Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery

What is the Difference Between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity?

This is the third installment in a 3-part series on hurricane preparedness and business continuity. 

Business leaders in Tampa that are preparing for hurricane season will likely encounter two terms, disaster recovery and business continuity, in their search for stability.  Though the two concepts are related in that they help you respond to the threat of natural or man-made disasters, they also differ in important and sometimes confusing ways.

Here’s what businesses in Florida should know about both approaches and how to combine them to minimize the chance that a hurricane will cause lasting damage.

This blog is part of a series on storm season preparedness, read the first part here.

Disaster Recovery is Focused on Business Technology

Disaster recovery is a plan that enables your business to anticipate catastrophic downtime and regain access to and functionality of your technology as fast as possible. Unlike business continuity—which helps your entire organization plan redundant human resources, workspaces, vendors, and technology—disaster recovery is tightly focused on IT systems.

Important metrics that you can use to measure the effectiveness of your disaster recovery plan include the following:

Recovery time objective (RTO)
How long can a system stay down before it starts to impact your business negatively. This metric gives you a limit to how much downtime you can tolerate, which you can use to guide the DR planning process.

Recovery point objective (RPO)
How much data loss is acceptable to your organization? Is a backup that’s 24 hours old enough to get your business back on track, if a tropical storm should strike? 12 hours? This metric helps you understand how frequently your backup systems should be creating redundant copies of your data.

Read more about RPO and RTO on TechTarget.

Why Disaster Recovery is Important

There are multiple beneficial outcomes of having disaster recovery plan, including the following:

Ensure data security
Disaster recovery isn’t just about hurricane protection. Integrating data protection and backup into your disaster recovery plans can provide your organization with a valuable backstop against ransomware and other forms of malware so that if your systems do ever get deleted, you’ll have recent production data to restore operations.

Reduce recovery costs
By being proactive about disaster and having a clear, organization-wide plan for responding to it, you can dramatically lower the cost of responding to downtime.

Responding to those events reactively means hiring hourly IT consultants to perform forensics on your damaged systems, building a plan for saving your network, then marshalling the resources to do that time-consuming work. Each of those steps comes with the potential for costly overtime charges.

Being proactive eliminates much of that reactive work, enabling you to budget for storm preparation with greater confidence.

Business Continuity Keeps Your Organization Productive

As mentioned above, business continuity planning (BCP) is larger in scope than disaster recovery. It’s designed to give you a clear plan for not just responding to a disaster but weathering that disaster and staying productive, no matter how big a storm hits our state.

To build a business continuity plan, you’ll need to coordinate people and resources from across your organization. Here are the most important steps that go into developing a business continuity plan:

Perform a business impact analysis
Start by analyzing your organization to identify critical business activities and their associated dependencies. This helps you understand which systems you need to protect to keep the business operating and where to target your work.

Develop plan and controls
Depending on your tolerance for business downtime, the next step is to develop a clear system for maintaining the health of the critical business operations.

For some small businesses, this could be as simple as sharing access to cloud-based systems. Large, more complex organizations will want to explore alternative office locations, backup telecom infrastructure, and define redundant lines of communication and chain of command to ensure smooth operations when a hurricane or other disaster strikes.

Monitor and test the BCP
The BCP isn’t a static document that you can create and then leave unattended. Your organization changes every day as personnel come and go, business functions change over time, and priorities shift. You should revisit your BCP at least once a year to keep it aligned with your goals and to make sure it still functions properly.

We’ve recently written an in-depth piece about the business continuity planning process, which explains in detail what you can do to make each step of the BCP process efficient and successful.

Business Continuity Outcomes

Important outcomes of a business continuity plan include the following:

Regulatory compliance
The benefits of business continuity extend far beyond hurricane preparation. Businesses in regulated industries like financial services and healthcare are often subject to regulatory compliance standards, like FINRA, HIPAA, and HITECH, which require business continuity in place.

Stronger customer retention
If your business takes weeks to return to normal operations, customers may go looking for other suppliers to help them, compounding the hurricane’s impact on your business. In today’s business climate where between 70% to 80% of a business’s value comes from hard-to-assess assets like brand equity and reputation, being a beacon of stability can have serious returns.

Lower insurance premiums
Businesses in Florida rely on their insurers to protect them from natural disaster and cyber threats. Many forms of insurance require businesses to demonstrate a business continuity plan to purchase insurance or to get the lowest possible premium possible.

Creating Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Synergy

To clarify, the most important difference between the two concepts is when they’re triggered.

A business continuity plan is triggered at the outset of a hurricane or tropical storm so that your team can work through the disaster with as little interruption as possible, while a disaster recovery plan is typically triggered after a disaster has taken place, allowing your team to begin the process of restoring your technology systems as quickly as possible.

But the reality is that the two concepts play an important, synergistic role in helping to keep your business safe from natural disasters. Here’s some of the benefits of combining the two strategies:

  • Expose potential gaps
    Creating a holistic plan for overall resiliency—both operational and technological—makes it more likely to find weak points in each plan, leading to a more resilient overall process and a stronger business.
  • Reduce recovery time
    With IT now playing a central role in most Florida businesses, business continuity means fully functional IT systems. The sooner you get your technology back up and running at maximum capacity, the sooner you’ll be profitable again.

74% of surveyed organizations have faced a disruptive event with third parties in the past few years.

You can find the first installment here in our 3-part series on hurricane preparedness and business continuity.

Tampa’s Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Partner

For 30 years, the LNS Solutions team has been helping businesses in Tampa defend against hurricanes and other natural disasters. If your business is struggling to discover the resiliency it wants, contact our helpful team any time at (813) 393 1626 or We look forward to speaking with you!

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