Disaster Recovery vs. Business Recovery – Business Continuity 101

Disaster Recovery vs. Business Recovery - Business Continuity 101

A common point of confusion for new BCM practitioners is the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery.

Though people often think these are synonyms, the distinction is that business continuity relates to business functions and relocation efforts while disaster recovery relates to the technical recovery of applications or systems. Disaster recovery is a component of business continuity. Let’s look at how business continuity and disaster recovery provide solutions.

Business Continuity

The planning and preparation to ensure an organization will have the capability to perform its critical business functions during emergency events. It identifies, plans for, and/or creates:

  • How to communicate with customers, vendors and other third parties to ensure you are providing good information and  support.
  • How to ensure services or products can still be provided to customers.
  • The order and timing required to restore business processes.
  • How to support employees during an emergency event.
  • The required technology to support the business functions (disaster recovery – or DR – will implement recovery solutions for technology).
  • Workaround processes to use when technology is not available.
  • Where and how to relocate people and processes in the event business locations are impacted or not available.
  • The teams and organization that will be necessary to manage emergency events.
  • Business process dependencies (what, or who, does each business process rely upon in order to do their work).
  • Regular exercises to validate that plans and actions meet requirements and will be functional in an actual event.
  • Ensure staffing levels will be adequate during an event for both external and internal needs.
  • Documentation of the steps and actions to take during an event to accomplish the items above.

Disaster Recovery

The recovery of technology, applications, and systems that support business functions. It identifies, plans for, and/or creates:

  • Support for the process of identifying the applications and technology recovery requirements from the business functions.
  • A recovery strategy for technology, applications or environments that meet the business requirements.
  • Ensures all dependent technology is included in the technology recovery.
  • Recovery processes and solutions to back up, replicate, or store data.
  • Implements an alternate site for IT processing functions and recovery of applications and technology.
  • Ensures third-party applications or technology (Software as a Service – SaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS) are protected and recoverable.

  • This responsibility often rests with the third-party vendor.
  • Regular tests to validate that recovery strategy and technologies meet requirements and to identify gaps in the recovery strategy or plans.
  • Supporting technology and network access needs during relocation events that do not require recovery of applications or systems.
  • Ensure staffing levels are available for both recovery and support activities.
  • Documentation of the steps and actions to take during an event to accomplish the items above.

Putting It All Together

Business processes are dependent on technology, but technology alone does not make process recovery. Remember, disaster recovery is part of business continuity, but you will not necessarily use it in all emergency events. For example, relocation events often do not impact the data center and only require IT support for setup of an alternate worksite. Business continuity and disaster recovery are related but different. Without both, it is impossible to have a truly functional and efficient recovery effort.

“Disaster Recovery vs. Business Recovery” is the second piece of our Business Continuity 101 series. We created the series for those new to BCM and those looking to improve their knowledge of the fundamentals of business continuity best practices.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to BCM, we created this series for you. 

Read the first Business Continuity 101 guide, “What is Business Continuity?

Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.

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