Cyber security

What are the differences between business continuity and disaster recovery?

12 August 2022

Disasters happen; they’re an inevitability of life. When they strike, your business has to be ready to implement its Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR) plans.

These terms are often used interchangeably; while similar, there are some key differences between the two approaches, which we’ll explore below.

Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery

Business Continuity

Business continuity is a plan or strategy that outlines different protocols and ensures that a business maintains some operational capacity or level during a disaster.

Following a disaster, a business continuity plan (BCP) will outline how a business will proceed and continue to deliver its services or products. A business continuity plan is established according to an estimated recovery time.

With business continuity or a BCP, it is all about ensuring that your business continues to run in the event of a disaster or during disruption. Typically, it is a temporary operational plan and the measures are in place to address the disruption until the business is able to fix the larger issues.

A business continuity plan can include contingency plans, and if relocation is required, it will detail how a business will operate in this event. Alongside this, a BCP will also take into account all types of disaster, from large scale catastrophes to small interruptions and minor events such as a power outage.

In order to get a business to continue its operations during an interruption or disaster, a business continuity plan focuses on several key areas: network connections, phone lines, network drives, servers and business applications. With these essential IT systems, a business is able to get their systems back up and running promptly with minimal disruption and little damage to work productivity.

Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery, or a disaster recovery plan (DRP), is a process that is put in place by a business in order to respond to catastrophic events, including natural disasters, fire, terrorism, cybercrime and more.

It resolves disruption after an event has happened and the plan details the process of resolving the disruption. It identifies the source of the incident that is effecting business operation, recovers lost data, and then finds a way to fix it in order to get the business up and running.

A disaster recovery plan is often very technical, focusing on specific deadlines and includes recovery time objectives (RTOs). Businesses can have different DRPs that cover all kinds of disasters or cyber-attacks.

With disaster recovery, the plan is all about the measures a business takes in response to an event and how to return to BAU (business as usual) as quickly, and as safely as possible.


Are there any similarities between them?

Both business continuity and disaster recovery are proactive strategies, helping businesses prepare for sudden, catastrophic events. Both plans take a pre-emptive approach rather than a reactive one.

These plans are crucial for preparing for and responding to cyber-attacks, pandemics, natural disasters and more. Business continuity and disaster recovery allow a business to prepare for a range of ecological and human-made disasters.

The main similarity is that they both require regular review, and even revision, to ensure that they are aligned with a business’s evolving objectives and goals.

What are the differences between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery?

  • Maintaining business operations vs. full recovery

The main difference is that business continuity focuses on maintaining a business’s operations during a disaster, whereas disaster recovery aims to restore a business’s data access and IT infrastructure following a disaster.

  • Safety measures

Unlike business continuity, disaster recovery often includes strategies that involve creating additional employee safety measures. This may cover conducting fire drills, purchasing emergency supplies and more.

  • Different objectives

While similar, business continuity and disaster recovery have very different goals. For an effective business continuity plan, it aims and plans to limit operational downtime. In comparison, a successful disaster recovery plan focuses on limiting abnormal or inefficient system function.

When you combine the two plans, it allows for thorough and comprehensive preparation for disastrous events.

  • Continuity vs. normal functionality

Business continuity concentrates on continuing communication and operating, in some capacity, during a crisis. While disaster recovery focuses on ensuring a business’s ability to return to normal and full functionality after a disaster or event occurs.

  • Business Continuity is proactive; Disaster Recovery is reactive

With business continuity, the plan refers to implementing processes and procedures immediately. This is to ensure a business is able to maintain some level of operation when a disaster strikes. Whereas, disaster recovery plan kicks into action after an incident has occurred.

  • Scope

The scope of disaster recovery focuses on the specific systems and/ or data that have been impacted by an event. Looking at restoring only those affected, as soon as possible. In comparison, business continuity includes all the different functions of a business that are required to keep it operational, no matter the event or crisis.

  • Implementation timing

A key difference between business continuity vs. disaster recovery is the timings in which these plans require actioning.

With business continuity, the plan is actioned during an event and is continued throughout until the disaster or crisis is resolved. For a disaster recovery plan, this only occurs after an emergency has happened; it continues until a business returns to normal.

Often, businesses decide to incorporate disaster recovery strategies into their overall business continuity plans. This helps ensure maximum protection and safeguarding your business during and after any event.

Why is it important to have these plans in place?

As the old saying goes, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’, with business continuity and disaster recovery this couldn’t ring more true. With these plans in place, you can help your business minimise the consequences of a disaster to your operations. Further to this, plans provide peace of mind and employees and business owners alike feel more comfort in knowing that something has been put in place to restore and protect.

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Need help? Contact Bluecube

At Bluecube we specialise in providing IT security services to businesses of all sizes across the UK and overseas. Our crisis response team can help get you back up and running after a cyber-attack; give us a call today on 0845 257 8010, alternatively, you can fill out our online enquiry form, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible to discuss your disaster recovery plan.