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What Is Disaster Recovery (DR)? Definitions & Examples

Although disaster recovery (DR) has been around since the 1970's when organizations first began to recognize their dependence on computer systems, ambiguity still abounds around what exactly it is and how critical a role it plays in today's IT landscape. Let's take this opportunity to clear up the confusion.

What is a disaster?

In this context, a disaster is any unforeseen event that can significantly put your organization at risk by interfering with your operations - whether natural, like flooding, or man-made, such as a cutting through a water main. Not every disruptive event is a disaster – a power outage may just be an inconvenience if you have a back-up generator and plenty of fuel. And not every disaster has to involve catastrophic destruction or loss of life – a cyber-attack can wreak havoc on your business, even though the fabric of your IT infrastructure remains physically untouched.

What is the definition of disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery is the process of resuming normal operations following a disaster by regaining access to data, hardware, software, networking equipment, power and connectivity. However, if your facilities are damaged or destroyed, activities may also extend to logistical considerations like finding alternate work locations, restoring communications, or sourcing anything from desks and computers to transportation for employees. Disaster recovery response should follow a disaster recovery plan – a documented process or set of procedures developed specifically to prepare the organization to recover in the shortest possible time during a period of acute stress.


What is the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity?

Disaster recovery and business continuity are close cousins but not interchangeable terms. Business continuity is the process of getting the entire organization back to full functionality after a crisis, whereas disaster recovery is about getting all-important IT infrastructure and operations up and running again. It pays to think of DR as a subset of BC.

What is Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)?

Disaster Recover as a Service (DRaaS) involves third-party cloud-based replication and hosting to provide full environmental recovery in the event of a disaster, with SLAs defining the DRaaS provider's role and recovery timings. The model is ideally suited to organizations that don't have the resources to provision, configure and test their DR plans in-house, or invest in and maintain their own offsite DR environment, as well as those businesses with minimal tolerance for downtime.

Learn more about IT Disaster Recovery Consulting from Sungard AS.