Too many people tend to equate business continuity with disaster recovery, but, in fact, they are very different things—although both aim to help a company recover from unexpected setbacks.

A little bit of history will make the differences between the two clear. Disaster recovery is typically used to refer to a company’s plans to recover from an IT outage. Over the past decades, IT has grown steadily in importance to become the mission-critical capability it now is. However, it has always been prone to what are called, with varying degrees of humour, “unscheduled outages”. As a result, IT departments have over the years developed disaster recovery plans for these events. They have steadily become more comprehensive over the years in line with IT’s growing importance.

Disaster recovery, then, could best be defined as the arrangements for getting critical IT systems back online in the shortest possible time. As such, it would generally include data backup and restoration as well as an alternative location for the servers or production environment. Disaster recovery increasingly includes replication of server environments at an offsite location, especially now that bandwidth is both plentiful and getting cheaper.

The IT department should not forget to include the call centre, if the company has one, in its disaster recovery plans. The call centre is the company’s face to the outside world, and often to its supply chain, and it is highly dependent on technology.

By contrast, business continuity management looks at the nature of the risk the company faces holistically, spanning people, building, IT, data, third parties and documents. Read the previous blog for more information about what business continuity is.

Because it looks at the business as a whole, it’s clear that business continuity should take disaster recovery into account. Once business has defined its requirements in terms of the recovery timeframe for core products and services, then IT and the associated disaster recovery programme should ensure IT applications can meet those business requirements. As such, the two diciplines are integrally linked and should operate within the same mandate.

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