When considering business continuity and disaster recovery What is the difference between and event and a disaster?

You may have noticed that the terms disaster recovery and business continuity are sometimes used interchangeably. Maybe that makes sense considering that both are vital to the very existence of any given business. However, though closely related, disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) are two entirely different strategies, each of which plays a unique role in protecting business operations.

When Disaster Strikes …

When considering business continuity and disaster recovery What is the difference between and event and a disaster?

Disasters are bound to happen, and when they do, they can cripple entire infrastructures, facilities, and communities. Disaster recovery refers to planning designed to restore systems and data in the event that they are compromised. While the backup process is one of the most important elements, DR planning reaches well beyond making copies of your data. A DR plan outlines how often you back up, where copies are replicated and stored in proximity to your data center, and your selection of recovery destinations. These components and many others all go into a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

… Business Must Continue

From natural disasters to mishaps in the IT department, numerous events can threaten an organization’s very existence—or at the very least, cause major disruptions and excessive downtime.

Business continuity planning focuses on designing strategies that keep business operations going. The BC planning process is far more granular by comparison. Its extensive detail can be seen in its dependence on redundancy: from servers, storage, and networking equipment to customer service reps, marketing personnel, and security detail. Everything that could possibly disrupt business flow must be stacked in reserves.

If you’re still confused or thinking these two concepts are more alike than different, you are not entirely wrong. Both strive for the common goal of sustaining business operations at all costs. But while DR planning primarily focuses on recovering IT resources on the heels of disaster, BC planning encompasses your software, finances, human resources, and anything else necessary to keep the lights on. When you look at it this way, you'll see that disaster recovery is the main cog in the engine that is business continuity.

Striking a Balance

For many organizations, the issue isn’t whether to implement one strategy or the other—it’s finding an ideal balance between the two. In almost all cases, finding that happy medium comes down to specific needs and how much you can afford to spend on either strategy, as planning alone can be costly. Businesses hindered by tight budgets often look to outsourced solutions for answers. Managed services can prove immensely valuable by simplifying disaster recovery and business continuity while keeping planning affordable and helping organizations make effective use of their time.

These days, it’s virtually impossible to ensure business continuity without the support of a reliable disaster recovery plan. Companies of all sizes depend on these strategies to keep things rolling. While your business requirements may favor one or the other, chances are, you need both working at the right time and in the right place to secure the survival of your business when push comes to shove.

Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) are easily confused terms. They seem almost interchangeable, but they’re not quite the same functions. Disaster recovery is actually a part of business continuity and involves a plan for getting business back to normal after a disaster occurs. Business continuity involves a wider breadth of planning and encompasses plans for keeping a business running during and following a disaster or disruption of any kind.

Every organization should have both a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan in place before disaster strikes, in order to keep everything functioning as smoothly as possible with minimal disruption for stakeholders. Let’s review five differences between business continuity and disaster recovery while looking into ways the two are interrelated.

1. Scope

A key difference between business continuity and disaster recovery is business continuity is wider in scope, encompassing all business functions necessary to keep the organization running, regardless of what kind of crisis arises. Disaster recovery has a narrower scope, focusing on systems impacted by a disaster that need to be recovered or replaced for an organization to get back up and running.

Whereas business continuity includes strategies to maintain all essential business functions, from supply and delivery chains to human resources and operations, disaster recovery focuses specifically on restoring any adversely affected business functions. For example, a business continuity plan would likely include a strategy for maintaining operations in the event of a cyber attack, while a disaster recovery plan would include steps for recovering any lost data and patching up vulnerabilities to return to business as usual. 

2. Timing

Another key difference between business continuity and disaster recovery is the timeline during which you would implement each set of plans. Business continuity plans are set in motion the moment a crisis occurs and sustained during and after the crisis. In the case of a pandemic, you would implement your continuity plan when it becomes likely your stakeholders are going to be impacted by an outbreak. You would continue to employ any continuity measures, such as working from home and sourcing from backup vendors, until the threat has completely subsided. 

Disaster recovery plans are set in motion after an emergency event is over, and these plans are sustained until business has returned to some semblance of normal. In a pandemic scenario, an organization might begin implementing a disaster recovery plan, which could include bringing employees back to the office, once case numbers dropped significantly and the threat of contagion was minimal.

3. Plan Components

The key components of business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans also vary. When creating a business continuity plan, you should take the following general steps:

  • Form a continuity planning team
  • Perform a business impact analysis
  • Design and implement your plan
  • Train and educate your employees
  • Regularly assess and evaluate your plan

As you’re putting together a business continuity plan, you’ll want to create a list of all critical business functions and consider how a variety of different crisis scenarios could disrupt each of them. Once you have identified potential vulnerabilities, brainstorm strategies for maintaining those functions during a crisis.

For example, if you realize your organization is relying heavily on one or two suppliers, consider diversifying or creating a list of backup vendors. You should also earmark the resources you’ll need in likely crisis scenarios, train personnel to carry out the plan and implement software to enable communication in the midst of a crisis. Your organization must be able to maintain communication with all stakeholders before, during and following a crisis. An emergency mass notification system is often the best solution.

When creating a disaster response plan, you’ll likely take the following general steps:

  • Form a disaster recovery team
  • Identify critical functions and potential disaster risks
  • Design and implement a disaster recovery plan
  • Create backup procedures (in case of cyber attack)
  • Train personnel
  • Regularly test and maintain the plan

When preparing your disaster recovery plan, key proactive steps include conducting a business impact analysis and figuring out how you’ll restore data, critical applications and business operations after you’ve been hit with a disaster or emergency.

4. Processes and Actions

Once you’ve created business continuity and disaster recovery plans, the actions taken to implement each plan will differ.

If your organization is faced with a threat to business continuity, your continuity planning team will take actions appropriate for the specific scenario. In the event of a hurricane, for example, those actions might include:

  • Alerting all stakeholders to the threat
  • Advising employees on emergency procedures and points of contact
  • Transitioning to alternative operations, whether that’s a backup workspace or remote work
  • Maintaining internal network infrastructure
  • Checking in with all employees to ensure safety and administer assistance, if necessary
  • Adjusting supply chains if vendors or partners have been affected
  • Communicating any changes with customers and other stakeholders

Once a crisis has subsided, actions taken toward disaster recovery will include any steps necessary to return to normal. In the case of a hurricane, those actions might include:

  • Assisting any employees who have been directly affected by the storm
  • Rebuilding or restoring any damaged company property
  • Restoring or recovering any lost data or company systems
  • Welcoming employees back into the workplace once it’s safe
  • Bringing production levels back up to normal

Processes and actions taken to maintain business continuity and ensure disaster recovery will depend on the specific crisis, which is why it’s important to consider a variety of scenarios when forming your organizational plans.

5. Stakeholders Involved

The stakeholders involved in business continuity and disaster recovery will overlap substantially, but there are slight differences.

The primary stakeholders involved with business continuity include the business continuity planning team, employees, customers, vendors and partners. Key stakeholders involved in disaster recovery include the disaster recovery team, customers, employees, and critical vendors and partners.

The well-being of stakeholders should be the top priority whenever an organization is faced with a crisis.

The Importance of Communications in Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Although there are differences between business continuity and disaster recovery, one of the overall keys to success for both strategies is the emphasis on effective communications. Your teams should have a plan in place for sharing relevant information with your stakeholders throughout a crisis. Timeliness is critical in any critical event. You’ll want to make sure you can quickly send and receive important information. Using a platform built for these types of scenarios can make it easier for your organization to send alerts and notifications.

Business continuity is a strategy for maintaining critical business functions in the face of crisis, and disaster recovery is a key factor in restoring those business functions to full strength. Your organization’s continuity plan should include a disaster recovery plan, and the various team members in charge of each aspect of both plans must work together and be on the same page before, during and after a crisis.

To learn more about how to improve your business continuity and disaster recovery plans, check out our ebook, 4 Misconceptions of Business Continuity Communications (and How to Fix Them).

When considering business continuity and disaster recovery What is the difference between and event and a disaster?


OnSolve® offers advanced critical event management capabilities to help organizations achieve successful outcomes during a crisis. By combining artificial intelligence (AI), unmatched expertise and a modern platform, we do what no one else can: We provide actionable intelligence and get the right information to the right people at the right time – so you can mitigate risk, strengthen organizational resilience and better protect your people, places and property.

What are the main differences between disaster recovery and business continuity?

Business continuity focuses on keeping business operational during a disaster, while disaster recovery focuses on restoring data access and IT infrastructure after a disaster.

What is the difference between a disaster recovery plan and a continuity of operations plan?

A disaster recovery plan is designed to save and recover data and other business processes in the event of a critical incident. A business continuity plan is designed to keep a business functioning in some capacity when it finds itself involved in a critical incident.

What is the fundamental difference between disaster recovery and business continuity quizlet?

The differences are that a disaster recovery plan is referring to restoring data and accessing backups while a business continuity plan refers to getting systems back online and the business operations and areas associated with running the business.

What is the difference between incident response and disaster recovery?

Incident response plans focus solely on the incident. Disaster recovery plans focus on the entire organization. Having plans for both means that organizational management teams can quickly get the organization back on track after a disruption. No time will be wasted in prioritization of activities or decision-making.