DRaaS vs. Data Backups: What Is the Difference?

draas vs data backups

Many people are confused about the difference between Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) and data backups. In today’s post, we’ll explain the difference and spell out why most organizations would benefit from leveraging both technologies.  

 Related on BCMMETRICS: Data Guardians: The BCM Pro’s Role 
in Helping Business Units Protect Their Data

DRaaS vs. Data Backups

What is the difference between data backups and DRaaS (pronounced “D-Rass”)? 

Data backups are the golden-oldie solution of making safety copies of data files, traditionally to tape—nowadays more commonly to the cloud. The usual frequency is once a day. 

If data gets lost or corrupted, having a backup means you can go get a recent copy of the file and make up your loss. (To what extent depends on how much has changed since your system created the backup.) 

Data backups were—and remain—critical to every organization that depends on data to carry out its mission (i.e., every organization). 

DRaaS is the new kid on the block.  

DRaaS is “the use of third-party vendors to provide cloud-based backup and recovery of organizational servers and data,” to quote MHA’s Richard Long

It’s important to remember DRaaS is bigger than data backups, more comprehensive. It involves backing up the organization’s process, methodology, and systems; it incorporates a recovery plan and strategy. 

DRaaS is equivalent to having a backup version of your systems (exactly which ones depends on the details of your contract with the DRaaS provider) sitting at the provider’s, turned on, warmed up, and ready to go at a moment’s notice. 

If you’re thinking that this sounds expensive, you’re right; it is. For some parts of your operation, DRaaS is probably worth it; for others, it might not be.  

I’ll explain how you tell the difference in a second. 

A Common Misunderstanding 

One of the most common misunderstandings we see is that many executives assume that, because their data is backed up regularly, they are protected against any events that might impact their data or computer systems.  

This misunderstanding reflects the following: 

  • Lack of knowledge about the complexity of modern IT systems 
  • Little to no awareness about how long it can take to recover using backup data alone 
  • Lack of knowledge of the serious impacts—to operations, revenue, and reputation—the organization can suffer while a lengthy recovery is underway 

Backing up from data alone tends to take a long time. Recovering with DRaaS tends to be fast. 

These factors explain why, in some situations, DRaaS is a worthwhile investment. 

When a Sinkhole Ruins Your Wedding Reception 

Here’s an analogy that might help in explaining the difference between recovering from data backups and recovering from DRaaS. 

Suppose you are one hour away from hosting a wedding reception for 200 and a sinkhole swallows your venue.  

If you have a data backup of your reception, all is not lost. A big truck containing all the supplies and groceries you need to reproduce the reception will eventually show up, allowing your team to get to work recreating your preparations and recooking the food. You have all the necessary supplies, although getting everything set up again might take days. 

In contrast, if you have a DRaaS backup of your wedding reception, a complete copy of your venue will appear almost immediately and be complete and ready to go in every detail, including decorations, food, cake, and band. You can direct your guests to the new location and go on with the party after minimal delay. 

Obviously, the second option would be more expensive than the first, but in some cases, it’s worth it. 

Consulting Your BIA

How do you decide which parts of your operation are worth backing up with DRaaS?  

The answer is, you consult your Business Impact Analysis (BIA)—or else do one if you don’t have a current one.  

The BIA will tell you which are your most critically time-sensitive business processes and how long you can afford to be without them. (For more on BIAs, go here and here.) 

This information helps you make the cost-benefit analysis of when and where DRaaS makes sense for you. 

Most organizations achieve the best balance of protection and economy by using a hybrid approach—one that incorporates data backups and DRaaS. Each approach backs up a different kind of information in a different way. Together, they provide the best kind of protection for most companies. 

The Benefits of a Hybrid Approach

Confusion persists regarding the difference between data backups and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS). Data backups are copies of data files; these days they are most commonly kept in the cloud. DRaaS is a service provided by third-party vendors that involves making copies of systems, processes, and methodology, keeping these ready to go at short notice.  

Decisions about which processes warrant the expense of DRaaS protection are best made by consulting the BIA. Most organizations will do best using a hybrid approach, incorporating both data backups and DRaaS. 

Further Reading

For more information on Disaster Recovery as a Service, DRaaS vs. Data Backups, and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting: 


Michael Herrera is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MHA. In his role, Michael provides global leadership to the entire set of industry practices and horizontal capabilities within MHA. Under his leadership, MHA has become a leading provider of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery services to organizations on a global level. He is also the founder of BCMMETRICS, a leading cloud based tool designed to assess business continuity compliance and residual risk. Michael is a well-known and sought after speaker on Business Continuity issues at local and national contingency planner chapter meetings and conferences. Prior to founding MHA, he was a Regional VP for Bank of America, where he was responsible for Business Continuity across the southwest region.

Business continuity consulting for today’s leading companies.

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