Any business owner has heard of the terms business continuity and disaster recovery before, sometimes in interchangeable context. But what exactly are these two documents and why are they so important to your business?
In this article, we are going to explain the key distinctions between disaster recovery and business continuity to help you understand how to plan for both.
Read on to learn about business continuity planning and why all businesses need it, regardless of size or industry.
Business Continuity VS Disaster Recovery: What’s The Difference
Business Continuity (BCP)
Businesses are well-oiled machines composed of different operations, from communication to manufacturing to procurement to analytics. Every business has multiple aspects that function simultaneously and seamlessly in order to produce great results.
But what happens when one of these aspects is disrupted? Or worse, what happens when your business is subjected to disruptions that are completely out of your control? Cybersecurity attacks, natural disasters, civil unrest – these are just some of the unprecedented events that could put a halt to your business operations at any moment.
The business continuity plan answers how exactly your business will go from disruption to operation. A big part of business continuity plans is mitigation; during the disaster, how do you minimize losses, reduce downtime, while maximizing productivity?
A business continuity plan provides solutions and considerations that will allow you to keep your business up and running, in the fastest, most efficient way possible.
Disaster Recovery (DRP)
Business continuity and disaster recovery are often interchanged for the simple fact that their functions overlap. If you look at their general functions, both are ultimately designed to ensure that a business is up and running during a disaster or a disruption.
However, they are different in that a business continuity plan encompasses all business operations and is designed to get the entire business up and running, whereas a disaster recovery plan is focused on restoring IT infrastructure, data, and computer systems. Think about it this way: business continuity is all about operations, while disaster recovery is more about data.
For a business, data encompasses anything from personal customer information to invoices to job orders. Emails, interactions, and other resources that you can use to gather even more complex information are considered data. Losing these means starting from square one; you’ve lost the very resources that inform you on how to propel your business forward.
Disaster recovery is specifically important because businesses are becoming more IT-dependent. Even human-centric departments like human resources rely on onboarding software and communication tools to function optimally. Without a disaster recovery plan, businesses will have a difficult time rebooting their operations precisely because these operations rely on technology.
Why Having Business Insurance Isn’t Enough
For some industries, creating a business recovery and a disaster recovery plan isn’t optional. Businesses in finance, healthcare, and law have to comply with federal and state-mandated policies before they are given the license to operate.
But for businesses without these obligations, why bother creating a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity document in the first place? Isn’t that what insurance is for?
In reality, your business insurance can only cover so much. For the most part, it only covers damages and losses to your property and equipment. The refund process takes a while on its own, and without preparation, your business will remain crippled until your systems go up.
For small to medium businesses, this isn’t an option. Days, even minutes, of downtime, can be extremely costly. On top of lucrative fines and reinstallation costs, consumers will eventually realize that downtime exists. If left unfixed, they are likely to go to your competitor and leave a bad review for other customers to see.
Disasters affect every facet of your business. Here’s why insurance won’t be enough:
- Fines from data breaches may be too expensive. If you have a disaster recovery plan in place, you can protect your data from leaking, or at the very least, control whatever you can instead of compromising your entire network. This can mitigate the amount you have to pay in terms of fines.
- Data breaches and business downtime are a public matter. If you’re unable to cope with it, customers will have a hard time trusting you moving forward.
- Any businesses that use a customer’s personal information and data will be breaching privacy contracts. This not only affects your customers but also vendors and partners you’re working with.
- Experiencing downtime means not doing any work in the meantime. When you don’t have a business continuity plan in place, your employees can feel displaced and unmotivated. Without preparation, navigating a situation on the spot and coming up with urgent fixes becomes almost impossible.
What Should Be In A Business Continuity Plan?
Think of your business continuity plan as a masterplan to getting back on your feet. Your continuity planning document should anticipate all possible interruptions and provide step-by-step instructions on how these will be managed.
One of the best ways to recovery planning is anticipating what will happen before, after, and during a disaster. We recommend creating sections specifically for prevention, control, and restoration, so your organization is prepared to deal with disasters on every possible level.
Specifying the prevention and control phases are crucial to prevent the situation from escalating into full restoration mode. In the best-case scenario, you would only need to implement the protocols you have in the prevention and control phases. Nonetheless, having a restoration procedure will allow your business to move forward, should things escalate.
Components Of A BCP: Intro To Continuity Planning
Recovery planning should be specific to your business’ size, goals, industry, and resources. While these specific details vary, there are essential components that should be included in any recovery and business continuity plan:
At what point will you consider your business operational? Your restoration objectives will help you identify critical business operations and prioritize those above all else.
The impact analysis should contain predictions regarding specific disasters. This should include costs coming from fines, hardware repair, recovery issues, and just general expenditure associated with downtime.
Different kinds of disasters will require different responses. Having a response protocol for different scenarios will minimize its impact on your organization, allowing faster recovery, regardless of what the disruption is.
A response protocol should be designed to put your organization on autopilot. As soon as disruption or downtime happens, your organization should be mobilized into fixing the issue immediately, instead of wasting time trying to adapt to the situation.
The response protocol involves any backup necessary while your main tools are experiencing downtime. From secondary data centers to off-site workstations, the response protocol is essentially the “continuity” part of your continuity planning document.
Responsibilities and Contact Information
An essential part of your recovery and business continuity document should involve business continuity leaders. Roles, tasks, and contact information should be specified and known to all employees so the restoration process can be more streamlined.
What Are The Key Elements Of A DRP?
Disaster recovery planning is a specific subset of business continuity planning that is focused on restoring and protecting IT systems including hardware, data, applications, and other technological assets.
In our article, What Should An IT Disaster Recovery Plan Include, we go into detail about what to include in your IT disaster recovery plan, which consists of:
- Asset inventory: A comprehensive list of all devices in your network, including IoT (internet of things) devices such as printers, microphones, routers, and other devices connected to the internet and your network.
- Priorities and strategy: Defining a recovery point objective and recovery time objective for critical software and hardware. The strategy should also involve communication strategies for employees, as well as customers and partners.
- Asset replication: The most redundant system is the most secure system. This simply means that systems that can easily be copied, rebooted, and replicated are the ones safest from cybersecurity threats, among other things that could damage your data. Maintain copies of hardware and software whenever possible to minimize downtime when disaster strikes.
- Role assignments: As with the BCP, ensure there are appointed heads that will launch the disaster recovery protocol, including the person who will determine whether a disaster is in place.
Read our article to learn more about the specifics of IT disaster recovery planning, and how to create one for your business.
Tips For Developing BCP and DRP
Not sure where to begin? Take the following into consideration when drafting your BCP and DRP for the first time:
- Schedule regular tests and address performance gaps every single time. Your BCP and DRP won’t work at all if they’re only functional on paper. Schedule tests and drills to ensure your plans work exactly as needed. Frequent testing will also help you identify gaps so you can work on them before disaster strikes.
- Involve different teams in disaster recovery and business planning. Set up a well-represented team, including an IT head, to ensure all departments are spoken for and covered.
- Define disasters and prepare different responses for all of them. This should include common reasons such as infrastructure damage, human failure, and cybersecurity. Also include less urgent events such as civil unrest and natural disasters.
- Review your BCP and DRP annually. Don’t just create your plans and store them forever. As your business grows, you will be introducing new applications, hardware, and functions to your business. Without regular updates, you are effectively leaving these new implementations out of your preparations.
- Keep your document simple and straightforward. Your BCP and DRP have to be easy to execute. Keep your document as short as possible and provide step-by-step instructions when necessary to avoid confusion.
Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: Why Both Matter
At the end of the day, it’s not really about choosing one or the other. Your business operations are founded on logistics and technology – both of which are addressed in a business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan respectively.
Having both is crucial in protecting your business and ensuring that your company is equipped with the strategy to deal with downtime, no matter what it is.
Depending on your business, you might want to focus on one document more than the other, but the fact still stands that having both is crucial in protecting your business infrastructure, from your data to your employees to the very operations that make your business perform optimally.