The Key Differences between Business Continuity Plans and Disaster Recovery Plans

Most people often use the terms business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan interchangeably. Although they do go hand in hand, the two terms are not the same and in fact, describe two different approaches and objectives at ensuring that a company bounces back in case of a disaster. A company can choose to focus on one over the other although most choose to apply both to be completely prepared for the unthinkable.

So what is the difference between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan? There is a breadth of information available on these two topics and the answer might vary depending on who you ask. However, let’s start with a general definition of each term.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan (BCP in short), refers to a collection of protocols established to guarantee that a business can maintain a healthy level of business operation in the face of a disruptive event. All the steps and processes listed in a BCP answer one question; “how can we continue to offer an acceptable level of service if a disaster strikes?”.

What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

A disaster Recovery Plan (DRP in short), refers to the specific technologies and steps that a company needs to implement to recover AFTER a disruptive event. This usually pertains to infrastructural failure, lost data or other technological components. This plan answers the question; “How do we recover from a disaster?”

Dell describes a business continuity plan as a strategy aimed at helping a business continue operating with minimal disruption in case of a disaster.

A disaster recovery plan, on the other hand, is more specific. It is a plan aimed at restoring applications and data that an organisation uses in case their servers, data centre or other infrastructure is destroyed or damaged. Some people even argue that a disaster recovery plan is a subset of disaster recovery planning.

Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery

Organisations face a wide range of threats that could disrupt their normal operations or even decimate them completely. This could be anything from natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, viral outbreaks to man-made threats like workplace violence, cyber-attacks, industrial sabotage etc. According to a report published on Forbes, a significant majority, close to 90%, of all small business fail within one year after facing a disaster. This goes to reinforce the importance of businesses having both disaster and recovery plans even though not every business employs both. In reality, however, a comprehensive BCP will have a DRP built into it.

A BCP is a master document that stipulates all aspects of your organisation’s prevention, mitigation and response including recovery protocols. In essence, an effective business continuity plan also addresses how a business will recover from every kind of disaster.

Let’s take a closer look at each plan

Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity planning, in general, is a high-level process that focuses on critical operations within an organisation that needs to be running to maintain a healthy level of service. If the plan is implemented effectively, the organisation should be able to continue offering products and services to customers with minimal disruption during and immediately after a disaster. This also involves addressing the needs of other stakeholders such as vendors and partners as the effects of a disaster can also affect their operations.

For the above reasons, a BCP needs to cover all ends of disaster preparedness in an organisation including prevention, mitigation and recovery. These broad categories of actions need to be individually defined for each risk and disaster scenario. This can mean the difference between survival and a complete shutdown. BC planning achieves these objectives through relentless analysis and isolation of critical business processes and threats. This helps you create a priority list of key processes, resources including employees and infrastructure not limited to IT.

Disaster Recovery Planning

A DRP can be viewed as a more specific part of a BCP. Although some people tend to narrow the focus of a DRP to information systems and business data, it can also refer to protocols outside the IT scope. In other words, even though most businesses are now heavily IT reliant, a DRP does not have to be exclusively about IT. It could include guidance on how to restore communication or finding a secondary business location to accommodate critical operations and systems.

Even with an extended scope of a DRP, it is essentially a response strategy – mostly being a component of a BCP. It lists all necessary technologies, procedures and objectives required to perform a quick recovery after a disaster. The recovery could pertain any point of failure across all operations including data loss, hardware failure, network outages, application failure etc.

Bottom Line

A business continuity plan is the first line of defence for an organisation against disaster. However, a disaster recovery plan is a critical plan particularly for organisations that cannot function without vital business data. In practice, it is best to implement both plans when possible. View our business continuity & disaster recovery plans to find out how we can help your business.

Sami Malik

Written by Sami Malik

Marketing Campaigns Manager