IT Disaster Recovery VS Business Continuity Plans (What are the Differences?)
Does your business have a disaster recovery and business continuity place? If you aren’t sure what the differences or the advantages are, we’ll cover those here.
At first glance, it might seem like these two terms are interchangeable, but there are differences. Yes, they both involve processes designed to recover from data loss, but the differences between Disaster Recovery VS Business Continuity are significant.
This does not mean that one is “better” than the other. It would be more accurate to say that both these terms refer to complementary strategies for keeping your doors open while undergoing damage control. They are not mutually exclusive, but actually work together to ensure your company succeeds.
The main difference between disaster recovery and business continuity is one of orientation. IT disaster recovery is systems-oriented, while business continuity is business-oriented.
- IT Disaster Recovery provides for multiple redundant copies of an organization’s data to be securely stored and easily accessible.
- Business Continuity concerns the planning and deployment of infrastructural resources to facilitate data recovery.
Essentially, while both address procedures for disaster response, each covers features that the other does not. Having mutually beneficial, compatible backup and recovery plan from both angles is the surest method to escaping from data disasters unharmed.
For more information, you can view our backup and disaster recovery services and of course, contact us if you have any questions or would like some pricing. Otherwise, if you’re wondering what is the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery, we’re going to get into it now.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a strategic document that outlines the procedures and processes a company will follow in the face of disruptive events, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, or pandemics.
The primary goal is to ensure the uninterrupted availability of critical business functions and to protect the interests of stakeholders, reputation, and brand. It encompasses risk assessment, resources, roles and responsibilities, communication, and steps to resume functions after a disruption.
BCPs are essential for maintaining resilience and ensuring the long-term sustainability of a business.
How to Create a Business Continuity Plan
Creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) involves understanding your business’s core operations and devising strategies to ensure they continue with minimal disruption during unforeseen events. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
Identify key business processes and functions. Determine how a disruption to each would affect the business in terms of revenue, reputation, legal compliance, etc. Prioritize these processes based on their significance to your operation.
- Risk Assessment
Identify potential threats and vulnerabilities, from natural disasters to cyberattacks. Assess their likelihood and potential impact on your operations.
- Recovery Objectives:
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO) – Define how quickly each function or process must be restored to avoid unacceptable consequences.
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO) – Decide the maximum amount of data loss measured in time (e.g., an RPO of 2 hours means you can afford to lose the last 2 hours of data).
- Recovery Strategies
Determine the strategies for restoring business operations. This could involve using alternate suppliers, working from different locations, or moving operations to a cloud-based system.
- Plan Development
- Task Lists – For each recovery strategy, create detailed task lists and instructions.
- Contact Lists – Compile a list of critical contact details, including employees, suppliers, stakeholders, and emergency services.
- Communication Strategy – Decide how you will communicate with employees, suppliers, and customers during and after a disruptive event.
- Training and Testing
Train key personnel and staff on their roles during a disruption. Conduct regular drills and exercises to simulate potential disruptions and test the effectiveness of the BCP. Adjust based on lessons learned.
- Plan Maintenance
Regularly review and update the BCP, especially after significant business changes, after testing, or after an actual incident. Keep stakeholders informed about any changes to the plan.
- Awareness and Education
Ensure all employees understand the basics of the BCP, their role in it, and how it will be executed.
- Coordination with External Entities
Coordinate with suppliers, vendors, utilities, local authorities, and emergency services. Understand their plans and see how they align with yours.
- Document Everything
The BCP should be thoroughly documented and easily accessible to key personnel. Digital copies should be available, but also consider hard copies in case of power or network outages.
- Regular Reviews
Periodically reassess risks, business operations, and recovery capabilities. Update the BCP as necessary.
Remember, a good BCP is not a one-time task but a living document that evolves with your business needs, technological changes, and lessons learned from both tests and real-world events. The goal is to ensure that your business can face challenges resiliently and continue operations with minimal disruption.
So, you’re sold on business continuity and you’re ready to take your company’s cybersecurity awareness to the next level. A good plan will have several objectives, such as:
- Setting specific goals and a primary budget
- Developing a strong implementation team and assign responsibilities
- Conduct a business impact analysis that looks at the impact of potential threats on each business area
- Identify the areas of your business that would have the most impact on your company’s function if exposed to downtime, malfunction, or cybersecurity threats
- Map out pain points for all departments and determine tolerable downtimes for time-sensitive areas
- Compile a plan of prevention, response, and recovery strategies
- Develop a curriculum of testing and training to keep employees and team members up to date on current policies, threats, and plans
- Conduct ongoing maintenance and quality assurance through drills and internal/external reviews
Fully functional business continuity plans will not only comprise policies, education, and protocols but will include a deep level of cybersecurity to provide overarching data protection and disaster recovery for data-sensitive functions.
What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is a detailed document that outlines the procedures to follow for recovering critical IT systems, data, and infrastructure in the event of a disaster.
While a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) covers a broader scope to ensure overall business operations can continue, a DRP is more IT-focused. The DRP covers areas such as data backup and recovery, off-site data storage, emergency response, and system restoration. It sets the strategies, roles, steps, and tools required to get IT infrastructures functioning rapidly after disruptions like cyberattacks, equipment failures, or natural disasters.
How to Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) involves a systematic approach to understanding the technological backbone of your business and establishing procedures to restore systems in case of disruptions. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a DRP:
- Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
Identify the most critical IT systems and applications. Determine the potential effects and downtime costs of losing these resources.
- Risk Assessment
Identify potential threats like natural disasters, cyberattacks, or hardware failures. Assess their likelihood and potential impact on your IT resources.
- Define Recovery Objectives
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO) – Determine the maximum acceptable data loss in terms of time. For instance, an RPO of one hour means that the system should recover up to one hour prior to the disaster.
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO) – Determine the maximum acceptable downtime duration. This is the target time to restore the system after a disaster has occurred.
- Data Backup Strategy
Decide how and where you’ll back up data. Options include off-site backups, cloud storage, or backup data centers. Ensure regular backups and validate the integrity of the backups.
- Develop Recovery Strategies
Depending on the criticality of systems, set up strategies like:
- Dedicated off-site recovery environments
- Cloud-based recovery
- High-availability solutions that failover to secondary systems
Set up the hardware, software, and procedures required to recover systems. This could involve setting up replication to a secondary data center, procuring emergency equipment, or subscribing to cloud-based recovery services.
- Testing and Drills
Periodically test the DRP to ensure it works as expected. Simulate different disaster scenarios to uncover flaws and inefficiencies.
- Communication Plan
Have a clear communication plan for informing stakeholders (employees, partners, customers) during and after a disaster. Identify key personnel and establish a chain of command.
Ensure that staff members are trained about their roles during a disaster. They should be familiar with DR procedures and know who to contact in various scenarios.
- Review and Update
Regularly revisit and update the DRP. IT environments evolve, and so do business needs and potential threats. Your DRP should evolve in tandem.
- Document Everything
The DRP should be a living, accessible document. All processes, contact details, recovery steps, and vendor details should be well-documented. Ensure that key personnel can easily access it, even if the primary business location is inaccessible.
By systematically addressing each of these areas, businesses can ensure they’re well-equipped to handle and recover from disasters, minimizing downtime, data loss, and negative impacts on stakeholders.
IT Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity are Complimentary
Complementary processes are the key to developing and implementing a business disaster recovery plan that is comprehensive enough to provide protection against today’s most dangerous threats. This means planning for multiple contingencies and empowering individuals to make key decisions even when communication is compromised.
To understand why these two terms exist as distinct elements of the disaster recovery process, imagine a disaster scenario renders an entire department unusable. The IT disaster recovery plan will provide a plan for getting that department’s data back online, while the business continuity plan will provide support and funding for each of the department’s employees to continue working.
With synergistic recovery plans in place, business can continue as usual even in disaster situations. Employees will already know how to obtain the data they need to perform business-critical functions and will be able to make decisions about which non-critical functions they can drop.
At the same time, business continuity requires that the IT disaster recovery plan provide for as immediate a solution as possible. If your business shuts down for several weeks while employees recover multiple terabytes of data manually, downtime costs will be enormous – both in terms of employee salaries and lost income.
On the other hand, if your business continuity plan provides for income to continue despite disaster, you have a mechanism for continuing your business even while it reconstructs its missing components. This requires planning ahead for multiple contingencies and implementing industry-best security technology like Datto.
Establishing Concurrent Plans
When your business establishes comprehensive plans for the recovery of data and the continuity of everyday processes, you are fully prepared for anything that could come your way. Your IT disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan should cover the following items:
- Roles and Responsibilities
This includes contacts for important members of your business infrastructure that do not rely on business communication systems, which could be compromised in a disaster scenario.
- Disaster Probabilities
One of the first things you can do to prepare your business for disaster is rating individual disaster types. You can rate by probability and categorize disasters by whether they are natural or whether they can be predicted.
- Geo-Redundant Data Backups
Identify where and how you will store your backup data. Geo-redundancy refers to the storage of business-critical data outside your physical office, in case a disaster compromises the entire location.
- A Plan for Reaching Out
Your business relies on users, partners and customers to operate. Beyond getting your data back and processes running, you need to establish a procedure for demonstrating your plan. This includes to partners, customers, and stakeholders who may be nervous about the idea of doing business.
- Disaster Recovery Time Objective
How long will it take you to become fully operational? Ready.gov suggests that you include time objectives in your business impact analysis, which should be included in your response plan.
- Update Procedures
Too few organizations implement IT disaster recovery plans that allow for updates. All major software updates or changes to your IT infrastructure can have big implications. These changes can affect the viability of your disaster response plan both from a business continuity and disaster recovery angle.
Defining the Business’ Priorities
When considering the implementation of a disaster recovery plan, keep a close eye on your priorities.
You will have to come to terms with the fact that you may not be able to save everything. The realities of resource availability and technical infrastructure mean you have to place greater priority on your proprietary information and on maintaining your existing workflows.
Are you prepared to handle an abrupt data disaster? Talk to a specialist about IT disaster recovery and business continuity today.