What is the difference between Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity?

7th September 2018

If you think backup is the same as disaster recovery and aren’t quite sure what business continuity means, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  

Most business owners we talk to make the mistake of not knowing the difference. Some don’t think it’s important to know, others end up taking risks, but in the end, they end up paying the price when data is lost, a network goes down, or a disaster prevents them from accessing their physical office. 

So, let’s start with what those three items actually are: 



In its simplest form, backup is a copy of data held on something. The data could be held on tape, USB, disk, or even CD. A backup of your data is obviously important should you lose data or need to restore earlier versions of your files, but what is more important is actually this;  does your backup allow you to perform Disaster Recovery? 


Disaster recovery 

Disaster recovery is the ability for you to recover all your files, software and functionality quickly, easily and without corruption. DR involves a set of policies, tools, and procedures to enable the recovery or continuation of vital infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster. 

If your server died, you wouldn’t be able to quickly get back to work if you only had file backup. In order for you to start working again, your server would need to be replaced, all software re-installed, data re-installed and then the whole system would need to be configured with your settings and preferences. This process could take hours or even days – and that’s if you have all your software licenses and a clean copy of your data. 

Disaster recovery is the exercise in which you aim to protect your business from the effects of a disaster. Too often though we see business owners have gone through this exercise without the input of their IT supplier and the DR plan is, if it ever came to being implemented, unachievable. Why? The business owner or person charged with producing the DR plan has usually woefully underestimated the time it would take to source new equipment, install and configure it then restore the data. If that data is stored on a cloud backup and there is a lot of data that could take a while to download etc.  


Business Continuity 

Business continuity systems are backup systems that have the capability of getting your business back online within minutes. They combine the backup, and the DR planning to ensure that if ever your business is hit by disaster, then you can get back up and running as quickly as possible. This is all done by utilising cloud backup, and virtualisation to make your systems and data accessible to employees, whether working from the office, or if it’s burnt down or inaccessible then from home if required. 


Now that you know what these three areas are, you need to work out what you need for your business, take a look at our Server vs Cloud article for more guidance.