What’s the Difference Between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity?

Most modern businesses are dependent on IT systems in some way or another. If you were to ask yourself how you’d function during massive data losses or without access to your computers, you’d probably realize that doing so would be impossible. Because of this, you need both a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan. Although there’s some overlap between the two, they’re not the same thing. Understanding the differences between each one can prevent you from falling victim to fatal gaps in your planning.

Disaster recovery manages the immediate aftermath

It may be useful to think of disaster recovery as a small part of business continuity. It’s the immediate response you have to a disaster. That disaster could range from one that’s small and easy(ish) to manage to one that’s large and bound to induce panic.

For example, a significant adverse weather event could easily result in a big disaster. If a hurricane wipes out everything in your building, you’re likely to lose all your hardware. Unless you’ve taken the time to back your data up into the cloud, you may find that recovering from such events is possible.

Using hurricanes as an example again, your disaster recovery plan may include a backed-up source of data. If that back up source of data is in the cloud, you can access it from anywhere. As a result, in the immediate recovery period, you’ll restore that data to a place where you and your employees can try to continue working.


Business continuity focuses on the period beyond

Where disaster recovery ends and business continuity starts is the point where you’ve recovered your data. From there, you need to establish how you’ll rebuild your organization into the period beyond.

Your business continuity plans need to focus on the different disasters you’ll need to battle through. For example, you could count small amounts of data loss as a minor disaster. Mitigating that disaster may involve turning to your recovery point. Helping your business carry on could include bringing in extra staff to handle the increased workload as you strive to bring your business back up to speed.

When it comes to bigger disasters, establishing continuity is more complicated. Let’s say you lose a lot of data because of a cyberattack.

“The average period between a breach occurring and being discovered is 49.6 days.”

By that stage, you may have lost a lot of data and the consequences could be significant. In addition to the data loss, you may be facing reputation management because you’ll have to inform your clients and customers of the event.

In the example above, your disaster recovery would involve addressing the security flaw that resulted in the data loss. Your initial business continuity activities would focus on managing your clients’ reactions to the loss and attempting to rescue your business’s reputation.

Business continuity aims for business as normal

While disaster recovery gives you the platform for carrying on, business continuity aims to bring you back to a point of “business as usual”. You need to be able to reach a normal standard of operations quickly, to prevent significant financial losses.

Your business continuity plan should move beyond looking at data recovery and become business-centric. This means you need to look at how you’ll use that data once it is recovered. For example, if you still have all your data following a hurricane but you’ve lost all your hardware, you’ll need devices to work from. This is where a BYOD policy can really help.

69% of IT decision-makers already see BYOD as a wise move for business.”

Business continuity also goes beyond IT and covers the logistics of your business. If the disaster you face doesn’t damage your business’s physical premises or assets, you won’t need to worry about problems outside of technology and data. But if you have lost hardware, your continuity plan needs to look at whether you’ll reinvest in it. If you’re going to buy more, where will it come from? And what will your re-implementation timeline be?

Data Recovery

Disaster recovery gives you the tools to make continuation possible 

While you’re creating your business continuity plan, it isn’t unusual to realize that something is missing from your disaster recovery plan. For example, if you decide that you would like to invest in more hardware following a natural disaster, but you don’t have your data backed up, you need to create a backup source. Around 81% of public cloud users report depending on two or more providers. So if you’re considering using the cloud as a backup source, using multiple providers is a good way to make your disaster recovery plan extra-secure.

Most great disaster recovery plans share something in common: physically stored data is backed up and kept at a second site. One of the main reasons for this is adverse weather danger. If bad weather strikes one location, it’s unlikely to strike another location, thousands of miles away, at the same time. While creating your business continuation policy, make sure you continuously look at whether the disaster recovery plan supporting it is as strong as it can be. If there’s a stronger option available, use it. Don’t leave anything to chance.

As you can see, business continuity and disaster recovery intersect in a number of ways. In many respects, it’s pointless having one in place without creating a firm plan for the other. Treat each plan as a fluid document that you’ll alter from time to time. As threats to your business change, your approach to disaster recovery and business continuity should evolve too, to keep pace with this change.