Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity

Many businesses live under the false assumption that if their data is backed up, they are good to go when a problem strikes. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s important not to just back up your data, but to have a comprehensive plan in place when disasters or interruptions strike.

The first step in preparing for disasters and outages is to understand the key differences between business continuity and disaster recovery planning. Let’s examine the two further:

Disaster Recovery Planning:

In my book, disaster recovery planning is simply the “how to”. In most businesses, this equates to the method of recovering from their backups when major disaster strikes.

I find that businesses do not consider the implications of disaster recovery. They only think about major outages and complete system failures when planning for disaster recovery.

Key questions you should ask when planning for disaster recovery:

  • How long will a backup recovery take?
  • Are secondary devices like firewalls, phone systems, voicemail, etc. and their configurations backed up?
  • What happens when there is a total building loss from a fire or other catastrophes?
  • What kind of restoration capabilities do my backups have?
  • Does it only restore files?
  • Can my servers be restored to their previous state, or do theyhave to be rebuilt from scratch?
  • Can databases and applications be restored correctly?
  • What about software licensing for complete system failures?
  • How does my business run in the meantime?

Business Continuity Planning:

I have heard business continuity described as a “state of being” more so than a plan. It’s a method of considering all possible interruptions to business, and contingencies for overcoming them. There is a lot more to business continuity planning than simple disaster recovery plans.

Disaster recovery is only a small part of a business continuity plan. Imagine being without power or internet for a week, two weeks, or even more. These scenarios are not considered in a typical disaster recovery plan. Business continuity planning considers all possible interruptions to business, and ways of dealing with them.

Some situations to consider in business continuity planning:

  • Power outages.
  • Internet outages.
  • Phones outages.
  • Natural disaster like blizzards, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.
  • Data corruption.
  • Hackers.
  • Application failures.
  • Cloud services outages.
  • Network outages and hardware failures.
  • Quarantine scenarios (chemical spills, gas leaks, terrorist attacks, etc.).

The moral of this story is a simple one. Your business should consider all possible causes for interruptions, their impact on your business, and ways to work around them when necessary.

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