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What is disaster recovery (DR)?

Disaster recovery allows organizations to restore operations after a paralyzing incident. It consists of protocols and policies that either prevent incidents from happening or facilitate the recovery process in the aftermath. Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) determine the effectiveness of the process. They refer, respectively, to the maximum tolerable data loss (RTO) and the minimum speed of recovery (RPO).

What kinds of incidents does disaster recovery mitigate? Ransomware, critical bugs, natural disasters, cyberattacks, hardware failure, and other disruptive and unexpected events force organizations to remain vigilant at all times. Disaster recovery is an essential process in their arsenal, enabling prompt response, shortening recovery time, and minimizing damage.

Businesses need to be available. Even a short break in operations can result in tangible losses. Disaster recovery empowers organizations against chance events that would otherwise interrupt business continuity, cause financial ruin, and hurt customer retention.

In the absence of disaster recovery:

  • Business continuity is disrupted. Disasters prevent businesses from providing the goods and services their existence depends on, making them effectively defunct.
  • Financial consequences follow. Disasters block revenue streams from selling goods or services, jeopardizing solvency.
  • Potential business is lost. Disasters deprive customers of access to goods and services. Disgruntled customers spread criticism and are hard to win back.

What is IT disaster recovery?

IT disaster recovery is a set of tools, policies, processes, and scenarios that businesses deploy in the face of a disaster to bring their IT infrastructures back to working order as fast and efficiently as possible.

How does disaster recovery work?

Disaster recovery provides a set of steps to follow when the lights go off to bring them back on quickly. An effective disaster recovery strategy must consist of four pillars: prevention, anticipation, detection, and correction. Let's look at each in detail.


Prevention is always better than the cure. Disaster recovery must take this into account and implement measures that keep incidents from happening. These measures include regular updates and backups, software composition analysis, compliance audits, and employee education.

  • Regular updates. More than six hundred software vulnerabilities were discovered in the first week of 2024 alone. Patching and updating software daily is essential to close loopholes and shrink the window of opportunity for their exploitation.
  • Frequent data backups. Backups remain the last line of defense against data loss. A robust backup schedule that incorporates immutability and zero access to root provides effective protection against attacks.
  • Software composition analysis. Over 90% of all software contains open-source code. While appreciated for low cost and complete transparency, open-source projects are also susceptible to infiltration by hackers, at risk of human error compounded by the sheer number of contributors, and difficult to audit for safety. Software composition analysis services monitor open-source components for security, quality, and compliance.
  • Compliance audits. Compliance regulation extends beyond open source and software in general. Audits ensure that the infrastructure meets the legal requirements imposed on a business.
  • Employee education. Humans can also be hacked by exploiting their ignorance. Security education that encompasses all roles and departments significantly decreases the risk of human error leading to an incident.


Although security incidents cannot be predicted, some can be anticipated. For example, we know that hard drives tend to fail after three to five years. A disaster recovery plan can solve that by mandating regular hardware checkups and replacements.

Ransomware incidence is another helpful statistic that can inform planning. Ransomware occurs every 11 seconds and encrypts backup data in 93% of cases. A disaster recovery plan that ignores these facts and doesn't use immutable backups for ransomware protection is essentially asking to be hacked.


Threat actors inevitably leave signs of their activity, often long before engaging in anything malicious. Detection tools can spot these signs and deflect or contain the danger before it spreads. Threat monitoring, least-privilege access, asset segmentation, and explicit identity verification belong to this category of tools.


Not all kinds of incidents can be prevented, anticipated, or detected in time. For example, natural disasters do not work on schedule and don't usually announce themselves. When a disaster does occur, a recovery plan uses corrective measures to minimize or revert its consequences. These measures might include specific procedures, alternative energy supplies, data backup and recovery solutions, and more.

What are the types and methods of disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery comprises a variety of tools, but they don't all need to be used at once. Organizations can pick and choose, adapting the solution to the unique realities and requirements of their business.

  • Backups are offsite storage repositories containing recent copies of production data. Ideally, you should use immutable backups to prevent tampering even after successful infiltration. Since backups protect data rather than entire IT infrastructures, they don't constitute a complete disaster recovery solution.
  • Backup as a service (BaaS) backs up production data to a remote location through a third-party provider, with the same caveat as above.
  • Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) copies the entire IT infrastructure, including compute, network, and storage, to the cloud so that it can be used instead of the main systems when they go down.
  • Point-in-time snapshots are images of the entire database from a given point in time. They can be used for recovery only when stored away from the incident site.
  • Vitual DR replicates IT infrastructures into virtual machines (VMs) located offsite. When disaster strikes, operations can be resumed directly from the VMs. This solution requires frequent backups and high throughput to be effective.
  • Disaster recovery sites are physical locations where organizations keep redundant resources, such as backups of data, systems, and other core elements that allow them to remain operational until the incident is over.

RTO and RPO in disaster recovery strategy

Expectations around RPO and RTO will determine the ultimate shape of a disaster recovery plan. The smaller the values, the faster the recovery, and the greater the toll on resources that support it.

RPO stands for Recovery Time Objective, which defines how long it takes to bring systems back online with backups, virtual machines, and other disaster recovery methods. This metric is affected by compute, network, and storage limitations.

RTO stands for Recovery Point Objective, which defines how much data will be lost in an incident. This metric is affected by backup frequency, so it's expressed in minutes rather than units of data. An RTO of one hour means that data generated an hour before an incident will be gone.

Six critical components of an effective disaster recovery plan

Once the tools and methods for a disaster recovery plan have been chosen, it's time to make them part of a robust framework. Involving the right people, matching risks and measures, prioritizing assets, defining timelines, configuring backups, and enforcing testing and optimization will ensure the disaster recovery plan works as intended in the event of a crisis.

Designate staff

Tools are useless without operators. Enlist security experts, assign each person clear roles in the recovery process, and ensure everybody knows the disaster recovery process. Establish protocols for communication with team members, employees, vendors, and customers.

Match risks and measures

Knowledge is half the battle. To prevent confusion in case of a disaster, make a list of incidents your organization might suffer and prepare a step-by-step recovery protocol for each, defining roles, actions, and tools.

Prioritize assets

Prioritization is key. Identify which assets are critical for your business's continuity and rank them in order of importance. For each asset, define a recovery protocol to follow when it gets compromised. Create specific DR documentation to ensure each disaster recovery team member knows their responsibilities and priorities.

Define timelines

How much downtime and data loss can you reasonably expect and tolerate? Consider your target RPO and RTO realistically, judging it against your infrastructure's limitations. If not satisfied, upgrade or scale resources to match expectations.

Configure backups

Once you've determined and tested recovery timelines, configure backups accordingly. Choose backup mode, location, and frequency (RTO), define recovery speed (RPO), and appoint people responsible. Remember to strengthen your backups by making them immutable.

Enforce testing and optimization

Don't take your disaster recovery plan for granted. Security threats and protective technologies evolve continually, and so should your plan. Perform regular testing, monitor recent developments, and update your tools and protocols to keep them relevant.

Benefits of disaster recovery

The effort of implementing a disaster recovery plan is rewarded with smoother operations, tighter security, lower recovery cost and duration, loyal customers, regulation compliance, and something that doesn't have a price tag - peace of mind in knowing you're prepared for the worst.

Business continuity and availability

In a world where downtime sets businesses back by as much as $9,000 a minute, disaster recovery is literal money in the bank. By optimizing the restoration process with superchared instant recovery, which runs failed workloads directly from backups, disaster recovery minimizes or even eliminates downtime and improves service availability.

System security

Disaster recovery doesn't only contain incidents, but it also stops many from happening. Failsafe mechanisms such as encryption, immutability, least-privilege access, and segmentation keep dangers at bay and reduce incident frequency.

Customer retention

"Once bitten, twice shy" describes the impact of security incidents on customer loyalty. Data breaches that compromise personal information or restrict access to critical and in-demand services will seriously damage your company's reputation. Use disaster recovery to remain trustworthy and available to your customers.

Fast and cost-efficient recovery

Modern disaster recovery solutions can restore operations rapidly, simultaneously running data replication and instant recovery from virtual machines. They also cut costs, not only by limiting downtime but also through efficient engineering—linear scaling, for example, accommodates traffic by adding a node rather than upgrading resources.

Regulation compliance

Disaster recovery increases regulation compliance by reducing incident rates and implementing legally required security measures. If you fail to safeguard sensitive information from criminals, you may be liable to penalties under applicable law, such as the EU's GDPR. As security incidents become fewer with disaster recovery in place, so do the fines. Furthermore, regulations often require organizations to use specific security solutions, such as immutability or Zero Trust, and penalize the lack thereof. Disaster recovery includes those solutions and thus eliminates the risk of financial repercussions.

Emergency preparedness

Last but not least, a robust disaster recovery plan provides organizations with the comfort of a well-researched and tested emergency response scenario. Ideally, this scenario is drafted long before any disruption, giving stakeholders ample time to study and discuss it. When everyone is on the same page and the plan is settled, the overall workplace atmosphere and confidence in the ability to weather the unknown improve.

Disaster recovery use cases

Disaster recovery is a versatile tool that can mitigate many disruptive events, such as cyberattacks, hardware failures, or natural disasters. The following section discusses potential use cases for disaster recovery.


Cyberattacks are attempts to penetrate a system with malicious intent. Many types of cyberattacks exist, but ransomware remains a top-of-mind concern for small-to-medium-sized organizations.

Hardware crashes

Hardware doesn't last forever. The average lifespan of a hard drive oscillates between 3 to 5 years, which means it can fail at any moment in a 2-year window.

Power outages

Power outages may be rare, but they spell disaster for those who don't have backup power supplies; and even those who do cannot rely on backup power for too long as energy usage in modern companies is high.

Network failures

Losing access to the internet means losing customer trust and access to cloud-based backups. Network outages may not bring business operations to a complete stop, but they're certainly a challenge.

Natural disasters

Floods, fires, hurricanes, tsunamis, landslides, and more - nature never runs out of ways to make our lives difficult. Some areas are more prone to natural disasters than others, but this risk should not be too easily dismissed.

How can Ootbi help with disaster recovery?

Ootbi by Object First supports disaster recovery as a ransomware-proof backup appliance purpose-built for Veeam by Veeam founders. With high ingest speed, supercharged instant recovery, out-of-the-box immutability, and Zero Trust compatibility, Ootbi delivers secure, simple, and powerful storage for Veeam customers, ensuring they never have to pay a ransom again.


What's the difference between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity?

Disaster recovery and business continuity are often conflated, and some bundle them together in a single term known as BCDR. In reality, however, disaster recovery is just a component of business continuity.

The key difference between business continuity and disaster recovery is that one is proactive and the other reactive. Specifically, business continuity works in advance to ensure that employees are prepared to perform their duties in an emergency.

Conversely, disaster recovery is reactive. It is defined by what should be done after an incident. Consequently, it is deployed post-factum only in response to a disruptive event.

How to build a disaster recovery team?

An effective disaster recovery team includes four leaders, each an expert in one of the following areas:

  • Crisis management, which consists in orchestrating the process of recovery
  • Business continuity, which consists in ensuring alignment with business priorities
  • Impact assessment and recovery, which consists in managing the technical side, like servers, storage, databases, and networks
  • IT applications, which consist of enforcing the desired order of application recovery

A disaster recovery team should also involve executive management for the approval process and business unit representatives for gathering feedback and insights.

What are the three types of disaster recovery sites?

Disaster recovery sites come in three flavors: cold, warm, and hot. This gradation reflects the initial cost and effectiveness of the site, cold being the least expensive and functional.

A cold site is the most basic version, providing only power, network, and cooling. However, it lacks servers and storage, severely limiting the response time and functionality, as hardware must be delivered later.

A warm site contains all the infrastructure necessary for disaster recovery - everything cold sites have, plus servers, disk drives, and switches. Although entirely usable, warm sites are deficient because they do not store backup data.

A hot site is a fully operational backup facility with everything the cold and warm options offer, plus an active backup schedule.

Is the cloud enough for disaster recovery?

The cloud remains essential for disaster recovery because it's exceptionally resilient. It distributes risk and remains robust against security threats by relying on multiple locations and backups. On the other hand, physical data recovery centers may present as single points of failure. One hit could compromise them.

However, despite their high vulnerability and maintenance costs, physical sites remain relevant under certain circumstances. Organizations decide to store recovery data on-site for legal and practical reasons. Compliance regulations may compel them to be reluctant to depend on a working internet connection, wary of the myriad threats circulating the World Wide Web, or enticed by the total control a physical center gives them over their data.

Is Zero Trust Part of Disaster Recovery?

Zero Trust lends itself to Disaster Recovery as a security paradigm that addresses the fiction of perimeter-based security. Assuming breach at all times, Zero Trust monitors traffic in and outside the company, segments access to critical assets, enforces explicit identity verification, and uses least-privilege access for every user, device, and application.

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