Paper planes

Imagine you are in a paper plane flying competition representing your workplace.

You make 10 different versions of your plane during the competition. Based on performance, you discard some of your later designs, for more effective earlier versions (the benefit of having backups that can be easily retrieved!).

During the competition you get a paper cut on your right hand, so you use your left hand to continue competing. While less effective, it keeps you from being eliminated (the benefit of high availability through having redundant systems!).

But then disaster strikes, and you get a paper cut on your right hand! At this point a co-worker steps in, and finishes the competition in your place. While they were not as skilled as yourself, a respectable result was achieved (the benefit of having disaster recovery!).

The considerations for backup, availability and disaster recovery don’t just apply to paper plane competitions, they also apply to small business I.T!

If your business has customer data, and if that data was accidently deleted, or corrupted, could you restore from a backup? What if the corruption only impacted certain customer records, and you didn’t notice for 3 weeks, could you get a relevant backup from 3 weeks ago? The answers to these questions illustrate the need for backup.

What if the computer that stored the customer data stopped working? how long could your business function effectively without the customer data? Would you need the data available in less that 1 hour, or could you do without for several days? The answers to these questions illustrate your requirement for availability.

And if your office, or even the data centre of your key I.T. service provider, was unavailable due to local flooding, could your business still operate? The answers to these questions will input into your need for disaster recovery.

Backup Availability Disaster recovery
Protects against data loss yes no no
Protects against data corruption yes no no
Protects against physical failure of a system component no yes no
Protects against complete system physical failure no no yes


Backup, availability and disaster recovery are important considerations for small business I.T. These terms are often misunderstood, and as such, they lead to deficiencies in I.T. supporting the successful operation of a small business.

To understand these risks, a simple exercise is to think about each of your key systems that depend on I.T. and see if you can answer what your backup, availability and disaster recovery capability is.

Oh, and to add some further thought on the topic, depending on your business requirement, your backup systems themselves may benefit from backup (of system configurations that define when and how backups are taken), high availability (so backups do not fail), and disaster recovery (so that there is no chance of a local disaster destroying your backups).