If you’re taking the first steps towards a business continuity plan, you’ll come across various terms that seem to mean the same thing. It can be hard to understand the difference between contingency plans, business continuity plans and disaster recovery plans.

In this article, we explain the difference between the terms ‘business continuity’, ‘contingency planning’ and ‘disaster recovery’.

There are several reasons you might need such strategies in place, and the Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for those without. Companies with no business continuity strategy will have found it difficult to pivot to home working. This has brought to light in particular just how mission-critical IT systems are to business operations.


What does business continuity mean?

A business continuity plan ensures that, should a disaster occur or the workplace is inaccessible, business operations can continue with as little downtime as possible.

The term ‘disaster’ encompasses devastating events like natural disasters, wars, conflicts, terrorist attacks, and theft. However, it may also include things like cyber attacks, the departure of a vital employee, human error, accidental damage, and adverse publicity.

As has been seen on an unprecedented scale this year, a business continuity plan may involve employees working from home when they cannot access the office. The pandemic has also seen continuity strategies such as people taking on different roles within their business, or retailers operating solely online.


What to consider when creating a business continuity strategy

What kinds of events pose the biggest risk to your business operations? Is your office based in an area that’s susceptible to flooding? Do you rely heavily on certain suppliers? Are you concerned about cyber security?

It’s important to create a business continuity plan that’s personalised to your business, whilst keeping in mind that you must be prepared for all eventualities – as we saw in 2020.

Some of the things you may have to plan for in a business continuity strategy include:
  • Working from home
  • Temporarily relocating business premises
  • Falling back on different contractors/suppliers
  • Data backups
  • Redeploying staff to different roles

Another important factor is that GDPR requires businesses to have measures in place to restore access to personal data following an incident.


What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery is the practice of returning business operations to normal after a disaster. Assuming that usual business operations have been interrupted, a disaster recovery plan will help you transition from continuity measures back to your regular processes.

Things to consider when creating a disaster recovery plan
  • Who is responsible for carrying out recovery tasks
  • Whether you need a documented strategy of tasks that must be completed
  • How you will go about recovering from infrastructural failure or data loss
  • Do you need a professional to create a plan and test it for you?


What is DRaaS?

DRaaS stands for Disaster Recovery as a Service. It’s a way of ensuring that, should a disaster occur, your business-critical data and applications are protected.

This means that business operations can continue virtually, in a secure cloud location, before your primary systems are restored.


What is contingency planning?

A contingency plan is put in place to prepare for any potential future events that could significantly affect business operations. This could vary from physical/environmental disasters to losing a key supplier or employee.

What to think about when creating a contingency plan

Firstly, you need to consider which of your operations are business-critical. These probably include your supply chain, staying compliant with data security regulations, and your IT infrastructure.

Then, think about the risks that could compromise these business-critical operations – for example, a supplier going bankrupt, a ransomware attack, or a pandemic which forces you and your employees to work from home. What is the probability that any of these events will happen?

Plan for a broad range of scenarios and identify what will trigger your contingency measures, what your response will be, the key tasks involved, who you need to inform, and a rough timeline.


What are the differences between contingency planning, business continuity and disaster recovery?

All of these plans are equally important, but the key difference is when they take place.

  • Contingency planning: happens in advance to prepare for potential future events
  • Business continuity: a temporary solution put in place during an incident to continue everyday operations
  • Disaster recovery: returning operations back to their normal state after a disaster


Don’t assume it won’t happen to you

It’s essential to have a business continuity plan in place to ensure that your business operations can continue should the worst happen. Yet, according to recent research, a staggering 50% of businesses were “completely unprepared” to migrate their business to working from home when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.


Back up your data and solidify your business continuity plan

Here at Air IT, we can help you plan ahead for unforeseen circumstances that could affect your business. We’ve helped several businesses migrate seamlessly to remote working, and our backup and disaster recovery services help to safeguard data and minimise information loss and downtime. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch and find out how we can help your business.