Backup and Archiving

Cloud backupMost businesses that use cloud-based services do so because of the “cool factor” and because it’s an excellent way to back up data. Yet, they don’t understand the differences between the most basic three things they do. Here’s what you need to know so that you understand what you’re really paying for.

Data Backup

One of the things you pay for with a cloud host is data backup. At its core, data backup is designed to recover individual, lost, or corrupted files. It can also recover corrupted operating system instances.

Backups are usually scheduled either on a rotating 24-hour basis or on a “continual” basis, where a snapshot of important files is continuously backed up.

Some backup systems only operate once per day or once per week.

Backing up data is usually stored on a tape or disk, either on the premises or offsite. Restoring from a backup can be difficult and complicated because of the sheer volume of data on larger systems or networks.

Recovery points are often used to reduce the complexity of recovering data, but even so, recovery times can be as low as an hour with these methods.

Most of the time, recovery takes days or weeks for a full system restore.

Disaster Recovery

A disaster recovery solution is designed to replicate an entire system or network environment. The disaster recovery option effectively moves or copies a system from one location to another. If the primary environment is lost, recovery takes an hour, as opposed to days or weeks.

Recovery points may reduce recovery times further.

IBM cloud hosting can be configured for this type of recovery.

Disaster recovery is necessary in industries where information is either proprietary, sensitive, or necessary for the company to operate. For example, if a company designs a proprietary software solution that it uses regularly while conducting business, having it stored in the cloud represents a major risk unless the company has a disaster recovery option in the event of hard drive failure.

Companies with extensive client lists and confidential client information also need disaster recovery options in the cloud.


Archiving is designed for long-term data retention, and something that many cloud hosts don’t offer, but are getting into. Archives are usually appropriate only for certain industries where archival is either legally required or is logistically necessary.

For example, financial services, healthcare services, and certain other industries might need to keep client or patient data on file for a minimum number of years.

Archival services ensures that the data is not only stored, but stored safely to comply with HIPAA or other regulations which address client information and data retention safety and confidentiality.

Archiving solutions will retain or index copies and various versions of a document, an email, or a file. End-users can then directly access this information quickly on-demand.

These types of retrieval systems are better from the end-user’s perspective because they allow users direct access to data, rather than having to go through the IT department.

Shirley Polk has spent many years working in IT. She likes the chance to share her ideas and observations online. Her useful insights have been shared on a variety of different websites.

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