Written by Adithya Bodi, Demand Generation Manager

As businesses increasingly rely on technology to drive their operations, there is a growing need to safeguard critical data and applications from potential disasters or unforeseen disruptions. Cloud computing offers unparalleled scalability and flexibility, making it an ideal solution for data backup and disaster recovery (DR). 

The subsequent sections delve into the four key disaster recovery strategies on AWS (Amazon Web Services) that help ensure business continuity in the cloud.

Backup and Restore

Backup and restore disaster recovery strategy

The most basic disaster recovery strategy is the Backup and Restore approach. This involves creating backups of critical data and applications at regular intervals and restoring them in case of data loss or system failures. AWS offers multiple services and options for data backup. The following is a list of the most frequently used:

Amazon S3: Amazon S3 provides highly durable and scalable object storage, making it an ideal option for long-term data retention. Organizations can use S3 to store critical backups, ensuring data resiliency even in the face of catastrophic events.

Amazon EBS: For data residing on EC2 instances, Amazon EBS Snapshots offer efficient block-level backups. These snapshots capture the changes made to the EBS volumes over time, enabling easy recovery in case of data loss.

Amazon RDS: Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service) provides the ability to take snapshots of database instances. These snapshots capture the entire database state at a specific point in time, allowing for easy restoration of the database in case of data loss or corruption.

Amazon DynamoDB: Amazon DynamoDB offers the capability to create on-demand backups of NoSQL databases. These backups allow you to restore the entire database or specific tables to a previous state, ensuring data continuity and recovery in case of accidental data deletion or corruption.

Amazon Redshift: Amazon Redshift allows you to create snapshots of your data warehouse clusters. These snapshots capture the database’s state, including schema, data, and configuration, and can be used to restore the cluster to a specific point in time, providing an essential component of disaster recovery for data warehousing workloads.

AWS Backup

AWS Backup plays a pivotal role in ensuring data resiliency as part of the Backup and Restore approach. It simplifies the backup process and provides a unified platform to manage backups for various AWS resources, including Amazon EBS volumes, RDS databases, DynamoDB tables, and EFS file systems, among others. With AWS Backup, users can define backup policies, schedule automated backups, and easily restore data with just a few clicks. The service also supports cross-region and cross-account backups, allowing organizations to centralize their data protection strategy and ensure data durability even in the face of catastrophic events. 

Other Important Strategies for Backup and Restore on AWS

S3 object versioning: Enabling S3 object versioning helps mitigate human-error-related disasters. Versioning helps protect objects from deletion or modification by retaining the original version.

IaC: It is also important to back up the configuration of the infrastructure necessary to redeploy workloads and to meet Recovery-Time-Objective (RTO) requirements. AWS CloudFormation is an Infrastructure as Code (IaC) service that can be used to define all AWS resources required for a given workload, enabling reliable deployments and redeployments to multiple AWS accounts and AWS Regions. 

AMIs: Amazon EC2 instances can be backed up as Amazon Machine Images (AMIs). The AMI is created from snapshots of the root volume and any other EBS volumes attached to the instance. This AMI can be used to launch a restored version of the EC2 instance.

Pilot Light

Pilot Light disaster recovery strategy

The Pilot Light approach is a step up from simple backup and restore. It involves creating a minimal version of the entire infrastructure needed for critical applications. This infrastructure serves as a “pilot light” that can be quickly scaled up in case of a disaster, providing rapid recovery. The following is a list of key services and options offered by AWS for pilot light strategies:

Amazon S3 replication: Amazon S3 allows the replication of data across AWS regions, ensuring that critical data is available in the standby region and ready to be used for rapid recovery.

Amazon RDS read replicas: RDS supports the creation of read replicas for primary database instances. These read replicas are asynchronously replicated copies of the primary database which can be promoted to the primary role in case of a disaster, facilitating seamless failover and minimal downtime.

Amazon Aurora global databases: Aurora offers global databases that span multiple AWS regions. Global databases enable an active-active configuration across regions, ensuring high availability and low-latency access to data.

Amazon DynamoDB global tables: Amazon DynamoDB global tables enable automatic and fully managed multi-region replication of DynamoDB tables. This ensures that data remains available in multiple regions, and in the event of a regional failure, the application can automatically switch to a healthy replica in another region.

Global Datastore for Amazon ElastiCache for Redis: Allows for the deployment of a Redis cache in multiple AWS regions with automatic data replication and failover capabilities. This enables cross-region data access and improves the availability and resiliency of caching infrastructure for applications.

Amazon Elastic Disaster Recovery

AWS Elastic Disaster Recovery (DRS) is a powerful solution that ensures continuous replication of server-hosted applications and databases from any source into AWS, employing block-level replication for the underlying server. It enables the designation of an AWS Cloud Region as a disaster recovery target for workloads hosted on-premises or on AWS. 

Elastic Disaster Recovery adopts the Pilot Light strategy by maintaining a copy of data within an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) that acts as a staging area. In the event of a disaster, the staged resources are automatically utilized to create a full-capacity deployment in the target Amazon VPC. This automated process ensures rapid recovery with minimal downtime, bolstering the overall resilience and data protection capabilities for critical workloads in the cloud.

Warm Standby

Warm Standby disaster recovery strategy

The Warm Standby strategy builds on the pilot light strategy, offering a more streamlined and readily available disaster recovery solution for critical applications. Like pilot light, Warm Standby involves maintaining an environment in the Disaster Recovery (DR) Region with copies of primary Region assets. However, the key distinction lies in the ability of Warm Standby to handle incoming traffic immediately, though at reduced capacity levels, without the need for additional actions. 

Unlike pilot light, where servers and possibly additional infrastructure need to be “turned on” and scaled up, Warm Standby’s infrastructure is already deployed and running, requiring only scaling up to full capacity. This difference in behavior is crucial for organizations with stringent Recovery Time Objective (RTO) requirements, as Warm Standby ensures faster recovery and minimal downtime, making it a preferred choice when immediate response to disaster events is essential. 

All of the AWS services and options mentioned in the ‘Backup and Restore’ and ‘Pilot Light’ strategies are also employed in Warm Standby. However, AWS Auto Scaling plays a key role in this DR strategy by automatically scaling resources based on demand.  

Multi-Site Active-Active

Multi-site Active-Active disaster recovery strategy

The Multi-Site Active/Active disaster recovery strategy allows workloads to run simultaneously in multiple AWS Regions, serving user traffic from all deployed Regions. This approach provides high availability and low-latency access to the workload across all Regions, ensuring a seamless user experience. With Multi-Site Active/Active, users have the flexibility to access the workload from any of the deployed Regions, maximizing the distribution and availability of services.

While this strategy is the most complex and costly option for disaster recovery, it offers the potential to achieve near-zero recovery time for most disaster scenarios, provided the right technology choices and implementation are made. However, it is important to note that data corruption may still require reliance on backups, resulting in a non-zero recovery point.

Choosing the Right DR Strategy

Carefully evaluating factors such as Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO), cost, complexity, and application criticality can assist in choosing a DR strategy that aligns with business requirements and objectives.

In some cases, a hybrid approach that combines multiple disaster recovery strategies may offer the most effective and cost-efficient solution for data resilience.

Best Practices for Disaster Recovery on AWS

Designing Resilient Architectures: As the age-old adage goes – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Implementing fault-tolerant architecture and adhering to AWS Well-Architected Framework principles often helps mitigate the majority of disaster scenarios.

Implementing Automated Testing and Drills: Regular testing, drills, and automation of disaster recovery processes are crucial for verifying the effectiveness of a chosen DR strategy.

Leveraging Infrastructure as Code: Using AWS CloudFormation templates for infrastructure management ensures consistency, repeatability, and version control of cloud resources.

Monitoring and Alerting for Early Detection of Issues: Real-time monitoring and proactive alerting help identify and address potential issues before they escalate.


With increasing reliance on technology and data-driven systems, disaster recovery has become paramount to modern businesses. By proactively designing and implementing effective disaster recovery strategies, organizations can mitigate potential disruptions and confidently navigate through challenging times.  

About TrackIt

TrackIt is an international AWS cloud consulting, systems integration, and software development firm headquartered in Marina del Rey, CA.

We have built our reputation on helping media companies architect and implement cost-effective, reliable, and scalable Media & Entertainment workflows in the cloud. These include streaming and on-demand video solutions, media asset management, and archiving, incorporating the latest AI technology to build bespoke media solutions tailored to customer requirements.

Cloud-native software development is at the foundation of what we do. We specialize in Application Modernization, Containerization, Infrastructure as Code and event-driven serverless architectures by leveraging the latest AWS services. Along with our Managed Services offerings which provide 24/7 cloud infrastructure maintenance and support, we are able to provide complete solutions for the media industry.

About Adithya Bodi

Adithya Photo 1

Having spent over 6 years as a consultant working with companies spanning a broad variety of tech niches, Adithya has gained deep expertise in planning and executing content marketing and lead generation strategies. Adithya has been working with TrackIt since 2018 and has taken on a full-time position to assist the company in its growth while deepening his knowledge and expertise in AWS.

Adithya has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics and is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate. He is also an avid calisthenics practitioner, a stock market enthusiast, and a recreational painter.