What’s the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery?

Business continuity and disaster recovery are terms that many business owners and IT professionals are familiar with, but what are the differences, and how do they relate to each other?  Impacts on continuity and disaster recovery can dramatically affect business operations. Experienced business leaders create strategies and plan to implement continuity or recovery plans immediately should situations arise. Understanding the company’s possible threats and risks is critical to creating a clear and concise checklist to return to full operations.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan temporarily addresses disruption and provides clarity and focus, keeping the business operational until services are resumed. A good example is in the event of a natural disaster when companies experience power outages, flooding, and damage to the physical office. A company’s business continuity plan (BCP) and strategies outline the steps that need to be taken to secure files and systems, relocate staff, implement system redundancies, and notify customers. The end goal is to resume system functionality and return on-site and remote teams to full functionality.

The IT section of a business continuity plan defines all areas of your business involving IT. It demonstrates to your employees and clients the importance you place on consistent and uninterrupted functionality. IT continuity takes into account the following:

  • Power outages
  • Natural disasters
  • Security breaches and viruses
  • Cyber attacks
  • Nature and weather, including storms, hurricanes, fire, and the impact on systems and employees

A business continuity plan ensures that resources are in place and information is secured and appropriately disseminated to mitigate a significant interruption and quickly resume business functionality. Google, AWS, and cloud-based systems afford businesses easy remote entry to internet-connected systems and data. They also install remote employee functionality quickly in the event of a disruption or disaster.

What does a business continuity plan typically include?

Creating a business continuity plan is about understanding your business and what it needs to perform during a disruption.

  1. Identify the areas that could be impacted and the potential sources of disruption by creating a business impact analysis. This exercise identifies the areas of disturbance and ranks them in order of importance. Management can address these areas in advance to mitigate the risk.
  2. How will you react and implement the continuity plan? Identify the staff and resources required for each area of the business. Include every detail. Every detail will be needed if the business needs to implement the plan.
  3. Who will be involved in the continuity plan? Document key personnel and their roles. The team usually consists of experienced IT staff and business management to resume operations as quickly as possible. These key employees have institutional knowledge of the business, along with the experience needed to secure files, restore systems, set up any needed remote office locations, or implement outbound communications to clients. Internal and external communications are essential in the event of a disruption.
  4. Take it for a spin. You do not want to wait until a disaster happens to find out if it works! Testing the plan using realistic scenarios ensures you are genuinely prepared. Training and testing will also give managers and employees a chance to weigh in on the process and offer areas of improvement.

What is a disaster recovery plan?

A disaster recovery plan is a documented, detailed, and structured plan describing how a business will resume functionality after an unplanned occurrence. Disaster recovery planning focuses on restoring data access, systems, and IT infrastructure with minimal downtime or customer and employee impact.

A good example is call center disaster recovery plans for companies that provide 24/7/365 call center support. Downtime is not acceptable. Implementing a plan to restore service is critical. The same applies to businesses like doctor’s emergency on-call services and utilities. When these services use cloud-based platforms and recovery services, disaster recovery is much easier.

The primary objective of a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is to enable an organization to survive a disaster and continue normal business operations. To survive, the organization must ensure that information can be recovered and critical operations can resume,  continuing normal functionality. Throughout the recovery effort, the plan establishes clear lines of authority and responsibility and prioritizes work efforts.

Eight critical aspects of the Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) are:

1 – Provide for the safety and well-being of employees and customers on the premises

2 – Restore critical business systems and information

3 – Minimize the duration of a severe disruption to operations and resources (both information processing and other resources)

4 – Minimize immediate damage and losses

5 – Establish management succession and emergency powers

6 – Facilitate effective coordination of recovery tasks

7 – Reduce the complexity of the recovery effort

8 – Identify critical lines of business and supporting functions

Although statistically, the probability of a major disaster is remote, the consequences of an occurrence could be catastrophic, both in terms of operational impact and public image. Management should appreciate the implications of an event and assign ongoing responsibility for recovery planning to an employee dedicated to this essential service.

Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) vs. Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

The most significant difference between business continuity and disaster recovery is when the plan is implemented. Some companies use these terms interchangeably even though they differ in the disruption’s source and impact on the business.

Disaster Recovery Plans address the practices implemented during and after the loss to restore functionality as quickly as possible. Business Continuity Plans are preemptive and put in place to prepare for disaster handling.

Businesses utilizing cloud computing experience a minimal loss of data and quicker recovery time. For best security and results, organizations should back up all data and IT infrastructure to a third-party cloud-based service such as AWS or Google Cloud. Cloud computing is cost-effective and accessible from any location on any device.

A BCP or DRP for a small business differs from that of a more significant multi-location business but only in the details, not in need of the plan. Small businesses often dismiss the need for these plans, resulting in a significantly greater impact in the event of a disruption. Affordable BCP and DRP plans are readily available for all business budgets and sizes.


We all know that a backup plan is essential, but Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery – much like security – go much further than just having a rough plan and basic measures in place.  With our managed infrastructure services and in-depth knowledge of your technical and business operations, Dymeng can conduct risk assessments and robust planning tailored to the specific needs of your organization.  Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn more.

Resources: Disaster Recovery Plan