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Disaster Recovery vs Business Continuity – What’s the Difference?

By | September 18th, 2012

Here’s a classic semantics/nomenclature problem in IT: people often interchange “Business Continuity” and “Disaster Recovery”.  While they’re birds of a feather, there are some substantial differences, at least in this author’s humble opinion. Here goes:

Disaster Recovery (DR): the event of a disaster, human beings recover a bunch of backups onto “cold” or “passive” failover hardware and software infrastructure. In the end, the effectiveness of your DR strategy can be measured in two key areas:

  1. How long will it take to recover from a prolonged outage?  Are we talking  hours? days? weeks? months? The tolerance for length of outage will obviously depend on the organization.
  2. Is the DR facility far enough away from the protected systems?   DR facilities located in close geographic proximity to the protected infrastructure can be a serious flaw in the DR plan, depending on the type of disaster. A three day power outage isn’t the same thing as an earthquake.

Business Continuity (BC):  To me, the key difference between DR and BC is that BC means that you have the ability to simply start using pre-existing failover infrastructure, skipping the restore step. The disaster hits, you cut over and voila, business continues.  This requires  “hot spare” infrastructure at a remote site that’s constantly being updated, perhaps as often as every couple of hours, or even minutes, depending depending on the type of business you’re in.  Another essential aspect we often see covered in a good BC deployment extends out of the server room and into the desktop systems. This can even include paid arrangements for temporary office facilities where people can work from until primary facilities return to operation.

What do you think?  How prepared are you for a disaster?  How  would your business continue in the event of a prolonged outage?

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