Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity

Disasters, whether operational or natural, can have serious ramifications for small businesses. Out of every ten small businesses that suffer a disaster, four to six of that figure never recover from the disaster, according to a report prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These numbers underscore why every small business owner must have disaster recovery and business continuity plans in place.

The terms disaster recovery and business continuity are sometimes used interchangeably yet they’re entirely different strategies.

Read along to discover the differences between these two fundamentally different concepts and understand why both are essential for a business’s continued existence.

Business continuity

Many adverse events can disrupt normal business operations. A business continuity plan is a plan of action that a company must follow to survive such events. Before digging deeper into what the plan covers, it’s important to understand the concept of business continuity.

Disasters, such as fire, hurricanes, floods, terrorist attacks, or cyber-attacks are potential threats to normal business operations. When they strike, it’s important for businesses to intervene and quickly resume operations to avoid the risk of shutting down completely. Otherwise, they’ll risk losing customers, business partners, and key members of staff. Business continuity helps cushion against all these undesirable outcomes.

A business continuity plan identifies the critical assets and infrastructure of a business and lays out the strategies that will need to be deployed to protect those assets against damage or loss. Some of the most important items that may be covered include IT components like servers, databases, websites, phones, virtual machines.  It is important to note that non-IT components like human resources, physical assets and documents should be considered in a business continuity plan.

Any entrepreneur with a growth-mindset should have a business continuity plan in place.

Disaster recovery

There’s a general misconception among small business owners that disaster recovery and business continuity mean the same thing. While both help minimize downtime after a disruptive event, they have different purposes.

Disaster recovery mainly focuses on restoring critical information technology infrastructure and business support systems following a crisis. It’s a subcategory of business continuity planning. A disaster recovery plan is primarily concerned with maintaining the security health of a business’ hardware devices, such as desktops, laptops, and wireless devices, as well as software, data, and connectivity.  As with business continuity, every department should have a disaster recovery plan, not just IT.  

The disaster recovery team’s job is to restore operations within the shortest time possible to minimize business downtime. Priorities for recovery of technical operations should match the priorities for recovery of daily business processes and functions.

Disaster recovery and business continuity: Both are essential for business survival

Contrary to the common belief among small business owners that disaster recovery and business continuity are not interchangeable, they’re two different strategies that can be used to help businesses continue operating as a going concern. While disaster recovery is only a subset of business continuity, a business continuity plan is incomplete without it. That said, disasters are a harsh reality of today’s digital business landscape and entrepreneurs must be prepared to survive them when they happen.

Entrepreneurs can always consult industry experts if they need help with creating effective disaster recovery and business continuity plans for their businesses.