Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery


Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery

At some point, all companies and businesses will experience a disaster or major disruptions that will affect employees, customers, and their ability to work. And these disruptions and crises could be anything from a natural disaster, like a fire or flood, to a cyberattack, including ransomware or DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service).

Nowadays, almost every business or company in every industry, such as manufacturing or retail, is facing its most challenging and unprecedented time. Many organizations have faced difficult times or short-lived disasters in the past.

However, a global pandemic is certainly a first of its kind. When something catastrophic occurs and threatens to stop business operations, the IT department is often called upon to handle the crisis and get the business up and running.

Pandemic has Stressed the Importance of Business Continuity and Disaster Planning

The recent health pandemic around the world is a warning bell for every business, regardless of the size of the industry. Note that those who have not been proactive and living on the edge without detailed business continuity and disaster recovery plans struggled to adapt to the new normal where nearly all employees have to work remotely.

In turbulent and unprecedented times like this, understanding risk management concepts, such as disaster recovery and business continuity, are more crucial than ever before. 

Sure, an international health crisis isn’t something the corporate world has to deal with every day, but cyber thieves, fires, frauds, or power outages are.

You will be surprised to learn that more than 75% of small businesses don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place.

The Confusion

Many people, even some professionals, usually use the terms disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan interchangeably. While they certainly go hand in hand, these two terms aren’t the same. Keep in mind that they describe two different approaches, goals, and objectives to ensure that a company or business bounces back in the event of a disaster, such as a hurricane.

So, you may wonder what the difference is between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan. Let’s start with a general definition of each term.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan, also known as BCP, is a collection of protocols and procedures established to guarantee that a business organization can maintain an optimal level of business operation in the face of a disaster or disruptive event, such as a prolonged power outage.

Business continuity management involves planning and preparation to maintain business functions or quickly resume after a disaster. All the processes and steps listed in a BCP answer one important question; “how can a business continue to provide an acceptable level of service to its customers if a disaster strikes?”

In most cases, a BCP involves all the stakeholders, such as employees, investors, and suppliers, of a business and includes key guidelines and information, such as contact details, identifying mission-critical business functions, recovery objectives, and target recovery time.

The business continuity plan also specifies how to communicate the issues to employees, customers, and investors. It assigns specific emergency tasks and duties to various employees. 

What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

We can define disaster recovery as a subset of business recovery. You should know that disaster recovery involves resuming normal operations by restoring hardware, data, software, networking equipment, connectivity, and power. Often a backup system is used to keep data safe.

IT systems and platforms are governed by data and analysis. Note that this data helps create an effective and robust disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery plan, also known as DRP, refers to the specific steps and technologies that a company has to implement in order to recover after a disruptive event or disaster.

This often relates to infrastructural failure, lost data, or other technological components. DRP answers the question, “How do we recover from a disruptive event or disaster?”

The main purpose of disaster recovery planning is to replicate data and computer processing in one or more off-premises locations that are not impacted by the disaster. As you can see, having an efficient and effective disaster recovery plan is important for many reasons– it saves costs, reduces downtime, and keeps employees productive. 

Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery

Australian businesses and organizations face a wide range of natural and man-made threats that could disrupt and even shut down their normal operations. This could include anything from natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and viral outbreaks to man-made threats, such as cyber-attacks and industrial sabotage.

 A report published in Forbes revealed that a significant majority of businesses, close to 90%, fail within one year after a disaster. This shows the importance of continuity planning and IT resilience.

However, there are some key differences between the two plans. One of them is the timing of the plans. It is worth noting that the business continuity plan takes effect or becomes operational both during and immediately after the incident. On the other hand, disaster recovery focuses on and emphasizes the post-incident response to resume normal operations. 

A BCP is a comprehensive document that details your organization’s prevention, mitigation, and response measures, including recovery methods. Keep in mind that a successful BCP also addresses how a company will bounce back from a catastrophe.

Remember that disaster recovery is only one of the four subsets or parts of a BCP, which is a master or comprehensive document of an entire company’s disaster preparedness.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery – Key Differences

A BCP is comprehensive and covers all aspects of your organization’s response during, before, and after a disaster, such as a fire or a cyberattack. You can invoke it at any time and even before a crisis or disaster occurs, without necessarily invoking the disaster recovery plan.

For instance, you can set your communications plan in motion when a media controversy or public relations crisis affects your organization.

A DRP, on the other hand, covers the procedures and processes to bring your organization’s IT infrastructure and systems up again after a disaster or an outage. You should know that a DRP concludes once the IT infrastructure and systems are up and running the way they used to before the incident or disaster.

Your business and leaders should understand what business continuity and disaster recovery plans are so that they can be sufficiently prepared and equipped for any disaster.

Here are some key differences to highlight:

  • A business continuity plan keeps an inventory of and plans for all critical business assets like staff, vehicles, suppliers, buildings, etc. In contrast, a DRP only keeps an inventory of your IT assets like network equipment, software, servers, and endpoint.
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity plans each have different goals. Effective and meticulous business continuity plans restrict operational downtime. On the other hand, effective disaster recovery plans contain or lower the impact of technology failures. 
  • A BCP is a comprehensive and proactive plan whose main objective is to prevent as well as prepare for disaster, whereas a DRP is a reactive plan containing measures, processes, and steps that come into effect following a disaster.

You may know that some organizations include DRPs as part of their overall risk management and business continuity plans. However, disaster recovery plans should be capable of implementation and execution in their own right, even if you don’t have a business continuity plan.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery – Key Elements

Here are some key Ingredients in a BCP.

Suppliers: Making sure your key raw materials and products are delivered – even if there’s an issue with your primary supplier.

Building, Office, or Work Environment: Offering alternative resources, such as tools, to continue working, and giving your employees remote access to systems if they can’t make it to the office or workplace.

People: Ensuring you always have enough staff to continue and sustain business operations.

Here are some key ingredients in a DRP.

Fall-over Strategy: Strategies that ensure you can rely on replica or redundant systems, for example, following a fire or other incident in your main server room.

Data Recovery: Processes for recovering data from backups after a malware infection

Are There Any Similarities Between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans?

If you think that data recovery and business continuity are more similar than dissimilar, you’re not far off the mark. This is because both plans aim to sustain your business operations at all costs. Although data recovery planning focuses on recovering the IT resources after a crisis, BCP focuses on HR, operations, finances, and software. So, when you consider it from this point of view, it is easy to see that data recovery is one of the main cogs in the business continuity engine.

Also, one of the main keys to success for both plans is the emphasis on effective communication. Your teams and leaders should implement a plan for sharing relevant and timely information with your various stakeholders throughout a crisis.

Final Thoughts

A BCP is usually the first line of defense for an organization or business against a disaster or incident. However, disaster recovery planning is critical, particularly for organizations that can’t function without vital business data.

The related and closely-linked disciplines of disaster recovery and business continuity are key elements of any crisis management strategy. And both are essential for the ongoing continuity and success of any business. This is why it is best to implement both plans whenever possible.

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