Understanding data backups, disaster recovery, and high availability

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Whether you are new to the world of data recovery or a seasoned veteran, knowing the differences and similarities between data backups, disaster recovery, and high availability are your first steps toward creating a plan for maintaining business continuity in the face of unexpected circumstances. Understanding these aspects of IT is essential for determining exactly what kind of measures are needed to ensure the integrity of your data and how best to achieve that goal.

Data Backups

The foundation for data recovery and storage, data backups are simply copies of your data and the attendant applications which utilize that data. The adage, “You need to back up your data,” is an inherently helpful piece of advice, but it has also become an aphorism that can easily be ignored, especially when other, more tangible concerns seem more pressing. Additionally, there are a number of important questions to ask before you start backing up your data.

What is the best way to back up my data: on site or in the cloud? Where will my backups be stored: on site or in a different building? How often should I back up my data? All of these questions, and many more, need to be asked of any working environment. There is no single, correct answer to these questions because different organizations have different needs.

Determining Your Tolerance for Disruption

Some businesses can tolerate 24 hours of service interruption and only incur a minor loss as a result. Another business could suffer a catastrophic loss during the same 24-hour window and risk a permanent cessation of operations. Since different levels of backup and storage for data have varying costs and levels of maintenance, identifying your organization’s tolerance for disruption is critical for determining what kind of backup and recovery options will be best for you.

Disaster Recovery

Once you start backing up your data, you can then implement a plan to recover and utilize that data in the midst of a disaster. Disaster recovery (DR) refers to the implementation of secondary infrastructure that resumes or maintains daily operations during a failure of the primary system, in part or in whole. That means, even if your entire IT system is destroyed by a natural disaster (or a spilled cup of coffee), you can still conduct work as normal.

A Second Set of Data and Systems

This kind of recovery system takes the backing up of data to the next level by incorporating a way to actually use that data when it is needed. Having a backup is great, but without both a plan and a means to utilize that data, it won’t reduce the amount of time your organization experiences an interruption. By having a recovery site that is separate from your primary working location, you greatly reduce, and sometimes entirely eliminate, disruptions to service.

Keep in mind that your DR site should be located in a different town or city relative to the primary system. For example, if a fire or flood affects your office building, you don’t want to have your backup servers on the next floor down. Your second system should be far enough away to ensure that both systems will most likely not be affected by the same disaster; but not so far as to inhibit personnel from accessing the site.

High Availability

Employing components of both standard backups and DR, High Availability (HA) utilizes primary system redundancy to prevent interruptions of service. HA can apply to something as small as a battery backup for a server, or something larger like the server itself. In these cases, if HA practices are being followed, multiple battery backups could be aligned to keep a primary server online during a brief power outage. If one battery backup fails, there is a second to take its place.

Further, a virtual server could be mirrored from the primary server for use during patching or updates. As it concerns your data as a whole, HA practices mean that you will have at least two of every platform being utilized to process and store your data. Typically, these are cloud storage, servers, and physical backups. That way, if one platform, such as a cloud backup, unexpectedly goes offline, the second cloud seamlessly comes online without an interruption to service.

Differences Between HA and DR

Generally speaking, there is plenty of overlap between HA and DR, and sometimes one is used to perform the other. An easy way to categorize these two components of data recovery is to think of HA as a spare tire and DR as a second, identical vehicle. If your primary vehicle gets a flat tire, there is a spare tire available to quickly and seamlessly replace the defective one, without having to visit a mechanic (that’s HA).

On the other hand, let’s say your primary vehicle gets a flat tire, then the air conditioning cuts out, followed by a power steering failure. This is when you switch to your secondary vehicle so that your primary vehicle can undergo needed maintenance until it is ready to hit the road again (that’s DR). By having a backup vehicle that is identical to the primary vehicle, your travels can continue uninterrupted.

Minimizing Downtime

Ultimately, your data recovery plan should be focused on minimizing or eliminating downtime in your system. Simply put, if your system is down, you can’t do business. At the very least, every organization that handles digital data should conduct regular backups, and checks to verify the integrity of those backups. Some businesses will certainly need a secondary site that can instantly take over in the event of a primary system crash, most will be somewhere in between.

At Edafio, we are committed to providing short and long-term advisement to those in need of a data recovery plan. Our team will work directly with yours to clearly identify the critical parameters involved with maintaining your organization’s uninterrupted service to your valued clients. Contact the team at Edafio Technology Partners today and let us uncover the data recovery plan that is best for you!

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