What’s the Difference between Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery?

Business continuity plan; disaster recovery plan; for many these two terms are interchangeable. And, in the panic of a disaster, many people are not going to stop and worry about whether they are using them correctly. But, they are terms that represent different actions and approaches, and the complete understanding of these terms is important in taking steps to defend against IT disasters.

If you find the right IT company, this will all be handled for you and you won’t have to concern yourself with the finer details. But, since the IT integrity of your business affects your peace of mind, you’ll surely want to know as much as you can about the difference between a business continuity plan (BCP) and disaster recovery (DR). Because of this, we have prepared a short guide for you that will help you understand the difference between these two plans.

We will begin with disaster recovery because this plan is created with the specific purpose of responding to an event, and actually forms part of the broader business continuity plan.

What Is Disaster Recovery?

As mentioned, disaster recovery refers to the steps taken towards being able to recover data in the event of an unexpected disaster. There are many ways to do this and approaches can differ drastically between companies. But, the majority of well-structured DR plans consist of three prongs, these being prevention, detection, and rectification.

With regards to prevention, there are a number of measures that businesses can take. But, these should all be based on the preservation and copying of data so that it still exists and is still able to be accessed during a disaster. Some companies choose off-site backups, which are a good idea, but these do mean that a plan for physically accessing this data must also be built into the overall DR plan. Though it is unlikely, there may be cases wherein it is harder to access the off-site facility storing the copied data. In addition to copying data, businesses should implement security measures to ensure that their data is kept as safe as possible. Everything from firewalls to anti-viruses to virtual private networks (VPNs) can be used as preventative measures in a disaster recovery plan. This part of the plan is crucial as, according to the old idiom, prevention is better than cure.

As far as detection goes, steps must be taken to discover threats to the network as well as maintain the search for threats at all times. Keeping an updated anti-virus program falls under this step as well as the first. But, in addition to anti-virus software, the detection of threats includes network and server monitoring and sometimes the implementation of proper staff training.

Rectification refers to the steps that should be taken directly after a disaster, but which should be planned for in the present. This should make allowances for accessing data that has been backed up and stored off-site, as well as deal with factors that will help restore the functionality of a network. This needs to satisfy requirements on a technical scale, such as with an IT response team, and on a financial scale, such as with cyber insurance.

At its heart, a disaster recovery plan needs to provide clear answers to the questions of what tasks need to be done in the case of a disaster, what procedures need to be used in order to accomplish those tasks, and who needs to carry out those procedures.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan?

While a disaster recovery plan deals with data, a business continuity plan deals with business, as the name suggests. A DR plan is primarily concerned with accessing seemingly lost data during a disaster without paying attention to the normal functioning of the business. The BCP, however, is concerned with business processes in that it aims to have the data recovered with as little downtime as possible, and for the disaster’s effects to be contained and not spill over into other parts of the company.

The business continuity plan will cover details regarding the hardware of the company, the staff, and even the building itself in some cases. Essentially, you want a business continuity plan to be set up in a way that, should a server be affected, for example, a secondary server takes control and any users accessing the company’s website or data are not aware of the problem.

Like the DR plan, many companies opt for a three prong approach. Though, they might structure these prongs more like this:

1. Threat Analysis
The step requires creating a list of all possible security threats to a network. From an IT perspective, these should include malicious threats such as hacking and malware as well as accidental threats like server failure.

2. Damage Projection
With the list of all conceivable threats created, it is important to decide on what sort of damage could ensue should one of these threats actually occur. These scenario plans should project the most extreme examples of the particular threat and then work in a scale that will allow the plan to adapt to less severe cases.

3. Recovery Implementation
Once a threat and its potential damage have been defined, it is easier to formulate a recovery plan. This will detail the ways in which business processes can be continued during a disaster as well as the steps necessary to accomplish this feat.

Business Continuity Plans are Different from Disaster Recovery Plans, but Linked

Though the terms are often confused, disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans are different things. That being said, DR plans are incorporated in BCPs, along with other factors that allow the business to continue during a crisis. But, in both cases, scalability is key. It is far better to plan for the worst and then dial back the response than to have to think on your toes in the event that the disaster is more severe than your plans can accommodate.

Of course, coming up with effective, scalable plans takes a great amount of experience and know-how. This is why, if you are at all unsure how to approach such a project, you are far better off putting the task in the hands of IT professionals.

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