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Backup, Archiving & Disaster Recovery – they are not the same!


Backup - Disaster Recovery - Archiving

As a cloud service provider offering data backup for IaaS and Disaster Recovery as a Service, we regularly get involved in conversations which bridge the distinctly different disciplines of Backup, Disaster Recovery and Archiving. They are 3
completely separate things which should never be confused, and whilst technologies in each area can be used to achieve some of the functions of the others, users should not be fooled into thinking that one technology solution will work for all 3 areas unless it is specifically designed to do so, which most are not.

We get asked questions like ‘Can your DR solution retain data for 7 years?’. The answer is, why would you want it to? Long term data retention is ‘archiving’ – you would never want to recover your entire infrastructure to a state from 7 years ago!

We are also asked questions like ‘what is the SLA around restoring my entire environment from backup data?’. The answer is usually ‘Not good, you need a DR solution!’

So, let’s talk about each function and what you should expect from it.

1. Data Backup.

Data backup is intended to recover individual lost or corrupt files, or individual corrupt operating system instances. Typically backups are scheduled, often every 24 hours, sometimes more frequently, even hourly with some continuous data protection solutions. Backup data is typically stored on tape or disk either on or off site. Restore from backup can be a complex and lengthy process depending on the volume of data to be restored. Recovery points (RPO) can be as low as an hour but recovery times (RTO) can extend into days or even weeks for large volumes of data. Examples of backup technologies include Veeam, Symantec Backup Exec and R1 Soft CDP.

2. Disaster Recovery.

Disaster Recovery solutions are designed to replicate entire environments from one location to another, with a view to rapidly re-establishing the entire environment (or a subset of it) in the event of loss of service at the primary location. DR solutions are also capable of replicating the data back in the opposite direction once infrastructure at the primary location is available again. Recovery points (RPO) can be in minutes or seconds as data replication is near continuous, and recovery times (RTO) as low as an hour even for large volumes of data. Examples of Disaster Recovery technologies include Zerto Virtual Replication, VMware Site Recovery Manager and Double Take.

3. Archiving.

Archiving solutions are for long term retention of data, typically for compliance purposes in regulated industries such as finance and legal. Archiving solutions will retain and index all copies and versions of a document, file or email, making them easily and rapidly retrievable, often by approved end users rather than IT admins who typically control backup and DR. Examples of archiving technologies include Symantec Enterprise Vault, Mimecast and Metalogix.

So, in summary, don’t rely on your Backup or DR solution for archiving. Don’t expect to recover a deleted file from your DR solution. Don’t expect your archiving solution to get you back up and running in the event of a disaster! However, we can provide backup and disaster recovery of your archiving solution.


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We recognise that our clients live and die by the availability and performance of their business applications and web properties. We believe in "your cloud, your way" - delivering the right cloud solution for your organisation whether that be public, private or hybrid. We own and operate a global network of cloud datacentres that enables us to go beyond the cloud computing hype to deliver real business benefits. We help to drive down your costs, react quickly to changing business conditions and provide simplified management of your resources.