3 Key Differences Between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

While business continuity and disaster recovery often appear in the same context, they define different processes. Here, we explain the many differences between these two concepts.

While good business professionals create a business plan and start a routine, great leaders prepare for outlier events. Plans of action help mitigate disruptions to the usual business process, like power outages or natural disasters. Usually, these plans fit into one of two categories: business continuity or disaster recovery.

To continue working in top shape, both a disaster recovery plan and business continuity strategy provide necessary backups. Although both plans reduce the possibility or prevalence of business downtime, they encompass two different ways of doing so.

As a major provider of IT services in Santa Clara, our staff knows how complicated these terms can seem. Regardless, developing a clear understanding of business continuity vs disaster recovery helps prepare your company for outlying events. This post will evaluate three specific ways these concepts differ and how they provide blueprints for business management.

Defining The Types of Plans

To understand the key differences between disaster recovery and business continuity, you need to know what each concept means. Here, we will define each term before listing the differences.

What is Business Continuity?

Business continuity helps address disruptions to any business operations. It details actions you and others can take to continue working even if something disturbs the usual working order.

For example, someone important to a project cannot attend an in-person meeting. Business continuity could be the act of utilizing Zoom or Skype to proceed. It could also include having assistants who can work temporarily in that person's place.

A business continuity plan (BCP) may begin with a risk assessment to discuss potential disruptions to regular business operations. Then, stakeholders can evaluate how severely these potential disruptions could affect the company in a business impact analysis. With knowledge of what could happen and how severe those occurrences can be, you can create ways to avoid them.

The general goal of a BCP usually is not to stop the event, but to work around them. It can include preventative measures, but the employees need a way to continue working even if the event occurs. The continuity plan details how to do so in clear terms.

What about Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery creates a plan of action in case of an emergency. It directly confronts the cause of the issue and attempts to neutralize it as best as possible. For example, during a data breach or system failure, the disaster recovery plan (DRP) aims to solve the issue.

DRPs contain several stages summed well into three phases: identification, saving, and eradication. This process may include anything from data recovery and downloads to hardware replacements.

Disaster recovery must address the severity of the issue with urgency, and deadlines play a specific role in these plans. They require a recovery time objective (RTO) to detail how quickly one can resolve the problem. They also need a detailed recovery point objective (RPO), which is the maximum amount of data your business can reasonably lose.

These plans help reasonably prioritize the importance of certain aspects of the business. For example, losing access to secondary marketing software for a few days is not likely to affect the business. However, failing to protect payroll software and data could violate informational trust or destroy the business entirely.

By organizing business functions and information from least to most important, the company knows what to prioritize. Then, the business can use appropriate resources to recover and maintain highly essential tools and information. Utilizing a DRP for every part of the business equally would only lead to burnout.

The Three Differences

With knowledge about business continuity and disaster recovery, it becomes much easier to note their differences. However, keep in mind that both are necessary for the thorough maintenance of a business.

#1: A DRP is part of a BCP

One difference between disaster recovery and business continuity includes the scope of what they entail. A business continuity plan should include disaster recovery plans for important aspects of the business.

After all, BCPs maintain the business in case of disruptions, and a DRP is a part of that. A DRP is simply the portion of a BCP that addresses the most prominent data and issues.

During the planning for business continuity, the risk assessment stage would identify which parts of the business need a DRP. From there, the evaluation can determine the RTO and RPO for these parts. Then, with practice and preparation, your business can take the steps needed to meet the RTO and RPO standards.

For other parts of the business not so imperative to the existence of the business, a BCP could suffice. These plans do not have the intensity of DRPs, but they help employees stay on task despite disruptions. They also help the company maintain core functions for long periods even if the disturbance lasts for days or weeks.

#2: DRPs solve issues, and BCPs work despite them

Business continuity, as its name suggests, focuses mainly on continuing business functions. These strategies work if no one can solve the problem immediately and serious components of the business are not at risk.

Meanwhile, disaster recovery tries to address the issue head-on because the business components are crucial to daily operations. Or, if no one can directly affect the issue, then maintaining the data and components comes first. For example, a DRP would help stop a data breach much faster than a BCP.

A DRP aims for quick and effective resolutions to help the business return to normal. However, in cases where the business cannot immediately return to normal, a longer-term BCP helps. For example, if a natural disaster destroys the business building, a BCP can dictate actions to keep up business functions.

#3: DRPs and BCPs handle employee safety differently

An in-depth look at business continuity plan vs disaster recovery plan schematics should also evaluate how they protect employees. While most discussions tend to focus on IT applications and data, employees are irreplaceable in their uniqueness. As such, both business continuity and disaster recovery involve their care in disruptive situations.

Parts of a disaster recovery plan may include fire drills, posting emergency tornado shelter information, or purchasing safety gear. They provide immediate safety and relief to employees in disastrous events. Not having some of these aspects prepared could also violate OSHA regulations.

While some companies used to ignore employee safety in a BCP plan, the pandemic has rekindled interest in it. Businesses that could not adapt properly to include employee safety often had to shut their doors. Some of these business continuity accommodations include fully remote or hybrid positions, video conference options, strong phone line connections, and more.

Employee safety in a business continuity plan not only protects employees, but it protects the business. It ensures that the company can stay afloat and maintain constant function even for long-term issues.

Why BCPs and DRPs are Important

In early 2021, 32% of the Florida small business pandemic closures remained permanent. Part of this number can relate strongly to a lack of business continuity and disaster recovery planning.

Some could say that many companies could not help but close, especially those in the leisure sector. However, entire airlines shuttered their doors, and many more would have without government intervention. Despite the high amounts of income, even large corporations required assistance.

Many companies rely on routine and current status to maintain their business. In 2020, a study found that 51% of companies worldwide do not have any business continuity or disaster recovery plan. Many did not prepare for any outlying circumstances, leading to their closures.

However, the pandemic is not the only time these closures occur. Every year, many businesses fail because of technical errors they cannot resolve fast enough. When nine out of ten small businesses close since they cannot recover within five days after a storm, plans become crucial.

Also, consider the importance of the data businesses hold. This information maintains business, but it also can contain personal details that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. As someone entrusted with this identifying information, you should try to protect it as much as possible.

A Way to Simplify The Planning Process

The question then becomes how to best prepare for outlying situations. Intuitive professionals seek processes that streamline their potential to enact business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

One way to cover the information protection section of these plans includes having a dedicated IT team. Many managed service providers (MSPs) can maintain, monitor, and back up pertinent information. Depending on the plan details, they can also ensure that cloud backups exist in case of an emergency that destroys hardware equipment.

MSPs with substantial professional experience can often tackle several years of data within a few weeks. A company can also utilize its services for other business functions, like maintaining network connections.

When a business does not have the time to hire a larger IT team, an MSP can fill in the technical gap. They provide the services required to protect a business while also dedicating themselves to detailed work. They may become the ones in charge of or participate in the creation of business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

Because of their experience, they often ask questions that others may forget to consider. For a business continuity plan, these questions may include:

  • Which systems are necessary for the essential functions of the business?
  • What are the current cyber attack methods that can threaten these systems?
  • Can natural disasters affect these systems and how can they do it?
  • What are the current action plans in place to protect the information in these systems?
  • Is there a plan to maintain the function of these systems for a longer period of time?
  • Is there a cloud system in place for remote access to pertinent information?
  • Is the accessible data encrypted in the cloud?
  • Can the current systems sustain the business during outages?
  • How long can the business infrastructure stay in a sub-optimal state?
  • In what ways can the business be in a sub-optimal state and last the longest?
  • Which non-essential business parts and functions are the easiest to reinstate?

They should also ask several questions regarding disaster recovery since it remains a part of a business continuity plan. An MSP should not understate the importance of both plan systems.

Some of the questions MSPs often consider for disaster recovery plans include the following:

  • Of the essential systems for basic function, which systems are the most important?
  • Which business documents are the most important for business function?
  • How long can each important system remain unavailable?
  • How quickly can we reinstate the most important systems?
  • How long can each associated system last without the other?
  • Do we have a way of measuring how effective recovery or backup is?
  • Do we have an accurate RPO and RTO measurement method?
  • Have we practiced and detailed a recovery plan of action?
  • Do we have an established way of reviewing the disaster recovery process?

If you have trouble coming up with the answers to the questions or any further solutions, do not worry. As the leading provider of IT services in Santa Clara, we can help handle these details and provide you with top-quality BCP and DRP services. With your input, an MSP can demystify and instate business continuity and disaster recovery plans for your business.

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