Disaster Recovery versus Business Continuity

computers under water after flood depicting small business without disaster recovery plan


As a small business owner, you wear many hats, and your time has to be prioritized on your most important tasks – so this post will help you understand what is the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity, how are they different from data backup, and which, if any, do you need.

Since many online providers and publishers use terms interchangeably just to get a click or capitalize on the keyword of the moment, we’ll clarify three common terms small business owners need to understand disaster recovery versus business continuity. You will see an overlay among these concepts, but they are each a different and separate process.

When you’re trying to understand what steps you need to take to ensure you can pull of a real disaster recovery for small business in the event of a fire, flood, or a ransomware attack, we can help.  Our Toronto IT Consultants help small business setup DRP and BCP plans to weather any critical event.

Data Backup

The most basic description of backup is the act of copying data, as in files or programs, from its original location to another.

The purpose is to ensure that the original files or programs are retrievable in the event of any accidental or intentional data loss event, such as:

  • intentional deletion /sabotage by staff
  • hardware failure / file corruption
  • software failure / no recent saved version
  • hard drive failure on a computer, external backup drive, central file server or NAS
  • damage to hard drives from overheating, fire, flood
  • hard disk encryption by ransomware

A Key Point About “Backup”: “Backup” refers to data backups only and doesn’t apply to the physical machines, devices, or operating systems themselves. In the event of a major disaster, all machines may require replacement, or, all operating systems may require re-installation, and only then can data be restored from “backup”. Which brings us to business continuity or disaster planning.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Backups are a single, albeit crucial, component of any disaster recovery plan.

Disaster recovery refers to the complete recovery of your physical systems, applications, and data in the event of a physical disaster, or a malware or cyber attack.

Each disaster recovery plan is as unique as the business and network setup.

Each disaster recovery plan uses pre-determined parameters to define an acceptable recovery period – a.k.a. how long it will take your IT provider to get you back up and running.

Some companies can tolerate days or a week without their standard devices. Others can be hurt by mere hours.

Some companies have little to no line of business applications, and everything is cloud based, so connecting with any device in a pinch can work. Others have unique data security requirements, or server based applications central to operations, that must be restored so the business can run.

Some companies prefer physical devices for day to day work, and some opt for virtual or remote desktop solutions. Both options have their pros and cons, and different approaches to disaster planning and recovery. Be sure to discuss these options with your IT provider. Whether you choose physical devices or virtual desktops, your disaster recovery plan must include a plan to rebuild your systems and restore your data quickly, so that your business operations can continue quickly after a natural or cyber disaster event.

Your IT consultant will go over all of this with you during your in depth consultation. Be sure to tell them about every single little piece of software you need to run your business, so they can help you plan for the worst. In this day and age, “the worst” happens to small business more often than you may think.

Quote- When disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.

Business Continuity

Your backup and disaster recovery plans will ensure your business can recover from a critical event within a reasonable time, however there will still be some downtime as things are rebuilt.

Business Continuity Planning is the goal of giving your business access to your critical information during disaster recovery phase.

The goal is zero or minimal downtime, however this may require a large budget for redundant infrastructure back up and recovery.  Virtual networks are faster, easier and less costly to build disaster recovery into, and therefore, business continuity is also better achieved with virtual networks.  For small business, your IT Consultant can help you balance budget and DR downtime expectations for happy mediums.

For a physical network, critical business data can be backed up with configurable snapshots that are instantly virtualized. This allows files, folders and data to be turned on and restored in seconds. To make it work, the right network infrastructure is needed.

Bare metal restores of hardware, where an image of one machine is overlaid onto a different machine, is also utilized along with cloud replication for instant off-site virtualization. Again, the right network setup is required.

Many businesses also keep redundant systems and storage at a different physical location than their main site as part of their business continuity process. Again, this is addressed and taken in to account during the initial network setup.

And some businesses even plan for total power outages and how to move forward if they are unable to access anything electronic at all.

In many ways, business continuity planning is a part of your initial network design. Begin with the end in mind. However, if you didn’t start off with the best network, a good IT consultant can help you upgrade your systems now.

Business Continuity & Disaster Planning For Small Business In Toronto:

You don’t necessarily need to fully understand technology to have it work for you. TUCU is a Managed IT Services Provider in Toronto, who offers IT Consulting, Network Design & Setup and Disaster Recovery Solutions for small business.  We will help you choose your best options for data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity. We offer the services you need to secure your ongoing success.

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