Data Backup and Replication: Why Organizations May Need Both

April 15, 2024 | Posted in:

Business Transformation

Imagine the impact on your organization in the event of an IT disaster like an office fire, systems failure, or ransomware attack. If all your data vanished, how quickly could your organization bounce back? Would it be a matter of minutes, hours, days, or even weeks? Consider the repercussions on your customers and employees. These are the critical data resiliency queries that business leaders must address when evaluating their data backup solutions and recovery strategies.

Understanding your organization's resilience in the face of disruptions hinges on two key metrics: Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). RTO refers to the duration within which a system or service must be restored after an outage or disaster, determining how long you can afford to be offline. On the other hand, RPO defines the acceptable amount of data loss in case of a disruption, outlining the maximum tolerable period between data backups. Understanding RTO and RPO guides the selection of appropriate data backup strategies, recovery mechanisms, and replication technologies to meet the demands of IT, recovery, and business continuity seamlessly.

Data Center

In the event of a disaster, data loss poses a significant challenge for organizations of all sizes. Your disaster recovery (DR) plan serves as a roadmap for rebuilding systems and recovering data, while your business continuity (BC) plan dictates how business operations will continue during a crisis.

Each industry faces distinct demands concerning backup, recovery, and replication strategies. For instance, financial institutions need to adhere to regulations set by the Federal Reserve and SEC, while the healthcare sector must safeguard Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in line with HIPAA standards. It's crucial to assess which data, applications, and systems are mission-critical and tailor your backup solutions accordingly. For example, DNS servers and web filters may require high availability due to their critical role in internet operations, with a short RTO of 15 minutes to 1 hour. On the other hand, file servers may have a longer RTO of 12-24 hours, reflecting their lower priority in the business continuity plan.

Barracuda Networks recently analyzed millions of emails across thousands of companies. They found small businesses, with less than 100 employees, will experience 350% more social engineering attacks than an employee of a larger enterprise.

Data Backup Solutions and Recovery Types

The best way to think about a backup is as a “point-in-time” copy of your data. You could recognize this method as an 8:00 PM nightly backup, Monday – Friday. Your workers have gone home for the evening and the majority will not be working until 8:00 AM the next day. This is a common 24hr offsite data backup scenario, often chosen as a low-cost option. You are billed only when a snapshot of your data is taken and transferred to your data backup system. This scenario highlights the importance of understanding your recovery point objectives (RPO), and what is the most data that can be inaccessible/unavailable in one period.

Consider the following example. It is a payroll period and your HR & tax management software suddenly becomes compromised, leaving you unable to make payroll. Using the point-in-time backup scenario above, your data would have last saved at 8:00 PM the night before. The recovery point is the previous evening, before the compromise, essentially losing a day of recordkeeping and productivity. When thinking about RPO, determine if the cost of lost data and productivity is more than the increased cost of backing up your data at a higher frequency or using multiple methods.

Common Data Backup Solutions / Methods

  • Tapes: Cost-effective but inefficient recovery in large quantities.
  • Direct-to-cloud: Backups are copied directly from your server to a cloud server giving scalable storage capacity. Cost increases over tape solutions due to offsite storage and internet bandwidth needs.
  • Cloud-to-cloud: When using the cloud in place of physical servers, backups go from one cloud to another. Costs are at a premium due to exclusive cloud storage, high scalability, and no need for physical infrastructure.
  • Software-as-a-Service backup: It’s best practice to supplement data living within a SaaS application, like Microsoft 365 or Google G Suite. These applications have no obligation to backup and protect data to meet your internal or regulatory requirements.

No matter what data backup solution you choose, it is highly recommended to augment your strategy with an off-line (or air-gapped) solution. This additional backup is especially important to combat the increasing ransomware threats all businesses face. The benefit of adding an offsite air-gapped solution is the physical and logical separation of your backup data from any threats to your production environment. Essentially your backup data is protected from cyberattacks or other disasters (fire, lightning strikes, etc.).

Data Replication

While backups copy data over to another location, data replication is ongoing data transfer. With replication, a redundant server is housed within a separate data center creating a real-time replica of your virtual environment and its corresponding data. Returning to the payroll scenario above, suppose this time you were working on payroll when your central server fails. With replication in place, you can switch over to your redundant (or replicated) server and continue business operations. Payroll would go out as scheduled while IT works on getting your central server back online. This is the quickest solution for companies with the need for high availability, but this does come with a cost.

Replication requires the availability of servers (physical, cloud, or combo), replication software, and connectivity (VPN, bandwidth, private connection). As you can imagine, each part of this combination is attached to a dollar figure. Knowing your recovery time objective (RTO), and how long you can afford to be down is key to optimizing costs with replication.

Why Backup is Needed With Replication

Point-in-time data backup, no matter what method you choose, is an absolute must for disaster recovery, but it does not address business continuity. Replication, on the other hand, addresses business continuity, but cannot accomplish disaster recovery on its own. Say your payroll data gets corrupted and you do not have a viable backup solution in place (no DR solution), the corrupted data is essentially replicated to your redundant server (BC solution). You are still unable to make payroll since you have no point-in-time backup to recover.

At Systems Engineering, we recommend clients map their data and applications to appropriate levels of protection (keep in mind it might take more than one solution to fit the needs and budget of the business). For example, organizations could justify the replication and rapid recovery of one or two critical applications, like your payroll software, yet leave the remainder of systems protected by a less costly solution with higher RPO and RTO. We also recommend that all data and applications are protected by fault-tolerant systems that are backed up at the file level.


Although there are many options and solutions for backup and replication of your company's important data, one thing is clear: backup is a necessity. In today's fast-paced digital landscape, downtime is simply non-negotiable, and the stakes of losing confidential data are too high to ignore.

Are you worried about your organization's data backup solutions in case of a disaster? Take action now. Click the link below to access our dedicated backup and recovery contact form. Let's ensure your data's safety together.

Protect Your Data

Systems Engineering clients, please reach out to your account manager. For other inquiries, please connect with us at info@systemsengineering.com or call 888.624.6737.