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Business Continuity Plan Vs. Disaster Recovery Plan: What's the Difference?

Jul 24, 2019

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Business Continuity Plan Vs. Disaster Recovery Plan: What's the Difference?

By Tobias Geisler Mesevage

Let's Get Technical

Companies that don’t plan for disaster recovery are at an increased risk of shuttering their doors. In fact, roughly 40 to 60 percent of small businesses that experience a disaster never reopen, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Your organization, your team, and your clients cannot afford to be part of that 60 percent of businesses that do not reopen after a disaster. Disaster planning, while linked to business continuity, is unique from it in some key ways.

Below we break down why business continuity and disaster recovery plans are both critical to a business’ overall success, how the two terms differ, and in what situations you can utilize both.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan is a business-centric process, which ensures businesses are able to continue operating in the event of a disaster or if a workplace becomes inaccessible.

A recent study by professional services firm BDO, shows examples of disasters top tech companies fear will cause lost continuity at their organization:

  • Natural disasters
  • Wars
  • Conflicts
  • Terrorist attacks

A business continuity plan should lay out the critical aspects of a business’ operation and the steps required to protect them in the event of a disaster. The following assets might be among the most valuable to protect:

  • Servers
  • Phones
  • Network connections
  • Network drives
  • Online systems
  • Business-related applications

Not all disasters are as dire as the examples above. A business continuity plan will also identify how to protect an organization from less obvious disruptive events, like if a business is affected by the departure of a vital employee and it needs to access a network drive to easily execute knowledge transfer.

With a business continuity plan in place, your business will be able to continually maintain smooth operations, no matter what events arise.

What Does a Disaster Recovery Plan Do?

When your organization loses access to its systems, and turbulence in business continuity, the repercussions can be detrimental to all aspects of your business:

  • Damaging your data
  • Harming your reputation
  • Fracturing your customer relationships
  • Decreasing your income
  • Limiting your businesses vitality

To counter these deleterious effects, a disaster recovery plan takes a data-driven approach to determine how your organization can access and recover mission-critical data.

As part of a disaster recovery plan, you should consider business continuity and perform ancillary analyses, like:

  • Business impact analysis (BIA)
  • Risk analysis (RA)
  • Recovery time objective (RTO)
  • Recovery point objective (RPO)

The analyses from above should help create a more detailed plan for identifying threats and disaster, and best practices for retrieving accurate information. These findings will become a part of your disaster recovery plan, and will detail how you can:

  • Define the scope of the disaster
  • Define where to access network infrastructure documents
  • Learn how to pinpoint where threats and vulnerabilities are stemming from
  • Have a strategy for retrieving critical assets
  • Review how previous incidents have been handled, and lessons learned
  • Assess current disaster recovery strategies, and find room for improvement
  • Compile an emergency response team
  • Get approval by key stakeholders to implement your disaster recovery plan
  • Test the plan
  • Continue to iterate

Remember, the term “disaster” could mean something like a catastrophic earthquake disrupting servers to a company dealing with a computer software malfunction due to a virus. Regardless of the situation, if your data is at risk, so is your business.

That’s why implementing a disaster recovery plan will safeguard you against damage done from a disaster and get your business back in operation quickly without issue.

Why Both Plans are Equally as Important

Even after understanding the damaging impact of a disaster, most businesses are not proactive about protection as they should be. A 2014 survey by Travelers found that only 55% of surveyed businesses have created a business continuity or disaster recovery plan.

Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are very different in nature, although similar in overall goals. Businesses shouldn’t be conflicted about choosing one over the other. Instead, it's vital to think of them as teammates.

The business continuity plan should be an organization's first line of defense. Without it, your business cannot properly function during and after a disaster. A well-thought-out plan will ensure your business operates with minimal downtime.

The next step is a disaster recovery plan that serves as broader protection for your organization. An effective disaster recovery plan will allow your important data to be restored in the event your systems are destroyed during a disaster.

The bottom line is this: creating and maintaining a business continuity plan as well as a disaster recovery plan is essential to any business’ long-term survival. Want to know more? Learn about Datto’s business continuity and disaster recovery solutions today.