Backup and Recovery
Business Continuity

The Difference Between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Travis Howe
CISO, Own Company
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While every company hopes that its day-to-day activities will run smoothly without disruption, no business is immune from the unexpected. In fact, business disruptions happen frequently, and it’s the organization’s role to ensure that the business is prepared well in advance to mitigate the impacts of these events. A disruption that impacts daily business operations can cause short-term revenue loss and damage a company’s reputation and alter future growth trajectory.

Therefore, it’s critical that businesses do whatever they can to apply all avenues of action for mitigation, including implementing disaster recovery and business continuity plans.

While these two concepts are used interchangeably and share some similar attributes, they are not synonymous. This post will define both terms, address the similarities and differences, and explain why you should have a plan to effectively implement both.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity is a strategy that organizations use to ensure that it is prepared to handle unexpected events that may disrupt their normal operations. A business continuity plan is likely to include procedures to help maintain and quickly recover critical functions, operations, and services in the event of a disaster or interruptions to its normal operations.

What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery is a subset of a broader business continuity strategy and describes the process of restoring critical systems and services after a disaster occurs. This includes restoring data and applications, hardware, networks, and other IT infrastructure components. The ultimate goal of disaster recovery is to minimize downtime and get business operations back up and running as soon as possible.

Similarities between disaster recovery and business continuity

Before we get to the differences between disaster recovery and business continuity, what do they have in common? Primarily, both address disruptions of sufficient scale to interrupt or halt business operations. They also share common requirements to be effective, such as:

  • Proactive: Instead of being reactive, both plans provide a means for businesses to take a proactive approach to restore operations to their full capacity.
  • Versatile: Companies can take advantage of both to prepare for various types of disruptions, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, IT outages, or data breaches.
  • Always evolving: As businesses continue to evolve and their goals change, disaster recovery and business continuity both require constant revision and oversight. An emergency management leader may step in and adjust according to business needs.

Differences between disaster recovery and business continuity

Despite their similarities, business continuity and disaster recovery have several distinct differences. As the name implies, disaster recovery focuses on recovering critical systems and technology following a natural or human-induced disaster, while business continuity focuses on keeping the business operational. Here are some other ways the two strategies differ:

  • Disaster recovery aims to continue operations, reduce downtime, meet customer expectations, bypass ransomware, and mitigate disaster costs. Business continuity focuses on the day-to-day business processes and ensuring that customer service remains on par.
  • In major catastrophes, disaster recovery focuses on technology and data infrastructure recovery, meaning it restores the internal aspects of the business and helps it operate once again. Business continuity takes whatever remains as operational and uses them to keep the business afloat until a permanent solution is set up.
  • Unlike business continuity plans, disaster recovery sometimes requires employees to conduct fire drills or purchase emergency supplies. Integrating both plans allow businesses to equally maintain operations and ensure that employees are safe during a disaster.
  • While businesses will almost always incorporate disaster recovery as part of their overarching business continuity plans, disaster recovery planning is just one of many factors included in the broader process of business continuity.

Data recovery as part of a business continuity plan

Data is the lifeblood of organizations today, and its loss or compromise would significantly affect their ability to do business. An IBM Redbooks Business Continuity Planning Guide points out that the typical yearly growth of new data in an enterprise is in the range of 40% to 70%. More data to manage means more data to recover, and more risk to assume.

That’s why having a way to backup- and quickly restore your data- is a critical part of any business continuity plan.

With Own, we store your backups outside of SaaS providers, meaning your data will still be accessible in the event of an outage, allowing you to maintain continuity. We also have automated backups and granular restore capabilities to help you minimize your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).

To learn more and take a proactive step forward with your business continuity plans, check out our ebook, “How to Improve Business Continuity”.

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