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What Is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), and How Does It Work?

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What Is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)? 

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company. The plan ensures that personnel and assets are protected and are able to function quickly in the event of a disaster.

Key Takeaways

Understanding Business Continuity Plans (BCPs)

BCP involves defining any and all risks that can affect the company's operations, making it an important part of the organization's risk management strategy. Risks may include natural disasters—fire, flood, or weather-related events—and cyber-attacks . Once the risks are identified, the plan should also include:

BCPs are an important part of any business. Threats and disruptions mean a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition. It is generally conceived in advance and involves input from key stakeholders and personnel.

Business impact analysis, recovery, organization, and training are all steps corporations need to follow when creating a Business Continuity Plan.

Benefits of a Business Continuity Plan

Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic. Business continuity planning is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of major disasters such as fires. BCPs are different from a disaster recovery plan, which focuses on the recovery of a company's IT system after a crisis.

Consider a finance company based in a major city. It may put a BCP in place by taking steps including backing up its computer and client files offsite. If something were to happen to the company's corporate office, its satellite offices would still have access to important information.

An important point to note is that BCP may not be as effective if a large portion of the population is affected, as in the case of a disease outbreak. Nonetheless, BCPs can improve risk management—preventing disruptions from spreading. They can also help mitigate downtime of networks or technology, saving the company money.

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan

There are several steps many companies must follow to develop a solid BCP. They include:

Companies may also find it useful to come up with a checklist that includes key details such as emergency contact information, a list of resources the continuity team may need, where backup data and other required information are housed or stored, and other important personnel.

Along with testing the continuity team, the company should also test the BCP itself. It should be tested several times to ensure it can be applied to many different risk scenarios . This will help identify any weaknesses in the plan which can then be identified and corrected.

In order for a business continuity plan to be successful, all employees—even those who aren't on the continuity team—must be aware of the plan.

Business Continuity Impact Analysis

An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis. It identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.

FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis. The worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers who are well acquainted with the business. These worksheets will summarize the following:

Completing the analysis can help companies identify and prioritize the processes that have the most impact on the business's financial and operational functions. The point at which they must be recovered is generally known as the “recovery time objective.”

Business Continuity Plan vs. Disaster Recovery Plan

BCPs and disaster recovery plans are similar in nature, the latter focuses on technology and information technology (IT) infrastructure. BCPs are more encompassing—focusing on the entire organization, such as customer service and supply chain. 

BCPs focus on reducing overall costs or losses, while disaster recovery plans look only at technology downtimes and related costs. Disaster recovery plans tend to involve only IT personnel—which create and manage the policy. However, BCPs tend to have more personnel trained on the potential processes. 

Why Is Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Important?

Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic and business continuity plans (BCPs) are an important part of any business. BCP is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of threats and disruptions. This could result in a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition.

What Should a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Include?

Business continuity plans involve identifying any and all risks that can affect the company's operations. The plan should also determine how those risks will affect operations and implement safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks. There should also be testing procedures to ensure these safeguards and procedures work. Finally, there should be a review process to make sure that the plan is up to date.

What Is Business Continuity Impact Analysis?

An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis which identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.

FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis.

These worksheets summarize the impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and processes. They also identify when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts.

Business continuity plans (BCPs) are created to help speed up the recovery of an organization filling a threat or disaster. The plan puts in place mechanisms and functions to allow personnel and assets to minimize company downtime. BCPs cover all organizational risks should a disaster happen, such as flood or fire.  

Federal Emergency Management Agency. " Business Process Analysis and Business Impact Analysis User Guide ," Pages 15 - 17. Accessed Sept. 5, 2021.

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Business Continuity Planning Process Diagram - Text Version

When business is disrupted, it can cost money. Lost revenues plus extra expenses means reduced profits. Insurance does not cover all costs and cannot replace customers that defect to the competition. A business continuity plan to continue business is essential. Development of a business continuity plan includes four steps:

Information technology (IT) includes many components such as networks, servers, desktop and laptop computers and wireless devices. The ability to run both office productivity and enterprise software is critical. Therefore, recovery strategies for information technology should be developed so technology can be restored in time to meet the needs of the business. Manual workarounds should be part of the IT plan so business can continue while computer systems are being restored.

Resources for Business Continuity Planning 

Business Continuity Impact Analysis

Business continuity impact analysis identifies the effects resulting from disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.

The Operational & Financial Impacts worksheet  can be used to capture this information as discussed in Business Impact Analysis . The worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers with sufficient knowledge of the business. Once all worksheets are completed, the worksheets can be tabulated to summarize:

Those functions or processes with the highest potential operational and financial impacts become priorities for restoration. The point in time when a function or process must be recovered, before unacceptable consequences could occur, is often referred to as the “Recovery Time Objective.”

Resource Required to Support Recovery Strategies

Recovery of a critical or time-sensitive process requires resources. The Business Continuity Resource Requirements worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers. Completed worksheets are used to determine the resource requirements for recovery strategies.

Following an incident that disrupts business operations, resources will be needed to carry out recovery strategies and to restore normal business operations. Resources can come from within the business or be provided by third parties. Resources include:

Since all resources cannot be replaced immediately following a loss, managers should estimate the resources that will be needed in the hours, days and weeks following an incident.

Conducting the Business Continuity Impact Analysis

The worksheets Operational and Financial Impacts  and Business Continuity Resource Requirements should be distributed to business process managers along with instructions about the process and how the information will be used. After all managers have completed their worksheets, information should be reviewed. Gaps or inconsistencies should be identified. Meetings with individual managers should be held to clarify information and obtain missing information.

After all worksheets have been completed and validated, the priorities for restoration of business processes should be identified. Primary and dependent resource requirements should also be identified. This information will be used to develop recovery strategies.

Recovery Strategies

If a facility is damaged, production machinery breaks down, a supplier fails to deliver or information technology is disrupted, business is impacted and the financial losses can begin to grow. Recovery strategies are alternate means to restore business operations to a minimum acceptable level following a business disruption and are prioritized by the recovery time objectives (RTO) developed during the business impact analysis .

Recovery strategies require resources including people, facilities, equipment, materials and information technology. An analysis of the resources required to execute recovery strategies should be conducted to identify gaps. For example, if a machine fails but other machines are readily available to make up lost production, then there is no resource gap. However, if all machines are lost due to a flood, and insufficient undamaged inventory is available to meet customer demand until production is restored, production might be made up by machines at another facility—whether owned or contracted.

Strategies may involve contracting with third parties, entering into partnership or reciprocal agreements or displacing other activities within the company. Staff with in-depth knowledge of business functions and processes are in the best position to determine what will work. Possible alternatives should be explored and presented to management for approval and to decide how much to spend.

Depending upon the size of the company and resources available, there may be many recovery strategies that can be explored.

Utilization of other owned or controlled facilities performing similar work is one option. Operations may be relocated to an alternate site - assuming both are not impacted by the same incident. This strategy also assumes that the surviving site has the resources and capacity to assume the work of the impacted site. Prioritization of production or service levels, providing additional staff and resources and other action would be needed if capacity at the second site is inadequate.

Telecommuting is a strategy employed when staff can work from home through remote connectivity. It can be used in combination with other strategies to reduce alternate site requirements. This strategy requires ensuring telecommuters have a suitable home work environment and are equipped with or have access to a computer with required applications and data, peripherals, and a secure broadband connection.

In an emergency, space at another facility can be put to use. Cafeterias, conference rooms and training rooms can be converted to office space or to other uses when needed. Equipping converted space with furnishings, equipment, power, connectivity and other resources would be required to meet the needs of workers.

Partnership or reciprocal agreements can be arranged with other businesses or organizations that can support each other in the event of a disaster. Assuming space is available, issues such as the capacity and connectivity of telecommunications and information technology, protection of privacy and intellectual property, the impacts to each other’s operation and allocating expenses must be addressed. Agreements should be negotiated in writing and documented in the business continuity plan. Periodic review of the agreement is needed to determine if there is a change in the ability of each party to support the other.

There are many vendors that support business continuity and information technology recovery strategies. External suppliers can provide a full business environment including office space and live data centers ready to be occupied. Other options include provision of technology equipped office trailers, replacement machinery and other equipment. The availability and cost of these options can be affected when a regional disaster results in competition for these resources.

There are multiple strategies for recovery of manufacturing operations. Many of these strategies include use of existing owned or leased facilities. Manufacturing strategies include:

There are many factors to consider in manufacturing recovery strategies:

Resources for Developing Recovery Strategies

Manual Workarounds

Telephones are ringing and customer service staff is busy talking with customers and keying orders into the computer system. The electronic order entry system checks available inventory, processes payments and routes orders to the distribution center for fulfillment. Suddenly the order entry system goes down. What should the customer service staff do now? If the staff is equipped with paper order forms, order processing can continue until the electronic system comes back up and no phone orders will be lost.

The order forms and procedures for using them are examples of “manual workarounds.” These workarounds are recovery strategies for use when information technology resources are not available.

Developing Manual Workarounds

Identify the steps in the automated process - creating a diagram of the process can help. Consider the following aspects of information and work flow:

Internal Interfaces (department, person, activity and resource requirements)

Create data collection forms to capture information and define processes for manual handling of the information collected. Establish control logs to document transactions and track their progress through the manual system.

Manual workarounds require manual labor, so you may need to reassign staff or bring in temporary assistance.

Last Updated: 05/26/2021

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How to create an effective business continuity plan

A business continuity plan outlines procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the face of disaster, whether fire, flood or cyberattack. Here's how to create one that gives your business the best chance of surviving such an event.

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We rarely get advance notice that a disaster is ready to strike. Even with some lead time, though, multiple things can go wrong; every incident is unique and unfolds in unexpected ways.

This is where a business continuity plan comes into play. To give your organization the best shot at success during a disaster, you need to put a current, tested plan in the hands of all personnel responsible for carrying out any part of that plan. The lack of a plan doesn’t just mean your organization will take longer than necessary to recover from an event or incident. You could go out of business for good.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity refers to maintaining business functions or quickly resuming them in the event of a major disruption, whether caused by a fire, flood or malicious attack by cybercriminals. A business continuity plan outlines procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the face of such disasters; it covers business processes, assets, human resources, business partners and more.

Many people think a disaster recovery plan is the same as a business continuity plan, but a disaster recovery plan focuses mainly on restoring an IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis. It’s actually just one part of a complete business continuity plan, as a business continuity plan looks at the continuity of the entire organization.

Do you have a way to get HR, manufacturing and sales and support functionally up and running so the company can continue to make money right after a disaster? For example, if the building that houses your customer service representatives is flattened by a tornado, do you know how those reps can handle customer calls? Will they work from home temporarily, or from an alternate location? The BC plan addresses these types of concerns.

Note that a business impact analysis is another part of a business continuity plan. A business impact analysis identifies the impact of a sudden loss of business functions, usually quantified in a cost. Such analysis also helps you evaluate whether you should outsource non-core activities in your business continuity plan, which can come with its own risks. The business impact analysis essentially helps you look at your entire organization’s processes and determine which are most important.

Why business continuity planning matters

Whether you operate a small business or a large corporation, you strive to remain competitive. It’s vital to retain current customers while increasing your customer base — and there’s no better test of your capability to do so than right after an adverse event.

Because restoring IT is critical for most companies, numerous disaster recovery solutions are available. You can rely on IT to implement those solutions. But what about the rest of your business functions? Your company’s future depends on your people and processes. Being able to handle any incident effectively can have a positive effect on your company’s reputation and market value, and it can increase customer confidence.

“There’s an increase in consumer and regulatory expectations for security today,” says Lorraine O’Donnell, global head of business continuity at Experian. “Organizations must understand the processes within the business and the impact of the loss of these processes over time. These losses can be financial, legal, reputational and regulatory. The risk of having an organization’s “license to operate” withdrawn by a regulator or having conditions applied (retrospectively or prospectively) can adversely affect market value and consumer confidence. Build your recovery strategy around the allowable downtime for these processes.”

Anatomy of a business continuity plan

If your organization doesn’t have a business continuity plan in place, start by assessing your business processes, determining which areas are vulnerable, and the potential losses if those processes go down for a day, a few days or a week. This is essentially a business impact analysis.

Next, develop a plan. This involves six general steps:

One common business continuity planning tool is a checklist that includes supplies and equipment, the location of data backups and backup sites, where the plan is available and who should have it, and contact information for emergency responders, key personnel and backup site providers.

Remember that the disaster recovery plan is part of the business continuity plan, so developing a disaster recovery plan if you don’t already have one should be part of your process. And if you do already have a disaster recovery plan, don’t assume that all requirements have been factored in, O’Donnell warns. You need to be sure that restoration time is defined and “make sure it aligns with business expectations.”

As you create your plan, consider interviewing key personnel in organizations who have gone through a disaster successfully. People generally like to share “war stories” and the steps and techniques (or clever ideas) that saved the day. Their insights could prove incredibly valuable in helping you to craft a solid plan.

The importance of testing your business continuity plan

Testing a plan is the only way to truly know it will work, says O’Donnell. “Obviously, a real incident is a true test and the best way to understand if something works. However, a controlled testing strategy is much more comfortable and provides an opportunity to identify gaps and improve.”

You have to rigorously test a plan to know if it’s complete and will fulfill its intended purpose. In fact, O’Donnell suggests you try to break it. “Don’t go for an easy scenario; always make it credible but challenging. This is the only way to improve. Also, ensure the objectives are measurable and stretching. Doing the minimum and ‘getting away with it’ just leads to a weak plan and no confidence in a real incident.”

Many organizations test a business continuity plan two to four times a year. The schedule depends on your type of organization, the amount of turnover of key personnel and the number of business processes and IT changes that have occurred since the last round of testing.

Common tests include tabletop exercises , structured walk-throughs and simulations. Test teams are usually composed of the recovery coordinator and members from each functional unit.

A tabletop exercise usually occurs in a conference room with the team poring over the plan, looking for gaps and ensuring that all business units are represented therein.

In a structured walk-through, each team member walks through his or her components of the plan in detail to identify weaknesses. Often, the team works through the test with a specific disaster in mind. Some organizations incorporate drills and disaster role-playing into the structured walk-through. Any weaknesses should be corrected and an updated plan distributed to all pertinent staff.

It’s also a good idea to conduct a full emergency evacuation drill at least once a year. This type of test lets you determine if you need to make special arrangements to evacuate staff members who have physical limitations.

Lastly, disaster simulation testing can be quite involved and should be performed annually. For this test, create an environment that simulates an actual disaster, with all the equipment, supplies and personnel (including business partners and vendors) who would be needed. The purpose of a simulation is to determine if you can carry out critical business functions during the event.

During each phase of business continuity plan testing, include some new employees on the test team. “Fresh eyes” might detect gaps or lapses of information that experienced team members could overlook.

Review and improve your business continuity plan

Much effort goes into creating and initially testing a business continuity plan. Once that job is complete, some organizations let the plan sit while other, more critical tasks get attention. When this happens, plans go stale and are of no use when needed.

Technology evolves, and people come and go, so the plan needs to be updated, too. Bring key personnel together at least annually to review the plan and discuss any areas that must be modified.

Prior to the review, solicit feedback from staff to incorporate into the plan. Ask all departments or business units to review the plan, including branch locations or other remote units. If you’ve had the misfortune of facing a disaster and had to put the plan into action, be sure to incorporate lessons learned. Many organizations conduct a review in tandem with a table-top exercise or structured walk-through.

How to ensure business continuity plan support, awareness

One way to ensure your plan is not successful is to adopt a casual attitude toward its importance. Every business continuity plan must be supported from the top down. That means senior management must be represented when creating and updating the plan; no one can delegate that responsibility to subordinates. In addition, the plan is likely to remain fresh and viable if senior management makes it a priority by dedicating time for adequate review and testing.

Management is also key to promoting user awareness. If employees don’t know about the plan, how will they be able to react appropriately when every minute counts? Although plan distribution and training can be conducted by business unit managers or HR staff, have someone from the top kick off training and punctuate its significance. It’ll have a greater impact on all employees, giving the plan more credibility and urgency.

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business continuity plan (BCP)

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What is a business continuity plan (BCP)?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue operating during an unplanned event.

The BCP states the essential functions of the business, identifies which systems and processes must be sustained, and details how to maintain them. It should consider any possible business disruption.

A BCP covers risks including cyber attacks , pandemics, natural disasters and human error. The array of possible risks makes it vital for an organization to have a business continuity plan to preserve its health and reputation. A proper BCP decreases the chance of a costly power outage or IT outage.

IT administrators often create the plan. However, the executive staff participate in the process, providing knowledge of the company and oversight. They also ensure the BCP is regularly updated.

This article is part of

What is BCDR? Business continuity and disaster recovery guide

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Importance of business continuity planning

Business continuity planning is a proactive business process that lets a company understand potential threats, vulnerabilities and weaknesses to its organization in times of crisis. The creation of a business continuity program ensures company leaders can react quickly and efficiently to business interruption .

A BCP enables a company to continue to serve customers during a crisis and minimize the likelihood of customers going to competitors. These plans decrease business downtime and outline the steps to be taken -- before, during and after an emergency -- to maintain the company's financial viability.

Elements of a business continuity plan

According to business continuity consultant Paul Kirvan, a BCP should contain the following items:

In the book Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning for IT Professionals , Susan Snedaker recommends asking the following questions:

Business continuity planning steps

The business continuity planning lifecycle contains these five steps:

The business continuity plan lifecycle.

BCP implementation

Once the business has started the planning process, it launches the BIA and RA processes to collect important data. The BIA defines the critical functions that must continue during a crisis and the resources needed to maintain those operations. The RA details the potential internal and external risks and threats, the likelihood of them happening, and the possible damage they could cause.

The next step determines the best ways to deal with the risks and threats outlined in the BIA and RA, and how to limit damage from an event. A successful business continuity plan defines step-by-step procedures for response.

The BCP should not be overly complex and does not need to be hundreds of pages long; it should contain just the right amount of information to keep the business running. Small businesses can use a one-page plan with all the necessary details. That can be more helpful than a long plan that is difficult to use. Those details should include the following:

Key implementation steps

The four steps involved in implementing a BCP are the following:

BCP testing

An organization's technology, processes, staff and facilities constantly change. Therefore, regular testing, reviewing and updating of a BCP is critical. Plan testing should be undertaken using tabletop exercises, walk-throughs, practice crisis management communications and emergency enactments to test the viability of the plan and to see how employees and executives react under stress.

Regular testing and maintenance ensure the BCP is current and accurate. A simple test of a business continuity plan might involve talking through it. A complex test requires a full run-through of what will happen in the event of a business disruption.

The test can be planned in advance or it can be done spur of the moment to better simulate an unplanned event. If issues arise during testing, the plan should be corrected accordingly during the maintenance phase. Maintenance also includes a review of the critical functions outlined in the BIA and the risks described in the RA, as well as plan updating if necessary.

A business continuity plan must be continually improved; updates should not wait for a crisis. Staff members involved in the plan must get regular updates and business continuity training . An internal or external business continuity plan audit should be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the BCP and highlight areas for improvement.

List of business continuity plan audit requirements.

For specific BCP testing steps, download the guide Business continuity and disaster recovery testing templates .

Business continuity planning software, tools and trends

There is help available to guide organizations through the business continuity planning process, from consultants to tools to full software. Which approach an organization should take depends on the complexity of the business continuity planning task, the amount of time and personnel available, and the budget. Before making a purchase, it is advisable to research both products and vendors, evaluate demos, and talk to other users.

For more complicated functions, business continuity planning software uses databases and modules for specific exercises. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, through its Ready.gov website, offers software in its Business Continuity Planning Suite. Other business continuity software vendors include Castellan, formed from the merger of Assurance, Avalution and ClearView in 2020; CLDigital, formerly Continuity Logic; Fusion Risk Management; Quantivate; and Sungard Availability Services.

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council's Business Continuity Management booklet contains guidance on plan development, testing, standards and training for both financial and nonfinancial organizations.

Free download of BCP template

The role of the business continuity professional has changed and continues to evolve. As IT administrators are increasingly asked to do more with less, it is advisable for business continuity professionals to be well versed in technology, security, risk management, emergency management and strategic planning.

Business continuity planning must also take into account emerging and growing technologies, such as the cloud and virtualization , as well as new threats, such as cyber attacks like ransomware .

One resource that combines all these elements is SearchDisasterRecovery's free, downloadable business continuity plan template . It provides guidance and insight for creating a successful BCP.

Business continuity planning standards

Business continuity planning standards provide a starting point.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 22301:2019 standard is regarded as the global standard for business continuity management . ISO 22301 is often complemented by other standards, such as the following:

Other standards include the following:

Emergency management and disaster recovery plans

An emergency management plan is a document that helps to lessen the damage of a hazardous event. Proper business continuity planning includes emergency management as an important component. The appointed emergency management team takes the lead during a business disruption.

An emergency management plan, like a BCP, should be reviewed, tested and updated regularly. It should be fairly simple and provide the steps needed to get through an event. The plan also should be flexible, because situations are often fluid. Teams involved in the event of a disaster should communicate frequently during the incident.

Diagram of how disaster recovery and business continuity plans are related.

Disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity planning are often linked, but they are different. A DR plan is reactive, as it details how an organization recovers after a business disruption. A business continuity plan is a proactive approach that describes how an organization can maintain business operations during an emergency.

Learn more about responding to unplanned emergencies in this complete guide to managing crises .

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Adapt and Respond to Risks with a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

What's a business continuity plan.

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that outlines how a business will continue operating during an unplanned disruption in service. It’s more comprehensive than a  disaster recovery plan and contains contingencies for business processes, assets, human resources and business partners – every aspect of the business that might be affected.

Plans typically contain a checklist that includes supplies and equipment, data backups and backup site locations. Plans can also identify plan administrators and include contact information for emergency responders, key personnel and backup site providers. Plans may provide detailed strategies on how business operations can be maintained for both short-term and long-term outages.

A key component of a business continuity plan (BCP) is a disaster recovery plan that contains strategies for handling IT disruptions to networks, servers, personal computers and mobile devices. The plan should cover how to reestablish office productivity and enterprise software so that key business needs can be met. Manual workarounds should be outlined in the plan, so operations can continue until computer systems can be restored.

There are three primary aspects to a business continuity plan for key applications and processes:

Evolution of business continuity plans

Business continuity planning emerged from disaster recovery planning in the early 1970s. Financial organizations, such as banks and insurance companies, invested in alternative sites. Backup tapes were stored at protected sites away from computers. Recovery efforts were almost always triggered by a fire, flood, storm or other physical devastation. The 1980s saw the growth of commercial recovery sites offering computer services on a shared basis, but the emphasis was still only on IT recovery.

The 1990s brought a sharp increase in corporate globalization and the pervasiveness of data access. Businesses thought beyond disaster recovery and more holistically about the entire business continuity process. Companies realized that without a thorough business continuity plan they might lose customers and their competitive advantage. At the same time, business continuity planning was becoming more complex because it had to consider application architectures such as distributed applications, distributed processing, distributed data and hybrid computing environments.

Organizations today are increasingly aware of their vulnerability to  cyber attacks  that can cripple a business or permanently destroy its IT systems. Also, digital transformation and hyper-convergence creates unintended gateways to risks, vulnerabilities, attacks and failures. Business continuity plans are having to include a cyber resilience strategy that can help a business withstand disruptive cyber incidents. The plans typically include ways to defend against those risks, protect critical applications and data and recover from breach or failure in a controlled, measurable way.

There’s also the issue of exponentially increasing data volumes. Applications such as decision support, data warehousing, data mining and customer resource management can require petabyte-size investments in online storage.

Data recovery no longer lends itself to a one-dimensional approach. The complex IT infrastructure of most installations has exceeded the ability of most shops to respond in the way they did just a few years ago. Research studies have shown that without proper planning, businesses that somehow recovered from an immediate disaster event frequently didn’t survive in the medium term.

Why is a business continuity plan important? 

It’s important to have a business continuity plan in place to identify and address resiliency synchronization between business processes, applications and IT infrastructure. According to IDC, on average, an infrastructure failure can cost USD $100,000 an hour and a critical application failure can cost USD $500,000 to USD $1 million per hour. 

To withstand and thrive during these many threats, businesses have realized that they need to do more than create a reliable infrastructure that supports growth and protects data. Companies are now developing holistic business continuity plans that can keep your business up and running, protect data, safeguard the brand, retain customers – and ultimately help reduce total operating costs over the long term. Having a business continuity plan in place can minimize downtime and achieve sustainable improvements in business continuity, IT disaster recovery, corporate crisis management capabilities and regulatory compliance.

Yet developing a comprehensive business continuity plan has become more difficult because systems are increasingly integrated and distributed across hybrid IT environments – creating potential vulnerabilities. Linking more critical systems together to manage higher expectations complicates business continuity planning – along with disaster recovery, resiliency, regulatory compliance and security. When one link in the chain breaks or comes under attack, the impact can ripple throughout the business. An organization can face revenue loss and eroded customer trust if it fails to maintain business resiliency while rapidly adapting and responding to risks and opportunities.

Using consulting, software and cloud-based solutions for a business continuity plan

Many companies struggle to evolve their resiliency strategies quickly enough to address today’s hybrid IT environments and changing business demands. In an always-on, 24x7 world, global companies can gain a competitive advantage – or lose market share – depending on how reliably IT resources serve core business needs.

Some organizations use external resiliency consulting services  to help identify and address resiliency synchronization between business processes, applications and IT infrastructure. Consultants can provide flexible business continuity and disaster recovery consulting to address a company’s needs – including assessments, planning and design, implementation, testing and full business continuity management.

There are proactive services, such as Kyndryl IT Infrastructure Recovery Services to help businesses identify risks and ensure they are prepared to detect, react and recover from a disruption.

With the growth of cyber attacks, companies are moving from a traditional or manual recovery approach to an automated and software-defined resiliency approach. The  Kyndryl Data Protection Services  approach uses advanced technologies and best practices to help assess risks, prioritize and protect business-critical applications and data. These services can also help business rapidly recover IT during and after a cyber attack.

Other companies turn to cloud-based backup services, such as  Kyndryl Incident Recovery Services to provide continuous replication of critical applications, infrastructure, data and systems for rapid recovery after an IT outage. There are also virtual server options to protect critical servers in real-time. This enables rapid recovery of your applications at a Kyndryl Resiliency Center to keep businesses operational during periods of maintenance or unexpected downtime.

For a growing number of organizations, the answer is with resiliency orchestration, a cloud-based approach that uses disaster recovery automation and a suite of business continuity management tools designed specifically for hybrid-IT environments. For instance, Kyndryl Resiliency Orchestration helps protect business process dependencies across applications, data and infrastructure components. It increases the availability of business applications so that companies can access necessary high-level or in-depth intelligence regarding Recovery Point Objective (RPO) ,  Recovery Time Objective (RTO)  and the overall health of IT continuity from a centralized dashboard.

Key features of an effective business continuity plan (BCP)

The components of business continuity are:

The business continuity plan becomes a source reference at the time of a business continuity event or crisis and the blueprint for strategy and tactics to deal with the event or crisis.

The following figure illustrates a business continuity planning process used by Kyndryl Global Technology Services. It’s a closed loop that supports continuing iteration and improvement as the objective. There are three major sections to the planning process:

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What Is A Business Continuity Plan? [+ Template & Examples]

Swetha Amaresan

Published: December 30, 2022

When a business crisis occurs, the last thing you want to do is panic.

executives discussing business continuity plan

The second-to-last thing you want to do is be unprepared. Crises typically arise without warning. While you shouldn't start every day expecting the worst, you should be relatively prepared for anything to happen.

A business crisis can cost your company a lot of money and ruin your reputation if you don't have a business continuity plan in place. Customers aren't very forgiving, especially when a crisis is influenced by accidents within the company or other preventable mistakes. If you want your company to be able to maintain its business continuity in the face of a crisis, then you'll need to come up with this type of plan to uphold its essential functions.

Free Download: Crisis Management Plan & Communication Templates

In this post, we'll explain what a business continuity plan is, give examples of scenarios that would require a business continuity plan, and provide a template that you can use to create a well-rounded program for your business.

Table of Contents:

What is a business continuity plan?

Business Continuity Plan Template

How to write a business continuity plan.

A business continuity plan outlines directions and procedures that your company will follow when faced with a crisis. These plans include business procedures, names of assets and partners, human resource functions, and other helpful information that can help maintain your brand's relationships with relevant stakeholders. The goal of a business continuity plan is to handle anything from minor disruptions to full-blown threats.

For example, one crisis that your business may have to respond to is a severe snowstorm. Your team may be wondering, "If a snowstorm disrupted our supply chain, how would we resume business?" Planning contingencies ahead of time for situations like these can help your business stay afloat when you're faced with an unavoidable crisis.

When you think about business continuity in terms of the essential functions your business requires to operate, you can begin to mitigate and plan for specific risks within those functions.

Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity planning is the process of creating a plan to address a crisis. When writing out a business continuity plan, it's important to consider the variety of crises that could potentially affect the company and prepare a resolution for each.

Business Continuity Plan

3. Schedule interviews with key players in your departments.

Executives and upper management have a great bird's eye view of an organization, but business continuity issues happen at all levels of an organization. For an analysis that's truly comprehensive (and, in effect, valuable), you'll want to interview key team members in various departments of your organization.

Choose individuals who know the ins and outs of their department's operations and understand the importance of its functionality within the grander scheme of the organization. You can ask questions such as:

4. Identify critical functions and types of threats.

The above questions are a guide to help give you insight into the areas of your business that require the greatest degree of business continuity. Prioritize the business functions and threats that are the most critical according to:

5. Conduct risk assessments across each area identified.

The idea here is to quantify the information you received during the interviews:

6. Conduct a Business Impact Analysis.

Once you've gathered information across disparate processes, it's time to compile that information into a format that reflects the broader business.

A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) analyzes the main operations of an organization, the major resources it uses, how its operations relate to one another — a.k.a. when one function goes down, how does it affect other operations — and how long each function generally takes to complete.

A BIA is a key part of the final business continuity plan. This is where you summarize your findings regarding costs against benefits to further underscore what gets prioritized.

7. Draft out the plan.

Now that you have a good idea of what to include in your plan, start by composing a first draft that can serve as a baseline. The draft should include the following aspects to ensure a well-rounded, actionable plan:

8. Test the plan for gaps.

Of course, you should immediately test your plan.

Start with communicating with those that play a critical role in your continuity plan. After they know what their involvement is in the plan, conduct a mock recovery test and put the plan into action. Make note of any gaps that arise during this process.

9. Revise based on your findings.

After testing is complete, correct any flaws you've uncovered throughout the process.

Continue testing and implementing changes until you're satisfied with the outcomes. However, it is important to be aware that business changes will likely require updating the plans you have. Given this, it's important to keep testing your plan to ensure it's up to date with your business needs, and you're properly prepared for any type of crisis.

Now that you've learned everything there is to know about business continuity plans, use the following template to start creating one for your organization.

How often should a business continuity plan be tested?

Your business continuity plan should be reviewed at least twice per year. You should review the plan and test it to make sure it's up-to-date with your current business processes. The larger your organization is, the more complex your systems are going to be, meaning you'll want to review your business continuity plan more frequently to ensure there aren't any gaps.

As you add new systems, departments, leaders, and technology to your business, make it a part of your standard operating procedure to update the business continuity plan as well so that all the bases are covered.

The following schedule is recommended to maximize the reliability and validity of your plan, while also minimizing the amount of time you're putting into plan review.

1. Review your checklist twice a year.

Your teams should review the elements of your business continuity plan bi-annually to make sure all the responses still apply to your current status. In addition, you'll use this opportunity to ensure that each response aligns with your desired business goals.

2. Conduct emergency drills once a year.

Just like schools have fire drills, your organization should have emergency drills to prepare your staff for the steps that are laid out in your business continuity plan. This will also help when a real crisis occurs because they will have practiced the steps before.

3. Hold tabletop reviews every other year.

All stakeholders that are involved in your business continuity plan should meet every other year to discuss it. The review doesn't need to take too much time and doesn't require physically running through the steps, but it can help you uncover red flags that may otherwise go unnoticed without testing.

4. Conduct a comprehensive review every other year.

Unlike the tabletop review, the comprehensive review takes a deep dive into the plan. It should look closely at cost-benefit analyses as well as recovery procedures to ensure everything is up-to-date with current business operations.

5. Mock recovery test, every two to three years.

This is an in-depth test in which your continuity plan is put into motion to test for any weaknesses or mishaps. Since this test is time-consuming, it shouldn't occur frequently, but it will ensure all internal stakeholders are confident in the plan.

No matter what type of business you are operating, you need to be constantly considering the possible threat of a crisis. If you want to be able to effectively manage them, then it's essential that you have a business continuity plan in place to tackle difficult or unexpected situations.

Let's go over some examples of scenarios that would require a business continuity plan that will help you understand why your business needs one.

Business Continuity Plan Examples

1. business continuity plan example for external product outage.

business continuity plan example: operational

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Business Continuity Planning in 4 Steps

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There are many reasons   why your company needs a business continuity plan . Having a strategy – before an event happens – helps to maximize the chance your business can recover while minimizing the loss of property, life and assets.

Developing your business continuity plan should be a thoughtful process resulting in a plan that can be beneficial to you if an event occurs.

Start by assembling a team of key decision-makers who will lead your continuity planning efforts. Senior management, team leaders and anyone with in-depth knowledge about business operations should be included.

Four Steps to Developing an Effective Business Continuity Plan

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Back to Glossary

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan refers to an organization’s system of procedures to restore critical business functions in the event of an unplanned disaster. These disasters could include natural disasters, cyberattacks, service outages, or other potential threats. Business continuity planning (BCP) enables organizations to resume business operations with minimal downtime.

Explore additional business continuity planning topics:  

What is the purpose of a business continuity plan?

An optimized business continuity plan encompasses three main components.

First, a company needs to be resilient. That means key business functions are designed within the context of potential disasters. The business continuity team runs a risk assessment against each function for weaknesses and susceptibilities, then establishes protections against them. This supports ongoing risk management policies.

Second, stakeholders prioritize functions and determine which need to be brought online first. Disaster recovery is a key factor, and the faster functions can return to an operational state, the less likely the organization is to sustain lasting damage. IT stakeholders set disaster recovery time goals and develop an actionable disaster recovery plan. After mission-critical functions return to working order, team members work down the list of priority functions, utilizing third-party support to implement recovery strategies as needed.

Third, organizations require a contingency plan with branching paths that describe chains of command, stakeholder responsibilities, and any necessary technical knowledge necessary for emergency management within established disaster scenarios. Finally, an optimized business continuity plan includes a recovery time objective (RTO) to establish the speed at which business operations must be recovered, and a business impact analysis (BIA) to determine how successful recovery efforts were. Likewise, a disaster report shows stakeholders how the disaster recovery planning process can improve in the future.

With these three elements, an organization can weather crises, assess damage quickly, and recover as soon as possible. It's also important to understand that a business continuity plan is a living document that must be updated regularly as the organization adopts new technologies and processes. As organizations grow to scale, they adopt new solutions and infrastructures; these must be accounted for in the plan, or disaster recovery challenges could become augmented by unexpected bottlenecks.

Five elements of a successful business continuity plan

Although each business disruption is unique and many decisions will have to be made as situations unfold, a business continuity plan provides a framework and preparation to guide these decisions, as well as a clear indication of who will make them. A successful business continuity plan includes the following elements.

1. Define a team structure

2. Establish a plan

3. Test your plan

4. Create a crisis communications strategy

5. Educate people on safety procedures

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If people can’t access the applications, data, and files they depend on, business stays down—and risks losing money, customers, productivity, reputation, and opportunities every moment it takes to get them back to work. Citrix keeps your business running during unplanned downtimes to ensure continuity of operations.

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Whether it's a natural disaster such as an ice storm, or a serious accident in an industrial plant, an unforeseen event can disrupt business operations at any company.

After all, in an emergency situation, your employees may not be able to come to work. Your suppliers may face a shortage of the materials you need to continue your business activities, or demand for your services may simply decline.

The key benefits of a business continuity plan

No one can predict the future; however, you can be ready with a sound business continuity plan. Getting a plan in place shows your employees, shareholders and customers that you are a proactive organization; it improves overall efficiency in your company and helps you allocate the right financial and human resources to keep your firm up and running during a serious disruption.

Here are 8 basic steps to keep in mind when putting together your plan. Click on the link in each step to find more information and useful templates from BDC's complete Business Continuity Guide .

Download templates

It is a good idea to clearly assign the responsibility for emergency preparedness to a team. Select a few managers/individuals or an existing committee to take charge of the project.

It is advisable to assign one person to lead the planning process. You should also ensure that this "emergency manager" has the authority to get things done.

As with other business aspects, planning for an emergency relies on the following:

What are the key roles and responsibilities for your Emergency Preparedness team?

Planning and implementation.

Policies, procedures, organization


Use the Planning Team for Business Continuity in an Emergency form (DOC) to clearly identify the team members and coordinator who will create your BCP for emergencies, along with their respective contact information.

During an emergency, your business may experience a disruption in your operations due to:

Objective of the business continuity planning process

Determine how your organization will maintain essential services/functions in the event of an emergency.

What are essential services

This means that your business may be forced to modify, reduce, or even eliminate specific services/functions to cope with the impacts of the emergency. These impacts may be felt across the organization or localized to specific business units.

As you begin discussions, you may find that you have existing resources that you can use to extract information about essential services in your organization (e.g., pandemic influenza plans, Y2K plan, etc.)

How to determine and prioritize your essential services

1. complete the essential services ranking template.

This will help you create your list of essential services by department or business unit. You then need to rate the degree to which it will negatively impact the various key areas such as financial, employees, customers etc.

2. Prioritize and categorize, use the Essential Services Criticalness Factor template

For each essential service, assign a "degree of criticalness" (Priority A, B or C). Rate the impact on each service such as staff absenteeism, unavailability of critical supplies, or disruptions to essential systems.

As part of your business continuity planning process, you'll need to identify the number of staff and skills required to perform and maintain the essential services/functions.

Use the Essential Services Criticalness Factor template to help you capture the information necessary to develop your plan.

Try to identify any special requirements necessary to perform the essential services/functions (for example, license to operate heavy machinery).

You may also wish to prepare a list of special tasks and skills required in emergency situations and assign them to appropriate employees, e.g. crisis management team, employee support, IT backup, defining security perimeters etc.

Additional sites with useful information:

Discuss what will happen if you have to reduce, modify or eliminate essential services or functions. Document the following points:

Strategies and action plans

Use the Action Plan Template for Maintaining Essential Service (DOC) to write your plans for each essential service or function. This should include:

Key Contacts

Use the supplied templates to create lists of all your key contacts along with their contact information.

Being proactive in contacting important customers can go a long way in mitigating losses. Use the Action Plan Template for Key Customers (DOC) to list customers who would need and expect personal notification from you, or who would be offended or take their business elsewhere if they were not contacted.

Include the following information in your list:

Suppliers and sub-contractors

Use the Action Plan Template for Critical Suppliers (DOC) to list essential information on your key suppliers. The information should be the same as that described for Key Customers, above.

Business partners and support providers

This main is for important partners who do not fall into the earlier categories, but that you would need to contact in the event of an emergency:

Use the Action Plan Template for Business partners (DOC) to list essential information about these other partners. The information should be the same as that described for Key Customers above.

Review your Business Continuity Plan to make sure that all issues have been addressed, and identify any areas in which you may need additional documentation.

The "Business Continuity Plan Checklist" (DOC) provided by Capital Health was developed to ensure that you've covered most aspects of your plan.

Impact on your business

Impact on your employees and customers, establishing policies to be implemented during an emergency.

Communicating with employees

Coordinating with external organizations and helping your community.

Allocating resources to protect your employees and customers during an emergency

You should present a draft of the Business Continuity Plan to your emergency preparedness team for review and/or comment. Since the committee will have an understanding of the overall corporate impact of an emergency, they should review to ensure that your plan:

The committee should also be in charge of monitoring the progress of the initiative .

Be proactive: put your plan to the test by performing trial runs. This will help you identify any missing aspects or weaknesses.


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