Businesses often confuse disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) as being the same. However, it’s essential companies understand the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity to ensure they are well prepared if a disaster occurs. Essentially, both preventive strategies cover how employees will communicate, where they will work, and how they will continue working in the event of an emergency.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, approximately 25% of businesses that experience a disaster fail to reopen. In today’s world, the ability for a company to access and use its data is crucial for everyday operations, but so is its ability to continue functioning despite the circumstances. The sections below describe how business continuity and disaster recovery are related and what your company can do to reduce downtime after a significant disruption.
Disaster recovery and business continuity: what they are and why they’re different
Disaster recovery is necessary for an organization’s business continuity plan, but the two are not interchangeable. DR focuses on an organization’s ability to recover its business-critical data when an unexpected disaster occurs.
With an effective disaster recovery plan, one or more copies of a company’s vital information are stored offsite. However, a business must also have sufficient planning, infrastructure, and processes to facilitate data restoration.
Essentially, DR is data and systems-centric, while BC is business-centric. While the ability for a business to continue operating is directly dependent upon its successful recovery of business-critical data, business continuity covers a much broader scope of processes and protocols than disaster recovery. Both BC and DR identify similar procedures such as communication, temporary locations, and security, but each plan covers features the other doesn’t. A business should take the following steps when composing a disaster recovery plan (DRP).
- Create a detailed document outlining disaster response processes, roles and responsibilities, contacts, and other pertinent information.
- Develop a thorough understanding of any threats that face the business and how they can affect both the company’s daily operations and long-term success.
- Create a list of potential disasters and sort them based on the probability they will occur. Also, identify the impact and consequences each one entails to help determine what issues will be addressed in the DRP.
- Include measures to prevent, detect, and resolve issues related to a disaster.
- Incorporate a geo-redundant data backup solution that can be accessed and used promptly. Geo-redundant refers to storing business-critical data in more than one location, preferably outside of the business’s disaster impact zone.
- Understand what data is used, who uses it, and how it’s critical to the company’s operations.
- Test the DRP and inform employees as to their responsibilities when a disaster strikes.
- Make regular revisions to the DRP to align with changes within the business.
What is business continuity
To remain competitive, a business cannot endure a significant amount of downtime following a disaster. Therefore, as stated above, business continuity is business-centric, meaning a BC strategy focuses not on the technology and systems related to disaster recovery but on the processes to maintain business operations if a disruption impacts the company’s site or IT infrastructure.
At its core, a business continuity plan works to resume or maintain a company’s functions in the wake of a disaster. The program covers everything from business processes to human resources and facilitates the continuity of the entire organization.
For example, suppose a hurricane floods a company’s customer service center. In that case, its employees will need to know where and how to answer client calls while the facility is inaccessible. With the proper support and funding from an organization’s executive management, a business can develop and maintain a BC plan that will help to safeguard its reputation and bottom line. A company should take the following steps when devising its business continuity plan.
- Determine the plan’s scope.
- Determine what sectors of the company must remain operating for business to continue.
- Identify what functions are critical to the business.
- Understand how different business sectors and functions are interrelated.
- Establish the maximum amount of downtime each business-critical function can endure.
- Establish a plan to maintain operations while a standard business environment is restored.
A business should talk to its separate departments and employees to understand what makes the organization work and how it can facilitate a seamless transition to a recovery and continuity solution. Detailed planning and sufficient technology resources can help an organization manage an unexpected interruption without additional costs or penalties.