Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery: Distinguishing the Key Differences

Disasters happen, whether it’s a cyber attack, flood, power outage, road closure or any other type of disruption. And when it strikes, your organisation needs to be ready to implement its business continuity and disaster recovery plans. 

You might have been taught that these are two names for the same thing (they are often used interchangeably), but there’s a big difference. This blog explains both terms and how they should fit into your organisation. 

What is business continuity? 

Business continuity is about ensuring that your organisation continues to operate in the event of disruption. It’s a way of temporarily addressing the disruption until you’re able to fix the issue. 

For example, say your office is flooded. A BCP (business continuity plan) would explain how to secure your important assets and how to ensure staff still have somewhere to work. This might consist of setting up a temporary office or asking your employees to share desks or work from home.  

BCPs typically focus on network connections, online systems, phone lines, network drives, servers and business applications. Effective plans will be able to get systems back up and running promptly and with as little damage to organisations’ productivity as possible. 

Learn more about business continuity planning >> 

What is disaster recovery? 

Disaster recovery is the process of resolving the disruption. At its most basic level, it involves identifying the source of the incident and finding a way to fix it. However, the plans are usually very technical and focus on specific deadlines that must be met to prevent catastrophic damage. 

It will include things such as RTOs (recovery time objectives), which are estimates of how long it will take for a product, service or activity to become available following an incident. Organisations must be able to get back up and running within this time, or else the levels of disruption will escalate. 

To return to our example of a flood: an organisation should prepare for the possibility that its servers will become water-damaged and that its systems will need to be restored from a backup. The RTO will be however long it takes that restore to happen, which could be anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. 

This is where disaster recovery and business continuity overlap. BCPs are planned according to the estimated recovery time. So, in this example, the organisation needs to find a way to operate without its servers for the duration of the RTO. 

There will then be subsequent objectives for other issues, such as the cause of the flood and the damage to the property. It’s only once every part of the organisation is fixed that the organisation can return to its original setup and the BCP is no longer in operation. 

Want to know more? 

You can find out more about business continuity and disaster recovery, and how to create effective plans, by reading Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity. 

This guide is full of advice from his experience working for organisations across the globe. You’ll learn how to establish disaster recovery and business continuity plans, and discover the major causes of IT failures that you need to prepare for.