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Business continuity vs disaster recovery: What you need to know


Disaster recovery and business continuity: both terms you’ve heard mentioned in discussions of how to be prepared if your business operations are interrupted by something catastrophic – say, a tornado touching down on your offices or a server biting the dust.

It’s those types of circumstances that would be well served by a disaster recovery plan. Before you start putting one together, it’s important to understand that a disaster recovery plan is not the same thing as a business continuity program (although they are certainly related, as we’ll discuss in the next section of this post). You need to know how the two are different so you can make informed decisions that will minimize the effects of a crisis on your business and ensure your operations can continue as normal when faced with any interruptions, catastrophic or not.

To understand their differences, first look at their similarities

If disaster recovery and business continuity are two different things, why are people always confusing them? One reason may be that disaster recovery is actually a component of a business continuity plan.

  • Disaster recovery is about taking specific steps to resume operations after damage caused by a catastrophic event – for example, recovering files lost to a malware attack or restoring server operations after a hardware failure.
  • Business continuity is a more comprehensive approach encompassing processes and procedures that must be in place for a company to be able to continue doing business not just in the wake of a catastrophe, but after any long-term disruption or smaller incident (such as a power outage). These plans will map out who to call, what to tell customers and how to advise business partners.

Now that you know the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity, let’s look at how you can accomplish both successfully.

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Successful disaster recovery depends on data backups

To help ensure successful disaster recovery for almost any type of business, backing up data before a crisis ever happens is imperative. The adverse event could be anything from a server failing to a building literally falling down, and while the physical environment may be more critical for some businesses than others – a manufacturing plant, for example – you can be sure that any business is going to suffer if data is lost.

If you keep a backup copy of your data, you can restore it to the server should the data be compromised, or you can put it on a whole new server if the hardware itself fails. If you don’t keep a backup, you have no way to recover – and your business may very well not survive the loss.

We recommend that our clients who maintain data in on-premise servers keep a local backup of their data, at the very least. However, it’s even better to keep an off-site image-based backup. That way, if the server fails (or if the building actually does fall down, taking the server with it), it will be relatively quick and easy to recreate the server in the cloud and get people connected until it can be repaired or replaced.

The secret to business continuity is planning

Nobody likes to think about the prospect of a major problem interrupting business as usual, but that’s exactly what you have to do if you want to avoid effects that could devastate your business for a very long time to come – possibly even permanently. You need to think long and hard about how your organization will respond, then put the results of that thinking in writing to serve as a guide for your employees. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll have it.

We feel so strongly about the importance of having a written plan to get your business back up and running that we’ve put together a template to kick-start the process of figuring out the who, what and where of taking action after an unforeseen event. As well as covering the basics, we offer specific suggestions for how to structure the plan and what to include in it. We’d be happy to share it with you, and we invite you to download your own copy today.

The goal of this blog is to answer the questions that YOU ask! We welcome comments, questions, and suggestions- just reach out and email us! For more information on business continuity and disaster recovery, check out related blogs here!

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