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Understanding the Differences between Incident Response, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity

Organizations need a robust cybersecurity protection strategy to survive in today’s threat landscape, where cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated than ever before. Therefore, an organization’s ability to quickly and efficiently detect, respond, and recover from an emergency incident attests to its maturity level.

Organizations must have a thoroughly developed cyber-risk management strategy that includes incident response, disaster recovery, and business continuity plans to reduce operational downtime and prevent financial and reputational losses. In this article, we will dissect the differences between Incident Response (IR), Disaster Recovery (DR), and Business Continuity (BC).

What is Incident Response (IR)?

Incident response (IR) is a set of established procedures to address the consequences of a security incident. Invariably, this branch of information security caters to the way organizations manage a security incident’s lifecycle. Ultimately, the goal of an incident response strategy is to allow an organization to quickly and effectively detect, manage and recover from an attack, thereby minimizing damages to business assets.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Disaster recovery is an organized approach to quickly redirect IT resources into restoring data and regaining access to IT infrastructure after a cybersecurity incident or natural disaster. Within the information security world, DR is often viewed as a subset of Business Continuity planning.

What is Business Continuity (BC)?

In today’s digital world, where most businesses are online, downtime is unacceptable. Therefore, Business Continuity (BC) seeks to deal with known and unknown emergencies so that organizations can continue to work with as little interruption as possible. An effective BC strategy ensures that the organization can facilitate its business operations even in the face of undesired events. In addition, corporate BC strategies provide operational continuity during and before the execution of the Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP).

Understanding the differences between IR, DR, and BC

Incident response and disaster recovery are referenced within business continuity strategies. Their principles are considerably similar, and they both aim to minimize the risks and damages that a data security incident or a natural disaster may cause. However, below are some critical differences between them.

Let’s explain the differences using an example: Suppose there is a security or operational emergency within your organization; an incident response plan will dictate how your security operations experts and employees respond to that incident. Often, an incident may or may not lead to the interruption or complete stoppage of operations. In such cases, security awareness training is crucial because employees are often the first line of defense.

However, if business operations are directly impacted, then a business continuity plan will be triggered to get functions back to an acceptable level with the resources that are readily present. All in all, incident response allows your organization to handle an incident from the start. Business continuity keeps your organization running during the lifecycle of an incident, while disaster recovery patterns the recovery process back to normalcy.

Creating an Incident Response Plan (IRP)

An incident response plan enables you to quickly and effectively respond to cyberattacks or natural disasters. It also helps in evaluating the aspects that are at high risk and how to control them. You can follow the steps below to build and implement an IRP:

  • Evaluate and list your risk potentials
  • Build a plan that includes incident preparation, incident detection and analysis, and recovery procedures in line with industry standards and regulations.
  • Form a Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) that includes the following expertise: security intelligence, data forensics, security project management, IT documentation, and other viable stakeholders.
  • Ensure that the IRP complies with specific security standards and regulations.

Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

A well-developed DRP can help your organization recover after a data breach or natural disaster to ensure minimum loss to your critical data infrastructure. Below are some steps you should follow when creating a DRP:

  • Audit all your organization’s IT resources and document changes along the way.
  • Define the roles and responsibilities of every team member in the Disaster Recovery Plan.
  • Implement an automated data storage mechanism to help improve your IT backup infrastructure.
  • Perform frequent tests of your DRP to determine the current state of your backup data.

Creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

A Business Continuity Plan keeps your business operations running with necessary resources, even during a cyberattack or any other emergency. Below are a few steps to follow when building an effective BCP for your organization:

  • Form a Business Continuity management team comprised of technical and business stakeholders.
  • Perform a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) process to determine the resources needed to facilitate an action plan while maintaining critical business operations.
  • Identify the critical parts of your organization, and list the resources needed to maintain them.
  • Prepare a plan for each critical portion of your business operation to keep running with minimum resources.
  • Perform an annual mock test to evaluate the efficacy of your BCP. Then, implement any necessary revision along the way.


Indeed, disaster recovery, incident response, and business continuity plans have much in common. They are designed to minimize the damage and keep operations running. It may seem that you can have one document for all, but a single copy will lack depth and contain contradictions. So the right thing to do is to create different documented approaches for all other risk-based plans.

If your business transactions are digital, then you need to make data security your number one concern. Don’t let a data breach or disaster interrupt your work. If you can successfully integrate these practices, your response to any data breach or cyberattack will be quick and efficient.

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