Business Continuity Vs. Disaster Recovery: What is the Difference?
Major social, cultural and financial events can disrupt our daily lives and the flow of business. Organizations operating during COVID-19 or even the 2008 Recession faced steep challenges to how they operate. How can they, when facing crises lasting months or years effectively adjust to changing conditions and stay above water? This is where business continuity comes in.
Here, we’re going to define business continuity as an important consideration, one closely tied to compliance and security. We’re also going to differentiate it from disaster recover. While these concepts are related, they also have significant differences.
What is Disaster Recovery?
As the name suggests, disaster recovery is the plan that an organization has in place to respond to a disaster.
The definition of “disaster” can take on various meetings, however, to this covers several areas:
- Physical Disasters: Recovery efforts can focus on addressing disasters that damage or destroy physical locations, endanger employees or damage critical infrastructure.
- Financial Disaster: As many businesses found out during the 2008 Recession, it can be disastrous when capital is frozen in assets that aren’t liquid enough to use.
- Long-Term Disasters: When we think of “disaster” we think of an immediate threat, like a flood or fire. Long-term disasters like COVID-19 push recovery plans to their limits.
With these in mind, disaster plans are all about getting key infrastructure back online and working. This can include resources like people, technology and physical objects like vehicles or buildings. Most of the time, this means simply getting back to working order. COVID-19, however, pushed the notion of disaster recovery into a long-term idea with multiple phases, particularly when the workforce, by and large, could not physically go to their jobs.
What is Business Continuity?
Business continuity is the set of plans and processes that will go into effect during and after a disaster. Rather than emphasizing immediate recovery, business continuity is all about ensuring that a business can stay operational even during a disaster or long-term issue.
Business continuity came into its own as a discipline during and after the 2008 recession when financial institutions found that they were unable to effectively continue operations once their sources of capital dried up. Business continuity quickly expanded to encompass many aspects of business operations to improve responsiveness, flexibility and resilience.
With that in mind, business resiliency often covers a few important infrastructural adjustments:
- Cloud adoption: one of the most obvious moves for businesses looking to increase their resiliency to move either partially or completely to cloud infrastructure. Hosted public cloud from providers like Amazon or Microsoft not only gives a ton of control over data, but it offloads the demands for managing infrastructure and creates redundancies through distributed resources.
- Continuous Operations: Continuity means that people can still work, data can still move, and customers or clients can still access goods or services. Remote working platforms (again, on cloud tech) and online content and customer interaction are critical to this idea.
- Security: During a disaster, things like security and compliance can slack. Meanwhile, hackers are taking advantage of situations to try new attacks and find businesses with their eyes closed. Security, particularly managed and automated security is critical.
Business continuity is in many ways an incredibly complex discipline that calls for constant appraisal and discussion.
Many people think a disaster recovery plan is the same as a business continuity plan. Still, a DR plan focuses mainly on restoring IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis. It’s just one part of a complete business continuity plan, as a business continuity plan looks at the continuity of the entire organization.
There are three primary aspects to a business continuity plan for critical applications and processes:
- High availability: Provide for the capability and processes so that a business can access applications regardless of local failures. These failures might be in the business processes, physical facilities, or IT hardware and software.
- Continuous operations: Safeguard the ability to keep things running during disruption and planned outages such as scheduled backups or planned maintenance.
- Disaster recovery: Establish a way to recover a data center at a different site if a disaster destroys the primary site or renders it inoperable.
What are the Differences Between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity?
With all this in mind, there are important differences between the two concepts and practices:
- Different Goals: Business continuity is all about the long term: eliminating downtime, maintaining supply chains over months and ensuring technical infrastructure and data are intact. Disaster recovery might touch on these, but not as in-depth as business continuity plans.
- Scope: Business continuity usually covers a large scope of operations. While disaster recovery might touch on items like cloud technology, finances and so on, it’s usually the purview of continuity plans to cover the operations of every aspect of business, including wide-ranging data access, worker access, cloud platforms and finances. This is why you may see disaster recovery plans as part of a larger continuity plan.
- Safety: Often a continuity plan will not, in itself, cover things like employee safety or security. Disaster recovery plans, however, will typically focus on these for immediate disasters.
How Do Security and Compliance Play a Role?
The most relevant way in which cybersecurity and compliance relate to resilience is when the business is resisting cyberattacks. In this case, compliance is a critical part of managing security against these attacks. A continuity plan focused on IT infrastructure would, in the face of large-scale cyberattacks (like the SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline hacks), emphasize security and compliance.
But even under “normal” disaster events, the truth is that our world, including our disaster recovery, are tied to access to data. Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a real thing, with recovery experts using cloud platforms and dashboards to coordinate efforts across cities or even countries. With that, it would devastate even the most robust business if their access to data would be severed.
Compliance is huge in this area for several reasons:
- It places you in a proactive security posture. So long as you are not simply checking boxes on a list, compliance gives you a good orientation towards security.
- It places you in conversation with security experts. Compliance is an always-on thing, so having security partners in place makes you more aware of potential threats and mitigation efforts.
- Compliance can ensure critical communication. With robust auditing and documentation efforts, alongside required communication and personnel, compliance often sets you up to have an in-place communication infrastructure so news can move throughout your organization… or at least your IT team.
The Cyber Security experts at Lazarus Alliance are completely committed to you and your business’ success. Regardless of whether you represent the private sector or the public sector, we stand ready to partner with your organizations.
Lazarus Alliance is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-7580 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization adhere to cybersecurity regulations, maintain compliance, and secure your systems.