Business Continuity Plan or Disaster Recovery Plan: Why it Matters

Do you have a disaster recovery plan or a business continuity plan for your company? Find out why the difference matters and how together they reduce risk.  

When it comes to a disaster recovery plan (DRP), we no longer just have a power outage, natural disaster or an overheating server to consider. Actually, 51% of businesses say that ransomware is their number one disaster risk. They’re more concerned about losing access to customer data.

As technology advances and the risks become more sophisticated, businesses must adapt to their new reality. At one time, disaster recovery was the main concern. How fast can we get people and systems back up and running? That’s still important. But flash forward to today. Maintaining operations, preventing downtime and securing business and customer data have become the new priority. This has forced many organizations to rethink their disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans (BCP). We need to draw some clear lines to distinguish DRP vs BCP. Let’s explore the real difference and how they work together to comprehensively reduce your risk.


Here’s the breakdown through which the difference becomes clear.

What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Disaster Recovery Plan is a written document that outlines how you’ll get essential (and then less essential) business operations back online after a disaster. In the short-term, it’s main objective is often to provide an alternate site where employees can go to continue doing their jobs. That may be the corporate office, a rent-a-desk company, a satellite or other location. In the longer-term, it’s about systematically returning to full functionality. Depending on your industry, this may also involve doing damage control with customers, regulators, vendors, etc to reduce impact.

Disaster recovery may actually be called continuity on a day-to-day basis. One of your servers goes down. A workstation is on the fritz. Data gets corrupted or sabotaged by an employee, ransomware or technology failure. We need to solve these problems fast to continue operations. But we further elucidate the distinction when we define continuity.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan?

Business Continuity Plan today is much broader than disaster recovery. It addresses how you’ll get the people, servers, systems and software back online after a disaster, which can be any number of things. In other words, disaster recovery is part of continuity. If it weren’t, it would be like running on a gas-powered generator indefinitely after a blackout instead of restoring power. But it also addresses prevention and minimizing downtime in critical areas of the business where time is quite literally money.

In many organizations today, loss of operations for any period has clear ramifications. For example, you may lose sales, an important client contract or the trust of your customers. In some of the most unforgiving industries like healthcare, finance or legal, you may face exorbitant fines for data breaches that prevent access or steal customer data.

Business continuity involves taking clear steps to prevent lack of continuity. This may come in the form of:

So in a nutshell, continuity focuses on preemptively preparing for a disaster so that business operations continue. Disaster recovery applies to the processes, people and technology needed to clean up after a disaster. Disaster recovery in its purest form is how fast you can get everything back up after a disaster.

Some organizations will use these terms interchangeably. And ultimately, it’s having a functioning finished product that matters. But if the interchangeability of these terms causes and organization to fail at risk identification, assessment and mitigation, that’s a problem.

How Disaster Recovery and Continuity Plans Work Together

It’s all about having a comprehensive plan that includes both recovery and continuity. Plan for and prevent what you can, but don’t think that your organization is impenetrable. Think beyond natural disasters or a server going down. The risks today are greater an often virtual.

To think more broadly,

  • Identify potential risks
  • Do an impact analysis
  • Develop strategies to prevent what you can
  • Determine how critical operations, where any downtime is unacceptable, stay online. This may require re-routing of critical functions. Don’t wait until a disaster to determine the logistics.
  • Minimize immediate losses
  • Prioritize recovery efforts ahead of time
  • Test your action plans ahead of time. Know that they work. Preparing for a real-life disaster is a lot like a fire drill. Simply designating a meetup location and other protocols is one thing. Employees need practice and systems need to be tested to ensure they work and you’re ready for disaster.

Now that you’ve clarified for yourself the real difference between DRP vs BCP, it’s time to develop a clear plan for your company.