Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) are two important practices that every organization, regardless of size, should prepare for. The two concepts are closely related and commonly referred to as a single term: Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BC/DR).  This trend of recognizing the two as a single process indicates that both business and IT leaders acknowledge that planning for both business continuity and disaster recovery would be more effective if there is close collaboration between the responsible units.

But while BC and DR are often used interchangeably–albeit unintentionally most times–the fact remains that one is different from the other. It is necessary to have a fundamental understanding of each of these practices to enable the enterprise to come up with the action plan that works best for their operation.

What is Business Continuity?

A business continuity plan is the strategy that maps out how the organization can get back into full functionality as soon as possible following a major crisis or a crippling disaster.  Ideally, business continuity planning would include a program on how the company can proceed with normal business operations even during a disaster.

For instance, such a plan could include evacuating employees to a safer place where they can continue to work, or having backup systems in place to ensure that electric power, phone lines, internet, and any other systems critical to the operations would be restored.

What is Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery planning, on the other hand, is considered a highly vital subset of Business Continuity. It involves preparing for the recovery of the more technical business processes of the organization after a disaster. The most common DR plan is IT recovery–recovering the enterprise’s data and getting IT infrastructure up and running again.

Disasters in IT may be minor or extremely critical to the performance of an organization. Whether there is a loss of a data set or the shutdown of an entire data center, DR focuses on how quickly these incidents can be repaired. A primary consideration of DR is how quickly data and business applications can be restored.

BC and DR planning: Finding the right balance

Based on the definitions of business continuity and disaster recovery, it’s easy to see why the two terms are commonly interchanged. Both have to do with recovering critical operations during and especially after a disaster. Where business continuity and disaster recovery essentially differ is in their scope, and consequently, in the level of planning required.

Business continuity is much broader in scope as it takes into account the overall well-being of the business. Key issues of a BC plan would include business processes, assets, personnel, physical infrastructure, and more. Does the organization have an alternative office location? Do the employees know which government agencies to contact in case of flood or a widespread malicious internet attack? A comprehensive business continuity program outlines all the steps necessary to ensure that the company can continue to open its doors even in the aftermath of a disaster.

Disaster recovery is more specific in its concern as it focuses on data and IT recovery. Yet DR planning should be considered just as important as ensuring the continuity of business operations. After all, most enterprises would be hard-pressed to get back in business-as-usual mode without their critical data and computer systems. This is where offsite data backups and redundancy of IT infrastructure in the cloud would prove to be very valuable.

Depending on the nature of your operations, you might have to invest more in DR over BC, or vice-versa. That’s why it’s imperative that C-level executives and IT managers can assess early on just how to balance business continuity and disaster recovery planning in order to achieve the right level of resilience for the organization.

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