Disaster Recovery <> Business Continuity

Brian Wood Blog

Disaster Recovery is a common “application” for data center customers: having a secondary IT infrastructure site, typically geographically diverse, so that if the primary site goes down (say, due to hurricane, earthquake, tornado, power outage, Murphy’s Law, planned maintenance, etc.) then the backup site can take over, either at 100% capacity or some lesser “must have” amount deemed adequate for a limited period of time.

Business Continuity is a whole different animal. DR is not BC is not DR.

Caron Carlson of FierceCIO published the post below based on an article in CIO Insight about the difference between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity.

Related yet different, necessary but not sufficient.

There’s also a link to a similar article from Data Center Knowledge.

Emphasis in red added by me.

Brian Wood, VP Marketing


Business Continuity is Not Just Disaster Recovery

The terms “disaster recovery” and “business continuity” are often uttered in the same breath, but they describe very different plans and processes.

Disaster recovery focuses on reconnecting to key business systems and services, such as email and customer service applications, but business continuity entails much more, writes Larry Bonfante, CIO of the United States Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC.

Business continuity planning is much broader than establishing a way to restore access to your technologies after a disaster, Bonfante writes in a post at CIO Insight.

To be prepared to restore business operations, you have to understand how your organization’s key processes work, who the stakeholders are and how they would be affected in an emergency.

Developing a business continuity plan involves knowing which key individuals do what, which technologies they have available for working remotely, and how you can communicate with them if catastrophe strikes. Do you have a list of cell phone numbers or home phone numbers? Should you set up a secondary work site, and what technologies would be needed there?

It is also vital to maintain documentation on how the business processes work. Typically, this information is stored in key employees’ heads, but in the event they are unavailable, there need to be other avenues to the information.


Do You Understand Business Continuity Planning?

Despite what many CIOs think, business continuity planning isn’t the same as disaster recovery.

One of my responsibilities at the United States Tennis Association over the past few years has been to develop and test the organization’s business continuity plan (BCP). After researching this topic and discussing it with many of my peers I am fascinated to learn how few people understand what this process is really all about!

Most CIOs that I’ve spoken with confuse two important but very different things. The first is disaster recovery (DR). When I speak with most CIOs about business continuity planning what they usually talk to me about is DR. While both are important, they are very different things.

Disaster recovery is focused on re-establishing access to the key technology systems, solutions and services required to run your business. It’s about getting your network back-up, getting people back on email and ensuring that your company’s order processing and customer service applications are back online. Clearly, this is a critical responsibility and the domain of the CIO. But disaster recovery in and of itself is just a small part of what a true business recovery plan addresses.

Business recovery planning is focused on re-establishing business operations. It is a far broader prevue that simply getting the technology back online. It’s about understanding your key business processes at a granular level. Who are your key stakeholders? How do you conduct business? What constituencies would be impacted in the event of a disaster? How would you communicate with them? Who are the key people you need to get things back in operation? How would you engage with them? Do they have the technical means to do their work remotely or do you need to establish a secondary location where they can meet to get back to work? What capabilities would you need to provide at that site?

Also another key piece that is often missing is documentation on how your business processes run. Much of this knowledge is stuck between the ears of your key employees. But what if God forbid those people are not available for one reason or another to participate in getting things back in service? Would other people know what has to be done? Do you have a way to communicate with all of these people “en masse” (i.e., think of how your school system phones parents for snow days)? Do you even have cell phone or home numbers to contact them in the event of an emergency? How do you keep these processes and information up to date?

Also, no team would expect to succeed without practice. Can you imagine a football team just showing up on Sunday afternoon expecting the offense line would know their blocking assignments and the wide receivers would automatically know how to run their routes? Do you practice how to react and respond in the event on an emergency? Part of an effective BCP process is what we refer to as “table top exercises” where you emulate an actual disaster and go through the motions of what you would do, who would do what, who you would contact and how. The time to learn you don’t know how to do this well is not during an actual emergency!

Business continuity planning is more about restoring business operations than simply providing technology to your employees. As the old joke about Carnegie Hall goes, the way you get there is “Practice, practice, practice.”

Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@



Disaster Recovery Is Not Business Continuity

By Jared Potts, director of strategic marketing for STORServer

A common theme in the world of data backup is the confusion of business continuity with disaster recovery. When it comes to protecting your data, it’s important to understand that these are two different concepts.

The misunderstanding of the terms could result in organizations being left at a significant risk due to inadequate planning. According to IBM in 2011, of the companies that had a major loss of business data, 43 percent never reopen, 51 percent close within two years and 6 percent will survive long-term.


DR: Secondary Sites

The root of disaster recovery is that data is kept in a secondary site, and plans are made on how that data will be recovered so that the business can access it again. One item to note is that the data is not accessible during the disaster. It must first be recovered, and the speed at which the data is recovered is solely dependent on the planning, infrastructure and processes that are set forth and tested.

On the other side, business continuity typically refers to the management oversight and planning involved with ensuring the continuous operation of IT functions in the case of system or enterprise disasters. The elements necessary for successful business continuity include the plant (location), staffing and equipment, as well as the actual data recovery procedures.

Business continuity is a completely different process. First, it is not data centric; it is business centric. The whole point of business continuity is to continue to do business during a failure or disaster. In basic terms, it means that when a failure or disaster happens, that data is still accessible with little to no downtime.


There’s much more; read the full article here: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2013/01/04/disaster-recovery-is-not-business-continuity/