Backups vs. Disaster Recovery as a Service: The difference between driving away and heading back to the shop

A few years ago my jeep was nearly totaled when it was parked on the side of the street.  I was attending a football game downtown when someone decided to drive about 40 mph down a residential street, reach for something (therefore losing sight of said street) and subsequently plow into my parked car when they had a multi-tasking #fail.

My ride was towed to a shop that promised to fix it and return it to me in working order, good as new. I was  thrilled to be handed the keys a few weeks later and be able to drive off.

Had I, however, been given a large box of good-as-new jeep parts and had to reassemble the repaired and perfectly good jeep parts myself…I would have been in a boatload of trouble, as I am not a skilled mechanic.

Let’s take that same conceptual approach when it comes to your IT recovery.

A common misunderstanding is what Backup as a Service (BaaS) is compared to Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). The difference is more than just price and provider.

Should your IT infrastructure be metaphorically hit by an individual driving a car while reaching for CDs under the seat, is your team prepared to put the restored parts back together, or would you prefer a fully restored and returned system ready to use? Where do you want the burden of responsibility to lie, with your team, or with ours?

There’s no wrong answer here, it’s about the amount of burden you can afford to take on yourself and the time restraints and restrictions your system has on when it needs to be back up and running.


“Backup,” as defined by SearchStorage, “is the activity of copying files or databases so they will be preserved in case of equipment failure or other catastrophe.”

The key is “files and databases”.

Much like brand new car parts that will make your car run again after an accident, the pieces are in tact. However, your team will need to put those files back together into an application that has not been recovered with the files in order to run them properly. Your team will need to play mechanic and reassemble the parts to get them in working order. This will require time.

Disaster Recovery=Infrastructure

“Disaster Recovery,” as defined by Wikipedia, “is the process, policies and procedures that are related to preparing for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure which are vital to an organization after a natural or human-induced disaster.”

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), compared to cloud backups, includes the recovery of not only your files and databases, but also your applications.  This means that after a disaster hits you are essentially given a working system, as opposed to just the working parts that still need to be reassembled.

DRaaS, or application recovery, is about bringing your entire IT Infrastructure back online, or at least the most crucial applications and systems that you have chosen as key to recovering and need for your business to run, in a previously agreed upon timeframe.


With DRaaS, there are several options to consider, each with varying price points, RTO and RPO promises. RTO is the time that a system must recover within to continue business practices. RPO is the maximum timeframe that data might be lost after a major disruption.

If everything is crucial and you’re essentially duplicating your infrastructure, you’re talking about near immediate RTO and RPO with a relative cost of 120%-150% of your current infrastructure cost. This is an active/active scenario where you have two active systems. An active/passive scenario represents less than 10 minutes of RTO and RPO and might cost you relatively 95%-105% of your current infrastructure costs.

Most companies, especially medium size businesses, can’t afford such quick recovery speeds, but need a robust solution that will recover more than just data. This is where a Cloud DR solution or DRaaS fits in. For those organizations with important workloads that need confidence in their ability to recover to full production within hours, not minutes, they can achieve those goals at approximately 40% of the cost of the production environment rather than at 100%+ of current costs.

Some companies today are using backup-as-a-service to protect themselves from disaster. At more like 10-20% of the cost of the environment, that may be the best protection your organization can afford. But it’s important to understand that now you’re looking at up to 24 hour RPO and 48 hours or more RTO before you’re back online.

How much stress can you take?

So, here are questions you need to ask yourself when deciding how to plan for the worst:

1)   Do you want Backups or Recovery?  Can your team take on the time, energy and technical burden of putting the pieces back together to get the vehicle running again?

2)   How much downtime can you afford to keep your business on track?  Can you handle 4 hours?  Or do you need to be back online nearly instantaneously?

3)   What price are you willing and able to pay to protect what you’ve built, and your data?  Is it worth twice the cost or more for an active/active or active/passive solution, or will you be okay with a DRaaS solution that can be back online in 4 hours at approximately 40% of the relative cost?

This isn’t a right or a wrong answer, and no solution will be right for every company.  The hope, however, is that this background information helps to make you a more informed consumer and helps to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing when we talk about disaster recovery in the cloud, cloud backups and solving your future problems.

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