What’s the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery?

Living in Singapore might be a blessing in disguise – the most “disaster” we face might probably be a cyber attack, flood, power outage, road closure, or even the recent COVID-19 outbreak! However, I am sure if you watch the news, you will be shocked by the catastrophes around the world from wild fires to even hurricanes and tsunamis.

So let’s face it. Disasters happen, whether we like it or not. And when it strikes, your business needs to be ready to implement its business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

Pot-ae-to. Pot-ah-to.

Tom-ae-to. Tom-ah-to.

Business Continuity. Disaster Recovery.

Same difference? Well, I’m not too sure about that.

The terms Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery are in reality NOT interchangeable though many seem to think otherwise. Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR) are two entirely different strategies, each of which plays a significant aspect in safeguarding business operations.

And when it comes to protecting your data, it is very crucial to understand the differences and plan ahead.


So what is Business Continuity?

Business Continuity has a wider scope.

Business Continuity management refers to the processes and procedures that associates take to make sure that regular business operations continues to operate in the event of a disruption or disaster.

Basically, it’s a way of temporarily addressing the disruption until you’re able to fix the issue.

It can mean the difference between survival and total shutdown. It is based on a relentless analysis and isolation of critical business processes.

Let me give you an example. Let 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, so as to minimize any loss of productivity during the disaster.


What is Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery is a subspace of total business continuity planning. A DR plan involves restoring vital support systems and includes getting systems up and running following a disaster.

Those systems are mostly communications, hardware, and IT assets. Disaster recovery aims to minimize business downtime. It focuses on getting technical operations back to normal in the shortest time possible. 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.

Let’s return to our example of the 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.


TLDR?

Let me summarize it for you.

Basically, business continuity planning is a strategy. It consists of a plan of action and ensures continuity of regular business operations during a disaster with minimal service outage or downtime.

Disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity planning. A business disaster recovery plan has the capability to restore data and critical applications in the event your systems are destroyed when disaster strikes.

In this sense, business continuity and disaster recovery are hence complementary to one another!


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