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Disaster recovery and business continuity are two related concepts that involve the management of a business crisis. While disaster recovery and business continuity may be used interchangeably, or referred to simultaneously as BCDR, they often have distinct meanings. Disaster recovery usually references specific plans designed in response to a variety of emergency situations, including natural disasters, PR problems, recalls, or even power outages. "Business continuity" is usually a broader term that refers to the overall ability of a company to provide core services despite a disaster, and may be a set of strategies to handle problems common in the specific business.
The relationship between disaster recovery and business continuity is a very critical issue in many companies. If a company is incapable of remaining functional during a crisis, it may shake consumer confidence, damage the image of the business, and affect profit margins. Without a carefully organized set of disaster recovery plans, business continuity is at risk in the event of a crisis.
Disaster recovery tends to deal with specific plans of action for different emergencies. If a company is headquartered in a hurricane belt, it might have full and detailed procedures to be followed in the event and aftermath of a hurricane. A disaster recovery plan in this instance might provide for the immediate safety of personnel through safety measures such as a hurricane shelter, but would also likely include a procedural guideline for what order to re-establish computer systems and services following the disaster. If a public scandal occurred that involved a company, a disaster recovery plan might include guidelines as to who needs to be informed of certain information, who will speak to the press, and what instructions to give to workers about the issue.
Business continuity, by contrast, is a series of steps or plans that tries to ensure that business continues as usual despite a crisis. This may include provisions such as computer server redundancy to ensure that data isn't lost or that a company website remains operational. Possibly the clearest way to distinguish disaster recovery and business management is that disaster recovery plans deal with the crisis, while business continuity plans manage the business during a crisis.
The subtle distinction between disaster recovery and business continuity leads to some confusion, but many business experts insist that both types of plans are vital to the long-term success of a business. Since disasters of any kind may be relatively rare, some business owners may be unwilling to put much time or funding into developing comprehensive disaster recovery and business continuity plans. This can be an enormous risk, as the potential costs of a severe disaster with no recovery plan can be tremendous compared to the costs of creating a contingency plan.