Business continuity vs. disaster recovery, and why you need both

Business continuity vs. disaster recovery, and why you need both

To the uninitiated, business continuity and disaster recovery are often used interchangeably. Unfortunately, this common misconception can lead to serious problems when it comes to recovering systems after an incident and ensuring the continuity of business operations. Of course, if a disaster does occur, no one will be too concerned about terms and definitions, but that’s also why it pays to think about them beforehand. To prepare for the worst-case scenario, you need a documented plan for each area.

What is business continuity planning?

Business continuity planning addresses the question of how to continue business operations during and after an incident with minimal disruption. Given the rapidly rising costs of downtime, continuity planning is essential for preventing a company from suffering unacceptable losses. It has a much wider scope than disaster recovery planning, which is more often considered a subset of continuity planning. These plans don’t just focus only on the business as a whole, but also on specific scenarios, such as cyberattacks and natural and man-made disasters.

The primary focus of continuity planning is to establish a set of protocols prioritizing systems and processes. The idea is to provide a documented strategy for minimizing disruption to any processes your business cannot operate without. Naturally, the role of these functions varies from one company and industry to the next. For example, a healthcare provider will be unable to serve patients if it loses access to its electronic health records, while a law practice won’t be able to serve clients if it loses access to case information.

A continuity plan is much more than just a list of business functions. It must also include a list of emergency supply lines and contact numbers. It may also outline requirements for rollovers to redundant systems, alternative operational locations, and various other temporary solutions. It also explores specific scenarios to determine their impact on key business operations, the goal being to get your business through a disaster while primary systems and procedures are in the process of being restored.

What is disaster recovery planning?

Disaster recovery planning is a subset of continuity planning that typically focuses more on data and information systems. As such, it’s often the focus of the IT department. However, it’s a far better practice to get every department on board with disaster recovery planning, since the people and processes associated with technology are just as important. In fact, many plans also refer to protocols that lie well outside the realm of IT, such as steps to resume critical operations in a secondary business location.

The most important components of a disaster recovery plan are your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO). The RPO defines the maximum amount of data your business can afford to lose, while the RTO refers to the maximum amount of downtime it can tolerate for a specified system. Unsurprisingly, more important business systems and processes will have much tighter RPOs and RTOs. The general consensus is that failing to meet these goals will result in unacceptable losses for your business.

Disaster recovery planning also includes backup and recovery technologies, such as cloud storage, data synchronization, and automatic rollovers to redundant systems. Your plan should also incorporate periodic tests and mock disaster scenarios to ensure that everything works as it should. After all, a plan is only useful if it has been extensively tested and kept up to date. One of the most effective ways to implement a rock-solid disaster recovery plan is to include secondary sites for storing up-to-date archives of your business apps and data.

While the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity might be vague, and there’s definitely some overlap between the two, it’s imperative you have both to safeguard the future of your business through an unforeseen event. You can’t rely on insurance alone, particularly in today’s technology-driven world where the reputation of your brand depends heavily on how safe you keep your data.

OC-IT provides hassle-free disaster recovery plans to secure your most valuable assets and help you meet your business continuity goals. Call us today to get your free assessment.

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