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Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery

August 19, 2020

As a higher education institution, you want to do everything you can to mitigate or eliminate risks and handle unexpected crises in a calm, organized fashion. When an interruptive event occurs, regardless of what that event is, it doesn’t just put the institution’s livelihood at risk—it may also impact the students, faculty, and community at large.

Many organizations never recover after they’re affected by a hurricane, earthquake, or other disastrous event, but luckily, thorough advanced planning can help you bounce back more quickly—no matter what situation may come your way.

Knowing the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery, and working to mature both throughout the organization will help your institution be more resilient and recoverable if an adverse event occurs.

Business Continuity vs Disaster Recovery Infographic - Click to go to download page

Business Continuity

Business continuity focuses on understanding the risks and putting measures in place to eliminate or mitigate the risks before they affect the business. It’s about having a response plan (generally referred to as a business continuity plan) in place prior to an event occurring so that staff, faculty, and students understand their role during an emergency. 

Organizations may activate business continuity plans in the face of a hurricane, earthquake, pandemic, computer virus, a burst pipe, or any other unexpected crisis that impacts normal operating functions. 

Business continuity plans include various response procedures, such as:

  • How faculty, staff, and students will communicate in a disaster.
  • How services will continue for the customer (students, grantors, community, etc.), as seamlessly as possible.
  • Step-by-step plan(s) for restoring the services.
  • Steps to ensure the safety of employees.

Other important information contained in a continuity plan includes:

  • Critical functions that must be carried out despite the emergency. 
  • Contact information for staff, other key individuals within the institution, and external vendors, first responders, sponsors or grantors, etc. 
  • Applications that support the critical functions.

Disaster Recovery 

Disaster recovery differs from business continuity in one key way: it refers specifically to recovering the computing environment of an organization. This may include replacing or recovering computing equipment such as servers, applications, the network, and/or restoring data, in order for the business and academic units to continue their critical functions. Therefore, disaster recovery is an element of business continuity, but it is the data center staff that are involved in the recovery, and only if the adverse event impacts any element of the computing environment.  

Disaster recovery plans are more basic than continuity plans, and generally just include recovery procedures for equipment in the data center, such as:  

  • Servers
  • Applications
  • Network
  • Data


Many things may cause disaster recovery plans to be activated. Some examples include: 

  • Data breach
  • Damage to equipment due to a data center fire, flood, etc. 
  • Employee sabotage
  • Power outage
  • Damage to cabling that impacts the equipment capabilities


Since many adverse events potentially impact the data center, as well as the operations and academics of an institution, a mature business continuity program should include a viable set of disaster recovery plans in addition to the continuity plans. Having them in place will ensure a more efficient and effective recovery effort. 

Kuali Ready Can Help

Kuali Ready is your source for academic and business continuity. Our software is made specifically for universities, colleges, and other higher education organizations. See how Kuali Ready can help you mitigate risk and resume operations as quickly as possible after facing a disaster through this self-guided demo or request your tailored free demo today.

Additional Resources

Link to A Thorough Guide to Continuity Planning in Higher Education ebook
Link to 8 Things to Look for in Continuity Planning Software


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