Communicating the Difference Between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans

There is no question that IT is a driving force behind all thriving businesses today. Modern organizations rely on technology for everything from reaching customers to managing operations to ordering supplies. But what happens when disaster strikes and IT unexpectedly fails? As an MSP, you already know the best solution is having business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place. Unfortunately, some of your customers may not understand the difference between a business continuity plan (BCP) and a disaster recovery plan (DRP) or why they’re critical for data protection and avoiding business operations interruption.

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It’s imperative that MSPs clearly communicate the difference between business continuity versus disaster recovery when selling BCDR solutions, so clients understand that both are necessities in today’s marketplace rather than ‘nice to have’ strategies. In the end, you’ll be able to neatly describe the unifying goals of BCP and DRP, how the two strategies differ, and provide helpful tips to share with customers looking for BCDR solutions.

What is a Business Continuity (BC) Plan?

Natural disasters and cyber attacks have the potential to completely wipe out a business.
MSPs must help clients architect a durable and dependable business continuity plan that they can rely on to keep their business running, even during crisis situations. Clients should understand that their BCP is essentially a crisis response playbook to ensure that their business is resistant to complete failure.

Put simply, a business continuity plan is the course of action that organizations follow to maintain business operations during disruptive situations such as a power outage, physical disruption, network outage, data damage event, or cyber attack.

Every business continuity plan should include:

  • A detailed audit of the various risks, threats, and problems most likely to impact business operations
  • A documented list of all mission-critical business functions and processes that, if interrupted, will cause an all-out stoppage
  • The list of personnel within the organization who have the authority to declare a disaster, as well as the team who will execute the response effort
  • An emergency communication plan that lets managers notify employees, vendors, and stakeholders of a crisis if critical systems are unavailable and business facilities are inaccessible

What is a Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan?

While business continuity planning focuses on keeping the core business up and running, a disaster recovery plan focuses on restoring business operations to a normal state. Said differently, a disaster recovery plan is a strategy for quickly restoring data and IT infrastructure after a catastrophic event has caused a widespread outage or severe damage.

In addition to data and infrastructure recovery, a disaster recovery plan also includes specific instructions and procedures to follow in the event that key staff within the organization suddenly quit or are no longer able to perform their duties as expected.

Every disaster recovery plan should include:

  • A full inventory of all critical hardware and applications that the business cannot continue without
  • The amount of time the business has to restore critical systems without incurring significant downtime or outages. This is known as the recovery time objective or RTO
  • A data loss tolerance, i.e., the amount of data that can be a loss (measured in the amount of time since the last backup) before the business sustains serious damage. This is the recovery point objective or RPO. Make sure to consider data retention regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, or other legal regulations to ensure the organization remains compliant.
  • Procedures for post-disaster clean-up such as notifying employees and stakeholders about the recovery status, tending to any issues that might have contributed to the disaster, and amending the DR plan to shore up any shortcomings discovered during the recovery process

Similarities and Differences Between Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery Planning

A business continuity plan and disaster recovery plan are similar in that they are both strategies that businesses turn to in the event of a crisis. The plans differ in how they address the issue. A business continuity plan is the playbook for maintaining core business functions. Think of this as the plan for keeping the light on. Disaster recovery planning is a separate playbook outlining instructions and procedures for full data and IT infrastructure recovery. The DRP is the plan for reestablishing full capacity. Think of this as the complete restoration of all operations as they were prior to the disaster.

In a sentence, think of business continuity planning vs disaster recovery planning like this: BCP is all about persistence while DRP is all about rebuilding.

4 Tips for Success When BCDR Planning

1. Build a Dedicated BCDR Team

Your MSP can establish a reputation as a trusted partner by working closely with clients to help them build their in-house BCDR team. A well-rounded BCDR team is made up of key representatives from all the critical departments of an organization, rather than simply a group of a few senior leaders and IT administrators.

Teach clients that each team member should have equal input when developing, implementing, and testing BCDR strategies as well as their own role and well-defined set of responsibilities within the team.

2. Conduct a Thorough Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is necessary in order to develop a robust BCDR plan. This is because a proper risk assessment will help the organization uncover and assess a full range of possible threats or problems that might affect business activities.

The list of potential issues is unique to each organization and entirely depends on the location, industry, size, and responsibilities of the business. For example, an oil refinery is more susceptible to an explosion or fire event than a bookstore. A financial services firm is more prone to a data breach than a bottling plant company.

3. Iron Out the Details

A detailed and well-architected BCDR plan should clearly outline all of the various IT systems, business partners, critical personnel, protocols, and objectives that are required to ensure that any interruption of service is minimal, and systems/data are restored as quickly as possible.

Establishing detailed business continuity and disaster recovery plans gives a business the capability to respond to a catastrophe at a moment’s notice. A business in crisis can instantly determine which systems are running as usual and which need attention. It means having strict RPO and RTO guidelines and clear procedures to follow to ensure the volume of data loss is minimized and downtime doesn’t exceed the limits established in the BCP. Details are especially important when it comes to communicating with stakeholders during an emergency. For instance, if the primary employee contact directory is unavailable, it could take much longer to get everyone on the same page.

4. Ongoing Testing and Adjustments

The only way for a business to guarantee the veracity of their strategies is to constantly test and adjust according to results. Many businesses admit to not testing as much as they should or not testing at all. Nevertheless, testing and practice drills will help to uncover serious flaws and allow the BCDR team to address them before an actual crisis. Each business’ testing interval should be determined by its risk level and value of potentially exposed assets.

BCDR Solutions Designed Exclusively for MSPs

Axcient is 100% focused on the needs of today’s MSPs. Axcient’s powerful backup, business continuity and disaster recovery solutions protect your clients, and enable you to standardize on reliable, affordable technology that enables you to build your business. Learn more about how Axcient is curing data loss and start your 14-day free trial today (no credit card required).

Carissa Kohn Johnson Axcient

About the Author: Carissa Johnson // Product Marketing Manager, Axcient

Carissa Kohn-Johnson has a background in behavioral and physical healthcare technology and information technology and currently works as the Product Marketing Manager for Axcient. She has a lot of MSP Channel experience from planning and attending hundreds of conferences and tradeshows, and found her passion in technology, and working with MSPs in particular. She serves on the Information Services Advisory Board for her community and feels most at home with other technology-forward people.

Carissa clearly loved attending college as she studied Sociology and Gerontology at Nazareth College and Biological Sciences at NC State University and has taken several courses since then. In pursuing her goal to be a bona fide polymath, she is a voracious reader who tries to consume a minimum of 300 pages per week. Connect with her on LinkedIn – perhaps you can contribute to the Axcient blog?


Check out some other interesting pieces from our blog: Check out the 5 Critical Pieces of a Good Cybersecurity Playbookwe dove into how chain-based backup works and why chain-free is the way to be, take a comprehensive look at Axcient’s robust, partner-driven dedicated support, marketing materials, and free on-demand trainingwe talked with Jason Phelps from Huntress Labs about planning for the next ransomware attack, our CEO David Bennett explains why the current cybersecurity landscape means traditional backup is dead, or learn how you can ditch pricey on-site appliances with Local Cache for Direct-to-Cloud BCDR.