The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity – and why IT matters for both

October 10, 2014

One wouldn't think there would be any heroism in IT careers, but that couldn't be further from the truth. No amount of preparation can stop everything. When the worst happens – a catastrophic event that totally halts business operations – it is the IT department that is taken to task to get the rest of the business up and running again. 

In the last decade, every functional area of business has come to rely in whole or in part on IT infrastructure. Data storage, analysis, collaborative applications, HR – all of these vital business processes cannot run without the technology on which they rely. 

Disaster recovery vs. business continuity
While disaster recovery and business continuity are closely related, they are not actually the same thing. explained that the key difference between the two is in their scope. Disaster recovery is the process of getting all important IT infrastructure and operations up and running following an outage. 

Business continuity differs in that it is the process of getting the entire business back to full functionality after a crisis. Can the customer service reps access their CRM applications? Can marketing access their stored graphics? Does HR have access to vital employee information? 

The central role of IT
Today, IT is at the center of almost all business operations, and for that reason, it is at the center of recovery planning. ITWire asked businesses to think about how they would handle a disaster, such as a data center burning down or a mass power outage. If a business doesn't know how to address this kind of situation, then the time to start planning for it is now – starting with IT. Hoping that disaster will kindly avoid you is not an option.

One major way to prepare for a disaster is to ensure that your data centers have at least two backups. Whether data is stored internally, or with an external service provider, it is imperative to ensure that the data is backed up in another location. 

Facilitating a virtual standby server that mirrors your critical applications is also essential. Business continuity means making sure all areas of the business can access these applications in a timely fashion following a disaster.

A third way to plan for the worst is through constant testing and verification that backup systems are operational. If the IT department waits until a disaster strikes to see if the backups work, the business may be in for substantial downtime. In addition, every member of the IT team should have a strictly defined role that they will fill when responding to a crisis.