Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) are indeed closely related practices that support an organization’s ability to maintain operation after an adverse event. In this modern business era, resiliency has become the benchmark for organizations facing variety of threats, from natural disasters to cyber attacks. In this climate, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) has a higher profile than ever before. Every organization, from small operations to largest enterprises, is steadily growing dependent on digital technologies to generate revenue, provide services and support customers who always expect applications and data to be available.

Disruption isn’t just an inconvenience for customers. A fire, flood, ransomware attack or other malady can rack up financial losses, damage the corporate brand and, in the worst-case scenario, shut a business permanently. The role of BCDR is to minimize the effects of outages and disruptions on business operations. BCDR practices let’s an organization to get back on its feet after problems occur, reduce the risk of data loss and reputational harm, and improve operations while decreasing the chance of emergencies.

Notably, some businesses might have a head start on BCDR. DR is an established function in many IT departments with respect to individual systems. Howbeit, BCDR is broader than IT, encompassing a range of considerations – including crisis management, employee safety and alternative work locations. A well planned BCDR approach requires extensive planning and preparation. BCDR professionals can help an organization establish a strategy for achieving resiliency. Putting together such a strategy is a complex process that involves conducting a business impact analysis (BIA) and risk analysis as well as developing BCDR plans, tests, exercises and training. Planning documents, the cornerstone of an effective BCDR strategy, also helps with resource management, providing information such as employee contact lists, emergency contact lists, vendor lists, instructions for performing tests, equipment lists, and technical diagrams of systems and networks.

Business Continuity Plan vs Disaster Recovery Plan

Business Continuity management means the processes and procedures that an organization undertakes to make sure that regular business operations continue during a disaster. It can mean the difference between survival and total shutdown. It is based on a relentless analysis and isolation of critical business processes.

Note that one of the key benefits of a business continuity plan is its focus on the business process. You assess what you must do, what you can deal with and what you cannot do without. You articulate benefits versus cost. This is just solid data management, even if disasters never occur.

So, you have already decided which business functions are critical. You have flagged what can be suspended until you fully recover. You have a priority list. With business continuity planning, you have earmarked your resources. Those resources support your most important functions. They include any support equipment, software, and stock required to move forward. You manage that stock by keeping your inventory current. You rotate consumable supplies through your emergency stock. Also, you have identified your key staff people. They know what they must do and when they must do it. For every job there is to do, someone must be designated to do it. The designated “doers” must be qualified to carry on the business in the event of a disaster. So, the plan has to include practice and update of the plan as necessary.

The plan is expected to focus on customers and the supply chain. Suppliers must know that their payment invoices are in the pipeline and ready for payment. Customers must be confident that their orders will be filled or only temporarily delayed, perhaps with a discount premium. Lastly, a BC plan must include a process to replace and recover all IT systems. That contains valuable business data.

Disaster Recovery plans meanwhile involves getting systems up-and-running after a disaster. Unlike Business Continuity plans, Disaster Recovery solutions involve restoring IT infrastructure and accessing copies of data stored offsite without really focusing on making a business operational during a crisis. Maintaining a Disaster Recovery plan is very crucial to ensure that it functions properly should it be needed after a catastrophic event. In addition, recovery time should be the main focus of recovery planning, as the sooner a company’s vital business data can be restored, the quicker an organization can begin functioning normally again.

To execute a proper Disaster Recovery plan, all of a company’s employees must know exactly how to react if stakeholders put it into effect. A disaster recovery plan can also refer to protocols that are outside the realm of IT. For example, the plan could include steps for recovery personnel to seek a secondary business location to resume critical operations. Or, it could include guidance for how to restore communication between emergency staff if primary lines of communication are unavailable. In other words, disaster recovery planning does not always have to be strictly IT-focused, though it often is. If your IT personnel are creating an IT-focused disaster recovery plan, just be sure that all non-IT recovery protocols are included within the larger BCP documentation.

The difference between business continuity and disaster recovery is quite specific. Business Continuity is the first defense against a disaster threatening the proper function of business. However, Disaster Recovery is a must for any organization that cannot function without its vital business data. Although Disaster Recovery is just a smaller part of the larger Business Continuity umbrella, business organizations would be wise to employ both strategies for full protection. Disaster Recovery techniques are more preventative in nature than continuity tools, which are typically used to maintain smooth business operations.

Business continuity planning in its own field is a strategy. It ensures continuity of operations with minimal service outage or downtime, while a business disaster recovery plan has the capability to restore data and critical applications in the event a business system are destroyed when disaster strikes. Augmenting two planning strategies is a matter of priorities. If the majority of your business transactions are online, you need to make data protection your number one concern. Losing all or some of your data could halt your operations. You cannot bill customers, pay vendors, or access your inventory information. Your competitive intelligence would disappear. You need to know how long you can wait to get back to full operation before the pain starts. You also must weigh that delay against the costs of planning and execution. BC typically focuses on the organization, whereas DR zeroes in on the technology infrastructure. Disaster recovery is a piece of business continuity planning and concentrates on accessing data easily following a disaster. BC includes this element, but also considers risk management and other planning an organization needs to stay afloat during an event.

Conclusion

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery are closely related practices that support an organization’s ability to remain operational after an adverse event. The goal of BCDR is to reduce risk and get an organization running as close to normal as possible after an unexpected interruption. These practices enable an organization to get back on its feet after problems occur, reduce the risk of data loss and reputational harm, and improve operations while decreasing the chance of emergencies.

The trend of combining business continuity and disaster recovery into a single term, BCDR, is the result of a growing recognition that business and technology executives need to collaborate closely when planning for incident responses instead of developing schemes in isolation. They both consider various unplanned events, from cyber attacks to human error to natural disaster. They also have the goal of getting the business running as close to normal as possible, especially concerning mission-critical applications. In many cases, the same team is involved with both BC and DR.

Ajaero Tony Martins