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Backups and Disaster Recovery: What’s the Difference? 

Backups and Disaster Recovery are often used interchangeably, and while they are certainly two critical strategies for data protection, each serves a unique purpose in securing your digital assets. 

One thing that I want to highlight from the very start is that the intention of this blog isn’t to help our customers choose between a backup or disaster recovery strategy. At LightEdge, we take a strong stance that every business needs both a backup and disaster recovery strategy to ensure comprehensive data protection and business continuity. Keep this in mind as this article discusses the differences between backup and disaster recovery and why this difference matters. 

What is Backup and How Does it Work? 

Backup involves creating copies of data so that these additional copies can be restored in the event of data loss. This process is typically automated and scheduled regularly to ensure data is up to date. Backups are stored in secure locations, either on-site or in the cloud, providing a safeguard against data loss from various threats like hardware failure, accidental deletion, or cyberattacks. Backups are often required to fulfill compliance requirements in regulated industries such as the legal, financial, and medical fields to protect data for long-term periods. 

How Does Disaster Recovery Work? 

Disaster Recovery involves policies and procedures to quickly restore IT infrastructure post-disaster. This includes replicating data near or close to real time,  having a recovery plan, utilizing automation for quickly recovering servers and applications online quickly into a secondary location,  and regularly testing these plans for effectiveness. Disaster Recovery generally includes a runbook—a detailed document outlining the processes for recovering disrupted systems and networks to minimize downtime and business impact. 

What’s the Difference? 

Some may argue that having backups for data is a disaster recovery plan because the end result is restored data following a data loss event. Technically, this is true, but for real-world application, it is not enough. Consider a scenario where a company experiences a data breach resulting in significant data corruption. If their backup protocol only runs on a weekly basis, the recovery point objective (RPO) could mean the loss of an entire week’s worth of data, with the accompanying operational setbacks and potential revenue loss. Now, let’s scale up the adversity: a natural disaster, such as a flood, destroys not just data but also the physical infrastructure. In this case, even the most recent backup is rendered useless if there’s no disaster recovery plan to enable the swift restoration of IT systems and infrastructure. 

While backups involve copying and storing data for restoration, Disaster Recovery is a broader strategy for resuming operations after a catastrophic event. It encompasses backups and comprehensive plans for maintaining critical functions, often involving a business continuity plan to ensure that the business can keep running, not just data preserved. 


A special callout for ransomware must be made when it comes to disaster recovery. With ransomware attacks becoming a steadily rising trend, it is far more likely that a declared event will be caused by ransomware than a natural disaster. In the instance of such an attack, a company with up-to-date backups might recover their data, but without a disaster recovery plan, the business will likely be out of operation for an extended period suffering both reputational harm and financial losses. There is no quicker way for a business to lose the trust of customers than to end up on the news because they were unprepared for a ransomware attack.  

Despite the limitations of backups as a stand-alone DR strategy, they still have a critical role to play in ransomware attacks because they allow you to keep your data for longer. Therefore in some cases if you were infected months ago, you can recover data that is not infected.  DR allows you to quickly test your systems to see if they are affected, but generally DR only retains 30 days of data or less. A full cyber resilient plan would incorporate the benefits of both, to allow for quick recovery and recovery of older data.  

LightEdge, Your Partner for Backup and Disaster Recovery 

LightEdge offers tailored solutions for both disaster recovery and backup recovery. We take a personal approach with our fully managed backup as a service and Cloud Recovery services that puts us in lockstep with our customers. Leveraging decades of expert experience in managing data, we employ best practices to compliantly ensure that your data is recoverable and that your business systems will resume should disaster strike. 

Learn more about our Fully Managed Backup and Cloud Recovery services or contact one of our experts👇


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