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Why are data backups and disaster recovery converging?

Backup and disaster recovery have primarily been treated separately. Learn how server virtualization has allowed these two technologies to converge.

In the past, data backup and disaster recovery (DR) were primarily treated separately. Backup was about making...

a recoverable copy of data or entire servers, while DR was concerned with continuity of business -- the idea of moving workloads to new hardware and remote locations in the event of a major disaster.

There now seems to be a convergence between backups and disaster recovery, and a great deal of it can be attributed to server virtualization. Most organizations are heavily virtualized, and server virtualization provides a degree of flexibility that simply was not possible until somewhat recently. Not only does the hypervisor deliver new capabilities, but many backup vendors have design features that exploit the portability of virtual machines (VMs).

To give you a more concrete example, consider the instant recovery feature found in many of the newer backup applications. Restoring a server from backup used to take hours, and in some cases days, to complete. Instant recovery features leverage the hypervisor and disk-based backup to allow the backup copy of a VM to be brought online almost immediately.

An organization can use the backup VM copy just as it would use the production virtual machine. A traditional restoration is still eventually required, but it occurs in the background after the backup VM has been brought online.

This is a great example of how backups and DR are converging. The backup application is still making point-in-time copies of the VMs, but instant recovery capabilities have reduced the recovery time objective to levels that were previously only attainable using expensive, high-availability features such as virtual machine replication or failover clustering.

Next Steps

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This was last published in June 2015

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Do you treat backups and disaster recovery as separate processes?
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well in my organization, it is treated separately as we are still making moves on how to deploy disaster recovery. we have been using backups all along and recently, when there was almost a major disaster. then the issue for a disaster recovery was placed on the table.
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I bet DR is much more than back up, it includes a strategy & plan (backup also has its own though). So, is it correct to say back up is a component of DR?
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Yes. very correct. to me, DR does all the work and it is safer.

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Other than the occasional RAID array here, we've been treating backup and recovery as two separate events. As it turns out, we're now facing several days of restoration after our last crash so this might be exactly the right time to consider an integrated solution.
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well said ncberns. IT is evolving and the need for a better solution has become crucial. Hence, I will encourage every organisation to merge both.
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Data backup and Disaster recovery are treated separately in our organization too. Also, Data backup can be described as the first step towards Disaster Recovery.
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This is awesome stuff everyone -- thank you for commenting. Backup has traditionally been one component of DR, that is very true. Today it's getting streamlined a bit in the sense that there are technologies available which allow you to back up an instance of a virtual server and run an application from another site or the cloud while the primary server is being restored. Not sure how much its being used so far, but it is an interesting approach and one that we have been watching as vendors continue to develop it.
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In my experience backup is the oldest and and most used recovery mechanism till date. The only drawback being the time it takes to recover from slow tapes, however disks based backup and VTL has also improved recovery time significantly. As a solution person I  always ensure that backup is built in the DR solution besides replication, failover and HA.

If we look from the Disaster Recovery perspective the Idea is IT continuity in case of incident or disaster and this continuity can be achieved by any mechanism the only thing that matters is the faster the recovery time more the money needs to be invested.

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So for me backup is one of the mechanism of disaster recovery and cannot be treated seprately.

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Exactly. And the next wave is how the cloud will affect this transformation. Some backup and disaster recovery solutions will soon incorporate the cloud as some part of the design. Some are already doing it. Again, largely due to the flexibility of server virtualization.

Check out VM Boomerang as an example. Unitrends is another with DR as a Service in the cloud.
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