February 18, 2023  —  Acronis

What is Disaster Recovery?

Acronis Cyber Protect
formerly Acronis Cyber Backup

In this article, we will define disaster recovery and discuss why it is necessary, the types of disaster recovery solutions available, disaster recovery best practices, how to calculate disaster recovery return on investment (ROI), and why it's essential to have a Business Continuity Plan and a Disaster Recovery Strategy.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Disaster recovery (DR) refers to the process companies follow to recover their systems and data after a human-made or natural disaster. The disaster recovery process relies upon replicated production data backed up to an offsite location, be it a different data center, office, or private or public cloud. When a disaster strikes, the organization can recover its data from these backups.

Sometimes, the organization will use the offsite location as its production site until the original site is back up and running.

Sensible disaster recovery is a critical part of your business continuity plan.

What are Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO)?

Recovery point objective and recovery time objective are critical metrics for your disaster recovery team. RPO and RTO are also crucial for your business impact analysis. Calculating RPO and RTO will complement data protection in an unforeseen event and ease business continuity planning.

RPO typically refers to calculating how much data a company can lose within a period before experiencing significant harm to its critical business operations, from the disruption point to the last data backup.

In essence, RPO enables companies to determine how much data loss they can tolerate during a natural disaster or a cyberattack scenario.

RTO typically refers to the period a system, app, or process can be down without invoking significant damage to business operations and the time spent to restore data to ensure business continuity milestones set in your plan following a disruption event.

Calculating RTO is critical for your disaster recovery plan.

Why is disaster recovery important?

Any business that collects data needs to have a secure and well-structured disaster recovery plan. Failure to do so can result in massive data loss and damage a business's credibility and reputation in the market. However, even companies with DR and business continuity plans can often find themselves unprotected during a natural or human-made disaster because the plans were never tested or exercised.

In today's world, data is a valuable commodity. Organizations that fail to secure the integrity and safety of their data risk the future of their business. Downtime can have a disastrous impact on your customers and your revenue. Organizations need localized and cloud-based disaster recovery solutions to ensure business continuity in all scenarios. Depending on your DR solution, it can be incredibly complex to procure data protection and recovery while keeping costs low.

Disaster recovery planning to help your business avoid data loss

A business can use several disaster recovery plan types to safeguard its data and minimize downtime. While most will tell you that there are three types of disaster recovery – cold, warm, and hot – there are also some variations on those alternatives, which are discussed below.

Back up to a remote site

While some SMBs back up their data to an offsite system, or back up to magnetic tape or a drive that is shipped to an offsite location, backup is not considered a true disaster recovery solution because it does not address recovery in terms of Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) and Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs).

Backup as a Service

Backup as a service is the same as backing up your data to a remote location, except the service is offered by a third-party provider.

Point-in-time snapshots

A point-in-time snapshot or point-in-time copy is a copy of the database as it appears at a given point in time. For disaster recovery purposes, the snapshot must be stored offsite. (mainly to counter a locally-based natural disaster)

Depending on the timing of the snapshot, some data loss will occur.

Cold sites

A cold disaster recovery site is an office or data center away from the primary site with power, heat, air conditioning, etc. but no running IT systems. Employees can work at the cold site when a disaster happens to maintain business continuity and keep operations running, but no technology is installed. Depending on the length of the disaster, an organization may install the necessary systems after the disaster hits to keep the business functioning. This type of site is the least expensive option to recover data compared to warm and hot sites.

Warm sites

A warm disaster recovery site offers office space and a technology infrastructure used when a disaster hits the primary site. A warm site has power, heat, air conditioning, fire suppression tools, etc. but also has network connectivity and redundant hardware/software already up and running. Backups from the primary to the warm site are performed daily or weekly, which can result in some data loss. This type of site is the second most expensive option next to a hot site.

Hot sites

A hot disaster recovery site offers office space and a complete replica of the primary site's IT infrastructure, systems, applications, and up-to-date data to continue operations immediately after a disaster. A hot site is expensive but is the best option to resume normal business operations quickly.

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

DRaaS is a service where an organization backs up its systems and data to a public cloud managed by a third-party cloud provider. The provider charges a pay-as-you-go fee, which is billed monthly or annually. To be considered a true disaster recovery option, the DRaaS infrastructure must be located away from the primary site.

Virtual Disaster Recovery plan

With a virtual DR solution, you create a replica of your entire IT infrastructure and run it on offsite Virtual Machines (VMs). Since VMs are hardware independent, you easily load your backup and recover from a disaster in just a few minutes.

Instant recovery

With instant recovery, you can take a snapshot of an entire virtual machine and run another VM from that backup. The secondary VM must be in a location not affected by the disaster to protect data effectively.

What is cloud disaster recovery?

Cloud disaster recovery (CDR) is among the most efficient disaster recovery plans. It's a cloud-based solution allowing rapid recovery of lost data if a disaster occurs. It also enables remote access to all cloud systems in a protected virtual environment.

Managed CDR doesn't require having network infrastructure for your backups, as all of them reside on the provider's cloud. You don't need to worry about equipment failure, data center management, or physical disasters.

Opposed to traditional disaster recovery strategies, CDR boosts an organization's ability to recover important data efficiently while reducing recovery costs to fit your optimal budget.

Disaster recovery best practices to protect business operations

Place production and DR data centers in different regions

To ensure an effective disaster recovery plan, you must store backups in one or more locations that are not near your primary site. Ideally, these data centers will be located on separate power grids to minimize power outages, enabling easier crisis management. Generally, you are looking to keep your data backups in a location at least 150 miles away from the primary site. This minimizes the chances of your data being impacted by a single disaster.

Test your Disaster Recovery Strategy

For your disaster recovery strategy to be effective, you must run regular tests and exercise your plan. Untested plans are unlikely to work in an emergency, particularly if your plan revolves around multiple staff members following special procedures.

To test a plan effectively, you must examine all systems and processes to check for structural weaknesses and other security risks. Writing up a checklist and taking your staff through a recovery walk-through is a great way to ensure you are prepared in the event of a disaster. Next, come up with mock scenarios to look for weaknesses in your plan. This can be as simple as anticipating the failure of a power generator. Ask, "If this fails, what else could we do?"

You can proceed with discovering unwanted events that can potentially cause unforeseen downtime. Covering all scenarios makes regaining access to your critical data as optimal as possible.

Make sure staff are trained to follow through on the disaster recovery plan

Rather than leaving the responsibility of disaster recovery planning in the hands of a few specialists, it is much better to train several staff members should some individuals be unavailable during a disaster. It's also a good idea to prepare a team outside your primary data center region to guarantee business continuity for all your locations.

How can you calculate your Disaster Recovery plans ROI?

The ROI calculation for disaster recovery is as follows:

ROI = (Avoided Loss – DR Solution Costs) / DR Solution Costs x 100%

Here are the numbers you need for the calculation. First, let's calculate avoided loss.

Avoided Loss = Unprotected Downtime Loss – Protected Downtime Loss

Unprotected downtime

This is the time it will take you to restore company operations without a DR solution.

Protected downtime

This is the time it will take you to continue operations with a DR solution.

Hourly revenue realized

Divide your company's annual revenue by the number of working hours in a calendar year.

To determine unprotected downtime loss and protected downtime losses, multiply both downtimes by the hourly revenue.

Avoided loss

Subtract protected downtime loss from unprotected downtime loss.

This is the first component of your ROI calculation.

The second component of ROI is the cost of your DR solution. You can contact Acronis to determine the DR costs for your specific environment. Then you will have all the components you need to calculate ROI. Before presenting your ROI calculation to your management team, you should ask your CFO for guidelines on what they consider a good ROI.

What is the difference between a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan?

When it comes to being fully prepared for any disaster, disaster recovery and business continuity planning go hand in hand.

The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity is that the former addresses recovering the company's IT infrastructure while the latter refers to recovering business processes.

Business continuity planning (BCP) is the "process involved in creating a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company. The plan ensures that personnel and assets are protected and can function quickly in the event of a disaster."

Business continuity planning comes into play during natural disasters and other unforeseen events such as a major security breach, illness or death of a company executive, pandemic, civil unrest, etc.

A good disaster recovery plan is a significant sub-component of your business continuity plan. It is a roadmap that defines the steps to resume IT operations and recover IT infrastructure, including the network, servers, desktops, databases, applications, and other IT components.

Business continuity management comprises different disaster recovery methods, crisis management, regular disaster recovery testing, internal and external communication, accessible disaster recovery sites, network outage protocols, business impact analysis, and a well-prepared disaster recovery team to ensure critical business functions are available at all times to resume normal operations.

Finding the best disaster recovery solution for your business

At its core, disaster recovery focuses on creating an insurance policy.

But just as you must select insurance coverage that fits your needs and budget, the DR strategy and solution you deploy should be carefully chosen. Large organizations with extensive IT resources and expertise may be ready to manage their disaster recovery directly using a comprehensive solution like Acronis Cyber Disaster Recovery. Easy to deploy and manage, it ensures all workloads – whether on-premises or cloud-based – are instantly available when disaster strikes. It also includes an isolated testing environment so IT teams can ensure the system will keep the business running no matter what happens. 

While small and medium-sized businesses may lack the resources needed to make disaster recovery work, they still face the same disruption risks. The cost of unplanned downtime can be even more fatal to their operations. Many SMBs rely on managed service providers (MSPs) for their IT needs, including managed disaster recovery services. With a cyber protection platform such as Acronis Cyber Cloud, MSPs can provide multiple layers of protection, including backup and disaster recovery as a service to ensure the data, applications, and systems these smaller companies use are always available and protected.

That flexibility means that any organization, regardless of size, can deploy an appropriate disaster recovery strategy to weather whatever challenges they face.

About Acronis

A Swiss company founded in Singapore in 2003, Acronis has 15 offices worldwide and employees in 50+ countries. Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud is available in 26 languages in 150 countries and is used by over 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.