They say failing to plan is planning to fail, and this couldn’t be truer than in business. While we’d love to say “it’s business as usual” every day, that’s not always the case. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s how easily our workplace rhythms and routines can get disrupted by unexpected events. These disruptive situations can come in various forms, such as natural disasters, power outages, cyber-attacks, labor disputes, and more. 

When an emergency or something unforeseen happens, businesses must be prepared to deal with such a disturbance. Business leaders must have a strategy or plan in place that will keep their business functioning even during stressful times. A disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan are types of emergency management that can help your business survive a disaster or other types of crises. Both ensure that your business continues to operate and recover quickly. Thus, having a business continuity plan and/or a disaster recovery plan can safeguard the future of your business. 

A disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan might sound synonymous, interchangeable, or even redundant to you. Yes, they share similarities, but they are separate and distinct disciplines. Below, let’s look at their definitions, similarities, and differences. 

Defining disaster recovery plan vs. business continuity plan

A disaster recovery plan is a set of plans consisting of detailed strategies that businesses take to respond to a catastrophic event. It involves measures that need to be done immediately after a disaster. So, we’re talking exit procedures and communication protocols as well as business information backup and emergency supplies. The goal of a disaster recovery plan is to help the business return to normal operations as quickly as possible, taking into consideration employee and customer safety throughout the process. 

A business continuity plan, on the other hand, focuses on continuing business operations during a major or minor crisis. It includes contingency plans that outline how and where the business will operate. 

Similarities of disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan

There are three main similarities between a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan. 

  • Both involve proactive strategies and take a preemptive approach with the objective of minimizing possible detrimental effects of an emergency or crisis. 
  • Both aim to prepare the business for potential ecological and man-made incidents. 
  • Lastly, both require regular review (ideally, every year) and revision, as the need arises. The revision will take into consideration any new business objectives and the adjustments necessary to achieve those goals and the other needs of your business. 

Differences between a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan

Here are the ways in which a disaster recovery plan differs from a business continuity plan. 

  • Areas of focus

The biggest difference between a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan is their areas of focus. To reiterate, a business continuity plan focuses on how the business can maintain or continue its operations in the midst of an emergency, a crisis, or other unexpected circumstance. In other words, it aims to help the business stay operational and can include replacing equipment or securing disaster recovery loans. 

Meanwhile, a disaster recovery plan focuses on restoring or returning the business back to how it was before the deleterious event. In other words, it focuses on minimizing downtime and resuming normal business operations as soon as possible. This includes restoring any damaged IT system infrastructure and functionality; recovering data, including backups; as well as developing preventative strategies, such as fire drills and smoke alarms, as well as ensuring employee safety through the provision of emergency supplies. 

  • Goals and purposes

Both business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan help a business respond to a disruptive event and include technology plans. The former, however, includes taking care of staffing and supply chain concerns, while the latter doesn’t tackle those. That’s because business continuity and disaster recovery plans also differ in their goals. The goal of a business continuity plan is to keep the business operational by limiting downtime and maintaining essential business functions throughout the disruptive event. Meanwhile, the goal of a disaster recovery plan is to return the business and its systems to functioning normally and efficiently. 

  • Timing of implementation

A business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan also differ in terms of when they are implemented. The plans don’t take effect all at once. A business continuity plan is the business’ first line of defense when it is faced with a disruptive event, that is, it takes effect while the emergency or crisis is ongoing. Meanwhile, a disaster recovery plan starts after the disruptive event. 

Because of their differences in implementation timing, it is recommended that a business combine both so that it can prepare for various disasters well. In fact, some businesses do just that by incorporating a disaster recovery plan into their business continuity plan. However, your business might be heavy on tech so it might make more sense for you to prioritize the development of a disaster recovery plan. On the other hand, if your business requires efficient supply chain management to succeed, then you might want to prioritize developing a business continuity plan. Ideally, you should have both. 

Importance of a disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan

When it comes to managing a business, having the proper plans for whatever scenario is key to navigating that scenario successfully. This means your business continues to operate and is able to recover quickly from any setback. With a proper disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan in place, your business can avoid having to deal with significant financial or data losses. Financial losses might result in your business having to cut costs, including laying off of staff. On the other hand, loss of important or sensitive data or information could have dire consequences too. 

Difference between disaster recovery plan and a business continuity plan

In conclusion, each plan can certainly work alone, but you’ll reap the most benefits when you use both in tandem. Because they overlap in some areas, you can develop a more solid and detailed plan that allows you to prepare for more unexpected scenarios than when you use only one.