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Backup, DR & CR: Supporting the Need for Speedy Data Recovery

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise tech. In this feature, Zerto (HPE)‘s Director of Technical Marketing Kevin Cole offers commentary on backup, disaster recovery, and cyber recovery and supporting the need for speed.

In today’s digital era, data protection is more important than ever. With the evolution of threats and the expansive capabilities of threat actors, it is essential to have a comprehensive strategy in place to protect your data. This includes backup, disaster recovery (DR), and cyber recovery, all of which are complementary practices that work together to ensure the safety and security of your data. 

At this stage in the digital landscape, it is evident that external efforts for protecting and preserving data are no longer an option for organizations. Data protection helps organizations avoid reputational damage, financial loss, data breaches, exfiltration, and downtime while providing the ability to restore lost or stolen data and remain within regulatory compliance.  

Data theft is the primary focus of malware with password stealers, keyboard loggers, and other spyware making up nearly half of malware detections, according to research from Sophos, indicating the strong need for robust data protection measures. A key factor in determining which data protection measure to adopt comes down to speed of recovery – which is the rate at which an organization can resume business operations following a cyberattack or disruption. Longer downtimes result in increased loss and recovering quickly should be top of mind.  

How do backup, disaster recovery, and cyber recovery differ? 

Backup is considered the bare minimum for data protection, is heavily focused on compliance use cases, and is cost-optimized, providing coverage for all your digital infrastructure. Disaster recovery (DR) is a mix of plans, procedures, and data protection and recovery options that is performance optimized to restore your IT services and data as fast as possible with little data loss after a disruptive event. DR for many organizations is a necessity for service-level agreements (SLAs or industry rules.

Finally, cyber recovery (CR) deals with the challenge of malware and cyberattacks. It is a complementary practice to backup and disaster recovery and is focused on avoiding data loss and downtime after a cyberattack. 

Breaking down Backups  

Although Backup and DR are sometimes used interchangeably, understanding the difference in these practices is important. Having one without the other results in gaps in protection. Backup involves making a copy or copies of data and storing them offsite in case the original is lost or damaged. This backup can restore the data to how it was when it was copied, helping to preserve data accuracy and protect your business information.  

While backups can be used for disaster recovery, they aren’t comparable to replication and failover solutions for achieving low Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and low Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs). Still, backups play a key role in data protection strategies by providing long-term retention of backups for compliance with regulations and for providing low-cost recovery for lower tier workloads. Durable backups that can fully recover a system and that can be stored for years are an essential part of data protection.

Diving into Disaster Recovery 

Disaster Recovery is performance-optimized and focused on depth, not necessarily breadth. It is designed to protect a smaller subset of your infrastructure—usually the most critical systems and digital assets—but it must perform reliably, quickly, and securely. DR is all about ultra-low RTOs and RPOs, ensuring that your critical infrastructure is up and running as quickly as possible in the event of a disaster.  

A strong DR plan is consistently updated, makes sure that the roles and responsibilities of IT staff are clearly defined, ensures there is a clear plan in place for communicating DR steps in the case of a disruption, and guarantees remote access if you cannot access on-premises technology. The most important component of DR is testing. Testing should be conducted frequently, at least twice a year if possible. Regular testing familiarizes employees with the plan, its execution, and identifies any potential flaws or holes. 

How can DR make a difference? Grey County is a municipal government agency, serving over 96,000 residents in Canada, provides a diverse range of services, including road maintenance, social services, government housing, and critical lifesaving assistance. Recognizing that their old system could result in up to two weeks of downtime during major system breakdowns, they adopted a hybrid architecture, combining on-premises servers with Microsoft Azure. By reimagining their backup and recovery processes, Grey County streamlined maintenance, ensured regulatory compliance, and optimized their budget. 

Considering Cyber Recovery 

Cyber Recovery is a little bit of both Backup and DR, with the added challenge of having an adversary actively trying to thwart your defenses. With cyberattacks, you may not know when or how the attacker got in, what their goal is, or what their aim is. This is where speed of recovery becomes critical. The faster you can get back up and running, the less data loss and downtime you will experience. 

DR solutions are best positioned to tackle Cyber Recovery because of their focus on speed of recovery and minimizing data loss. With built-in orchestration and automation, the ability to treat applications as a consistent, cohesive whole, and the use of production-grade primary storage, DR solutions helps organizations recover from cyberattacks quickly and efficiently with nearly no data lost. 

Cyber Recovery is a key element of a cyber resilience strategy for an organization that combines data protection concepts like backup and DR with cyber security to achieve an “always-on” operation. Cyber resilience is defined as the ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disruption or cyber-attack once it takes place. An effective cyber resilience strategy acknowledges that cyberattacks are not only on the rise, but increasingly targeting the ability of organizations to recover. An organization must have proper measures in place to protect their ability to recover from cyber criminals.  

Looking Ahead: The Future of Data Protection  

The impact of AI/ML on data protection is significant both from the perspective of AI/ML being used to improve data protection and conversely being used by cybercriminals to disrupt. For data protection, AI/ML are already being used to help detect when cyberattacks are taking place and to help analyze the scope or “blast radius” of cyberattacks to help speed the recovery process. In the future, AI/ML may play a bigger role in actively isolating data from an attack in progress and simulating different kinds of disruptions, including cyberattacks for testing and planning. 

 Emerging technologies in data protection, such as blockchain and quantum computing, are also having a significant impact on cyber resilience. These technologies offer new ways to secure and protect data, making it more difficult for attackers to access or compromise it. At the same time, the threat landscape is evolving, with new threats and attack vectors emerging all the time. This makes it more important than ever to stay up to date with the latest technologies and best practices in data protection, to ensure that your backups are as secure as possible. 

Conclusion 

In summary, backup, disaster recovery, and cyber recovery are all essential components of a comprehensive data protection strategy. They are complementary practices that work together to ensure the safety and security of your data. But keep in mind, while all these concepts aim to protect data, each has a distinct purpose and approach for different threats and disruptions.  

The evolution of threat actors and the threat landscape has made it necessary for businesses to have more than just backup in place, it is important to have all three in place to protect against data loss and downtime. Don’t wait until it’s too late; act now to protect your data and infrastructure from evolving cyber threats. 

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