Cloud Disaster Recovery (Cloud DR): How It Compares to Traditional DR & DRaaS

Businesses are rapidly adopting cloud platforms to improve efficiency and agility, and the global pandemic has only accelerated this move. It’s no surprise that almost 70% of organizations currently using cloud services plan to increase their cloud spending. Cloud technologies have changed the way we think about traditional disaster recovery (DR). Today’s options are faster, more secure, more cost-effective and offer far more flexibility and scalability than traditional approaches to DR.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to DR in the cloud. While Cloud Disaster Recovery (Cloud DR) and Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) have the same end goal — protection of critical resources and business continuity — there are key differences that you must consider to determine which is right for your business.

What Is Cloud Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Cloud-based disaster recovery enables businesses to back up and recover mission-critical data and remote machines. Available as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), cloud DR helps protect valuable resources by storing them on a remote off-site cloud server. It also helps maintain business continuity by enabling quick recovery in the event of a disaster.

Powered by cloud technology, it enables faster recovery, high flexibility and high availability. Companies can customize cloud DR solutions to suit their businesses’ unique requirements.

As compared to traditional disaster recovery, cloud DR is simple and easy to configure, manage and use.

How Does Cloud DR Work? 

Cloud DR involves storing important data and applications at an off-site data center and failing over to a virtual host or a secondary site in the event of a crisis. This helps businesses quickly get back up and running when disasters strike and minimizes the impact of disruptive events on their business.

Cloud DR vendors are responsible for ensuring systems and applications are regularly patched and up to date. And since most cloud DR functions can be automated, it reduces the chances of errors and requires minimum involvement on the users’ part.

Most cloud DR operates via pay-as-you-go services, which means businesses must pay only for the amount of storage and number of software licenses used. Cloud DR also provides users the flexibility to scale up services to suit their business needs.

Why Is Cloud DR Needed?

In today’s competitive environment, businesses cannot afford to suffer downtime, whether from hardware or software failure, cyberattacks, or natural disasters. Businesses must be constantly online to meet the burgeoning demands of a global, 24×7 economy.

Cybercrimes are surging like never before. The FBI reported an astounding 300% increase in reported cybercrimes since the beginning of the global pandemic. And according to Cybersecurity Ventures, global cybercrime costs are expected to reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Cyberattacks are becoming more complex and unpredictable and can occur at any time. Therefore, it’s vital that companies develop comprehensive data backup and disaster recovery strategies to stay afloat when crises do occur.

Cloud disaster recovery is an effective way to build an organization’s resilience against disasters. It helps protect important workloads regardless of whether they are stored on-premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid or multi-cloud environments. A robust cloud DR solution helps businesses cope with cyberthreats and other disasters more efficiently, and minimizes downtime and the costs associated with it. Cloud DR ensures critical files, systems and applications are secure and available, thereby enabling business continuity.

How Is Cloud DR Different From Traditional DR?

Given today’s unpredictable nature of events, having a sound disaster recovery strategy is a must to ensure business functions are uninterrupted in case of natural or man-made disasters. With different types of disaster recovery and numerous DR solutions available today, businesses must plan their DR strategies wisely.

While businesses realize the importance of disaster recovery, the difference between cloud DR and traditional DR is still unclear among many companies. This understanding is vital to implement an effective disaster recovery strategy.

Difference Between Cloud DR and Traditional DR

Traditional DR

Cloud DR

Setting up a data center/secondary site requires large up-front investments for data center space, connectivity, servers, manpower, site maintenance, etc.

Cloud DR is inexpensive since it is not dependent on hardware. Instead of investing in backup storage and server resources, companies pay to store the snapshots and application data in a suspended state, and for data replication from primary to secondary (cloud DR) site for data synchronization. Also, with cloud DR’s pay-per-use pricing model, businesses can throttle resources as needed in the event of a failover.

The processes involved in making a physical DR site live requires manual intervention, is time-consuming, and could lead to data loss and impact business continuity.

Cloud DR sites are automated and can be brought online within a few seconds or minutes, which minimizes downtime and the risks associated with data loss.

In circumstances when connectivity is unavailable with the physical disaster recovery setup, manual procedures are required to restart the site’s operations.

A cloud-based DR process can be triggered using just a laptop or any device connected to the internet.

Since traditional DR is a hardware-focused approach, any hardware damage will mean replacing it with a new one, which translates into costly downtime.

Since cloud DR is based on virtualization, the virtual servers can be securely moved across multiple data centers.

Upgrading a conventional DR site is tedious, time-consuming and costly.

Cloud-based DR offers clients the flexibility to scale up depending on their needs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud DR

While cloud DR offers multiple benefits as compared to traditional DR, it’s important that businesses weigh the pros and cons before deciding to invest in a cloud disaster recovery solution.

Benefits of Cloud DR

  • Flexibility: The cloud DR services’ pay-as-you-go pricing model puts more usage control in the hands of the users by taking DR from a capital expenditure to an operational expenditure. It also ensures the users only pay for the services they use.
  • Adaptability: One of the main advantages of cloud DR is adaptability, which allows businesses to easily realign and reallocate resources when necessary.
  • Scalability: Businesses using cloud DR can easily scale up or down computing resources as per their business requirements.
  • Availability: Cloud DR uses multiple data centers for disaster recovery efforts, which means data is readily available and can be accessed from anywhere, at any time.
  • Reliability: The use of geo-redundancy helps ensure that data will be available and quickly accessible to users. For instance, even if a disaster occurs in a primary location, the data stored in a secondary DR site will not be impacted.

Drawbacks of Cloud DR

  • Increased Compliance Requirements: Migrating data and other resources to the cloud comes with its own set of risks. Storing data off-site for disaster recovery means businesses must comply with new regulatory measures.
  • Potential Connectivity Issues: Users require an internet connection to access company data stored in the cloud, which could be a problem when facing connectivity issues. Cloud DR introduces increased barriers to accessing data at times.
  • Limited by the Service Provider’s SLA: The service provider’s standards and the client’s standards don’t always match up. Sometimes, this can pose a problem when meeting Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs). 

Are Cloud DR and DRaaS the Same?

Cloud DR and Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) emerged as a result of cloud computing, making disaster recovery accessible to even small and midsize businesses. Cloud DR and DRaaS have the same purpose — to ensure business continuity — and since both approaches use the cloud platform, it’s easy to misunderstand them as synonyms. Therefore, it’s important for IT administrators to understand what these techniques are in order to select the right solution for their business.

Cloud DR:

Cloud DR is the ability to failover a workload to a cloud-based instance (virtual machine) to resume operations of a failed workload. Cloud DR is a do-it-yourself approach wherein end users assume ownership of the solution, and with it, the risks that can come with public clouds.

Cloud DR often makes use of hyperscale cloud environments, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, instead of a company-managed secondary data center or colocation. It’s up to the organization to determine the best way to replicate data (often by using third-party software) and how to initiate failover in the event of an outage.


DRaaS is an offering from vendors or service providers who specialize in disaster recovery. Cloud-based DRaaS providers have a ready-made platform to support disaster recovery (potentially including proprietary hardware, software and cloud data centers. (For example, Unitrends).

Businesses can leverage the expertise of the provider to tune cloud operations specifically for failover and hosting of critical workloads. With DRaaS, the service providers do the heavy lifting, right from installation and implementation to failover and recovery of service, as well as failback to the operational data center when ready. This reduces the burden on IT administrators and frees up their time to pursue more strategic initiatives.

Which Is the Better Option?

Both Cloud DR and DRaaS offer multiple benefits to organizations, enabling secure backup of critical files and faster recovery during crisis — all without complex DR procedures and expensive investments. While cloud DR and DRaaS have their own advantages and disadvantages, businesses should consider their tolerance level before investing in either solution.

The Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) of a company will play a crucial role in determining which is the better option between the two. For businesses that have high tolerance level, cloud DR may be the better option. However, if the tolerance level is relatively low and businesses have tight RPO/RTO needs, then DRaaS could be more suitable.

For businesses considering cloud DR services, it is important to note that cloud DR is a do-it-yourself approach and requires significant in-house expertise.

Effortless Disaster Recovery With Unitrends

Downtime for business is equal to being temporarily “out of business,” and depending on the duration of downtime, the consequences can be catastrophic. Disaster recovery is no longer an option but a must-have business requirement.   

Unitrends makes disaster recovery hassle-free and effortless. Our white glove Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) reduces the cost and complexity of protecting critical workloads from ransomware, natural disasters, infrastructure failures and other common threats.

Unitrends DRaaS delivers rapid spin-up of critical systems and applications in the Unitrends Cloud at a cost significantly lower than building and managing an off-site DR. It is designed to reduce the burden on IT professionals by performing all the services needed to install, manage, failover and recover key business operations in the event of a disaster.

Learn more about Unitrends DRaaS.


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