What’s the Difference Between Backup and Disaster Recovery Anyway?

Backup and disaster recovery tools are vital to maximize uptime and keep your business safe from threats like cybercriminals or a natural disaster. But is there a difference between the two terms? And do you need both? The answer is yes, but continue reading to find out why.

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According to Expedient, disaster recovery planning is a key part of an organization’s IT strategy and is becoming more important with the rise of security breaches and network outages. When organizations start to create a disaster recovery strategy, they are often thrown by the idea that backing up data is enough. However, “a backup is a copy of your data; a disaster recovery plan is insurance that guarantees its recovery,” according to Expedient.

The vendor iLand provided an excellent explanation of both terms in a blog post, saying that backup is just a data backup while disaster recovery is “the practice of creating a secondary site to which your primary site will fail over. It is the spare tire. One bursts, and you rapidly swap to the spare and keep on driving.”

Let’s look at the differences a bit more closely.

Data retention

Organizations typically backup data daily to ensure data retention from one location.

When looking at disaster recovery, businesses have to figure out recovery time objectives (RTOs) so they know how long they can operate, if at all, without their data and infrastructure should disaster strike.

Typically, for a company to meet their RTOs, it means they need at least one copy of their IT infrastructure in an alternate location to allow for replication between the production and disaster recovery site, Expedient reported.


While backups are helpful when a company needs to restore a document, it doesn’t allow the failover of your environment if your infrastructure is targeted.

However, disaster recovery does failover an environment to an alternative one that is able to provide you with business continuity.

Additional resources

When a company has backed up their data, it simply means that they have a copy of their data that is intended to be restored to the original source, according to Expedient. Whereas disaster recovery needs a separate production environment for the data to be stored in.


When it comes to creating a backup strategy or plan, it’s reportedly fairly simple as the main goals consist of meeting recovery point objectives (RPOs) and data retention requirements. Disaster recovery differs here because it requires more strategic thought and planning. Figuring out which systems are considered critical, producing a recovery order, creating a communication plan and testing are all part of the preparation.

“The overall benefits and importance of a DR plan are to mitigate risk and downtime, maintain compliance and avoid outages. Backups serve a simpler purpose,” according to Expedient.