- Disaster recovery planning and management
business continuity plan (BCP)
- Vicki-Lynn Brunskill
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
- Which also includes:
- Business resilience vs. business continuity: Key differences
- A free business continuity plan template and guide
- Preparing an annual schedule of business continuity activities
Download this entire guide for FREE now!
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:
- initial data at the beginning of the plan, including important contact information;
- a revision management process that describes change management procedures;
- the purpose and scope;
- how to use the plan, including guidelines as to when the plan will be initiated;
- policy information;
- emergency response and management procedures;
- step-by-step procedures;
- checklists and flow diagrams;
- a glossary of terms used in the plan; and
- a schedule for reviewing, testing and updating the plan.
In the book Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning for IT Professionals , Susan Snedaker recommends asking the following questions:
- How would the organization function if desktops, laptops, servers, email and internet access were unavailable?
- What single points of failure exist?
- What risk controls and risk management systems are in place?
- What are the critical outsourced relationships and dependencies?
- During a disruption, what workarounds are there for key business processes and internal functions, such as human resources?
- What is the minimum number of staff needed to run data center and other operations, and what functions would they need to carry out?
- What are the key skills, knowledge and expertise needed to recover?
- What critical security or operational controls are needed if computer systems are down?
Business continuity planning steps
The business continuity planning lifecycle contains these five steps:
- Information gathering and analysis, featuring business impact analysis (BIA) and risk assessment (RA);
- plan development and design;
- testing; and
- maintenance and updating.
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:
- minimum resources needed for business continuity;
- locations where that can take place;
- personnel needed to accomplish it; and
- potential costs.
Key implementation steps
The four steps involved in implementing a BCP are the following:
- Oversight. Decide who will oversee the plan. Ideally, a BCP committee will include business, security and IT leaders.
- Analysis. Conduct the BIA.
- Who will be affected by a business disruption?
- Who holds a hard copy of contact information for top customers and clients?
- How and when will customers, employees and management be notified?
- What are the alternative means of communication if phones go down?
- Which employees are needed for the restoration of critical business functions and how will they be reached or relocated?
- Which critical products and services should the company focus on restoring first?
- What issues must be addressed within the first 24 to 48 hours?
- Does every team and department have its own BCP? Who is in charge of each?
- What is the emergency succession plan for senior staff, including the CEO?
- Which employees will perform emergency tasks?
- Where will off-site crisis meetings take place?
- Who will interact with local emergency responders, such as firefighters and police?
- Who are the key vendors, including data backup providers?
- Initial response. This defines how the company will respond to the business interruption within the first hours. This is the period when team members are contacted and the BCP is activated.
- Relocation. During this stage, alternate facilities are activated and work-at-home policies implemented.
- Recovery. Once personnel and equipment have been relocated, the assessment of damage and monitoring of business recovery begins. The recovery strategy must consider the organization's recovery time objective , or RTO, which is the maximum time IT systems can be down after a failure, as well as its recovery point objective , or RPO, which is the maximum data loss the organization can tolerate.
- Restoration. Personnel return to the original workplace or an alternate site. The company undertakes infrastructure verification, documents the incident and reviews lessons learned.
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.
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:
- ISO 22313 guidance on the use of ISO 22301;
- ISO 22317 guidelines for business impact analysis;
- ISO 22318 continuity of supply chains;
- ISO 22398 exercise guidelines; and
- ISO 22399 incident preparedness and operational continuity management.
Other standards include the following:
- National Fire Protection Association 1600 emergency management and business continuity;
- National Institute of Standards and Technology SP 800-34 IT contingency planning; and
- British Standards Institution BS 25999 standard for business continuity.
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.
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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5 Reasons your organization needs a business continuity plan
You never need a continuity plan until you do. Here are 5 reasons you should start yours today.
Read time: 6 minutes
Organizations often underestimate the importance of a business continuity plan. No one ever notices its absence – until disaster strikes. By then, it’s too late.
Any unplanned interruption of normal business processes can create immense hurdles and costly setbacks. Operations suffer. Revenue may suffer even more.
Unplanned interruptions take many forms. It can be something as simple as a power outage. It could be a major hurricane. Ultimately, a disaster can be anything that disrupts normal business operations. Regardless of the cause, unplanned means unexpected.
With a business continuity plan in place, you position yourself to minimize the impact and damage of an unexpected event. In this article, we will discuss:
What constitutes business continuity planning and the difference between it and disaster recovery.
The top 5 reasons your organization needs a business continuity plan.
The importance of business continuity planning beyond simply restoring operations.
How to get started building a business continuity plan.
What is business continuity planning?
A business continuity plan gives an organization the ability to maintain essential processes before, during, and after a disaster.
Business continuity differs from disaster recovery in its holistic approach to the business. Business continuity reflects a business-wide implementation plan to ensure the continuation of critical business functions should a disruptive event occur. Disaster recovery “recovers” an organization’s hardware, applications, and data after a technology disruption.
While it takes time and effort to build and test a business continuity plan, you’ll find it well worth it should a disaster strike.
Here are 5 of the main reasons you need a business continuity plan:
Reason #1: Disaster recovery
As noted in the previous section, disaster recovery plays a significant role in the restoration of business operations.
Disasters happen. Their unexpected nature is what makes them so devastating. Being prepared may not prevent the disaster, but it does mitigate the impact on your business.
Research states that 40 percent of small businesses never recover from a disaster.¹ Larger organizations take major hits.
Often when we think of disasters, we think of major events like earthquakes, floods, and natural disasters. These, however, aren’t the only causes of downtime. Data deletion due to human error, poor security habits of users, and incompetent employees or accidents also rank among the prime reasons for IT downtime.
Reason #2: Data shows backups are not enough
Most companies deploy some form of data backup. Having data backed up does you no good if you cannot access it, such as could occur in a power outage or need to leave an office site even on a temporary basis.
Accessing data in the event of a disaster can prove a problem. After all, having a backup is different from accessing it.
It’s a question business continuity planning asks: How will you access that data in the event of an outage?
For example, the average enterprise backup reaches over a petabyte or more. This pushes conventional storage to its limits. Even several terabytes of data backed up by a small to mid-sized business can strain capacity and bandwidth. And if you don’t have a data center or hardware prepared to handle this volume of data, it does you no good.
By deploying business continuity and disaster recovery solutions leveraging cloud technologies and virtual servers, organizations can run critical business applications from backup instances on virtual servers in the cloud. This approach enables you to effectively “flip a switch” and can keep your downtime to a minimum.
Reason #3: Insurance does not protect your data
Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated and successful every year.
A 2018 study of companies that were attacked found that 68% of breaches took months or longer to discover.² And insurance doesn’t restore data due to data center, server, or backup loss, or even lost access to any of these.
Insurance isn’t enough to cover all the damages of a disaster. Yes, it can cover the costs of repairs, but in terms of loss of revenue and business prospects due to downtime, it has little effect.
Reason #4: Competitive edge
You have a big advantage over your competitors if you can restore normal operations while they are still trying to figure it out. Getting your network back up and running fast, restoring access to your business data and documents, and reconnecting your employees to communicate with each other and support your customers allows for your organization to stand-out as a leader and one that can be trusted and relied upon.
Reason #5: Business must go on
Keeping a business going is essential. Taking a very simple view, if you lose the ability to buy and sell, your business – for all practical purposes – ceases to function.
Business continuity makes this possible by establishing actions that must be taken to ensure operations remain active, no matter the nature of the disaster. For example:
If the power goes out without certainty of when it will be restored, can you switch to a server or network located in a functioning data center?
If you experience a server failure, do you have a backup server (or virtual server) ready to go?
If your office location becomes inaccessible for any reason, can your employees work remotely?
When building your business continuity plan, you consider all the possible disruptions you might encounter. Loss of power or an office location is one of the biggest reasons offsite and redundant backup remains one of the most important aspects of IT reliability.
Your business simply cannot afford downtime. A solid business continuity plan can mean the difference between being back up and running in a matter of minutes versus days or even weeks.
The importance of a business continuity plan
A business continuity plan positions your organization to survive serious disruption. It eliminates confusion common to every disaster, providing a clear blueprint for what everyone should do.
More importantly, your business continuity plan supports:
Communication between employees and customers
Workflow operations essential to business activity
Customer service response, especially if you are a service provider
Business security, keeping your data and information secured wherever you and your team find yourself working
The flow of information and documents
Beyond business operations, your business continuity plan helps people. By keeping operations going, you are better positioned to keep your employees working, protecting the jobs that support them and their families. You also continue to meet the needs of your customers, impacting their lives, and if you are in a B2B business, the lives of their customers.
We are here to help
We have helped many businesses develop and implement business continuity plans.
In addition to consulting services like these, our IT services can remove the burden of monitoring and managing your data infrastructure to help give you increased reliability, reduced risk and a comprehensive business continuity plan in the event of a disaster.
Ricoh’s IT services include:
Server & network management
Device & desktop management
Managed cybersecurity services
End user communication services
Managed cloud services
Data center services
Disaster recovery and backup
IT project work
Remote IT support
We know that your business is unique and has its own needs. In every engagement, you can be confident that we’ll work together to create a business continuity plan and if needed, a technology infrastructure built specifically for you.
- 1. http://www.chamber101.com/2programs_committee/natural_disasters/disasterpreparedness/Forty.htm
- 2. https://enterprise.verizon.com/resources/reports/DBIR_2018_Report.pdf
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What is business continuity?
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Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'.
In other words it is about making proactive and reactive plans to help your organization avoid crises and disasters and to be able to quickly return to 'business as usual' should they occur.
Business continuity involves two distinct areas:
Business continuity planning - where a plan is developed that, when implemented, will help to prevent operational interruptions, crises and disasters happening and will help the organization quickly return to a state of 'business as usual' should any of these events occur. Once it has been prepared the business continuity plan must be tested and exercised to ensure that it will perform as anticipated.
Business continuity management - this is:
- The ongoing management of the business continuity plans to ensure that they are always current and available; and
- The ongoing management of operational resilience and process availability within an organization, with the aim of ensuring that the organization experiences the minimum possible day-to-day disruption.
What are the outputs of a business continuity program?
Business continuity achieves various things for organizations, with the degree of success in each area dependent on the amount of effort, skill, resource and commitment provided by the organization for business continuity activities. There will be a number of outcomes in every business continuity program which are specific to the organization in question, but the following are outcomes which should be achieved by every organization which takes business continuity seriously:
A deeper and clearer understanding of the organization The processes involved in developing the initial business continuity plan and then in maintaining and managing the BCP result in a clear overview of the overall organization; its structures, dependencies, suppliers and stakeholders. This information is not only essential for business continuity management it can also help planning and strategy in other non-related areas of organizational development and management.
Proactive measures Proactive measures are designed for the prevention of interruptions to organizational activities . The essence of good business continuity management is the identification and implementation of measures which can be put in place to proactively prevent operational interruptions taking place, and to prevent crises and disasters occurring. Business continuity management, at its highest level, is about keeping organizations operating at their maximum capability.
Reactive measures Reactive measures are designed for recovery from interruptions to organizational activities. Business continuity management programs includes plans for the reactive measures that will be taken should the proactive measures that are in place fail, become overwhelmed, or are bypassed by some unforeseen and unexpected crisis. Reactive measures enable the organization to return to an acceptable level of operations within a desired timescale following an interruption, disaster or crisis.
Culture change Business continuity management programs involve an exploration of organizational culture. Effective programs will utilise change management techniques to ensure that the organization encourages a culture where all employees are sufficiently aware of everyday risks and their individual responsibility to report, manage and mitigate risks.
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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.
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:
- Identify the scope of the plan.
- Identify key business areas.
- Identify critical functions.
- Identify dependencies between various business areas and functions.
- Determine acceptable downtime for each critical function.
- Create a plan to maintain operations.
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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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.
- Business continuity plans (BCPs) are prevention and recovery systems for potential threats, such as natural disasters or cyber-attacks.
- BCP is designed to protect personnel and assets and make sure they can function quickly when disaster strikes.
- BCPs should be tested to ensure there are no weaknesses, which can be identified and corrected.
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:
- Determining how those risks will affect operations
- Implementing safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks
- Testing procedures to ensure they work
- Reviewing the process to make sure that it is up to date
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:
- Business Impact Analysis : Here, the business will identify functions and related resources that are time-sensitive. (More on this below.)
- Recovery : In this portion, the business must identify and implement steps to recover critical business functions.
- Organization : A continuity team must be created. This team will devise a plan to manage the disruption.
- Training : The continuity team must be trained and tested. Members of the team should also complete exercises that go over the plan and strategies.
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:
- The impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and process
- Identifying when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts
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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Why Business Continuity Management Is Essential For Your Organisation
BCM (business continuity management) describes the process of planning for disruptive incidents. Organisations do this by identifying potential threats and analysing their impact on day-to-day operations.
Effective BCM ensures that organisations can provide an acceptable service in the event of a disaster, helping them preserve their reputation and keep revenue coming in.
How does BCM work?
Business continuity planning is essentially a form of insurance. It gives organisations the comfort of knowing that, even if disaster strikes, the damage won’t be overwhelming.
The importance of BCM become clear amid the pandemic, as business leaders realised the how greatly they could be affected by disruptive incidents. The introduction of social distancing rules meant that many organisations were forced to change the way they worked, including the creation of remote working policies and the adoption of Cloud technologies.
For the most part, those tools have been hugely popular – to the extent that remote working is still in place despite pandemic-related restrictions easing. However, organisations won’t get so lucky with other disruptions.
Ransomware, for example, proved to be a major issue in 2021. Hundreds of businesses across the globe were crippled by ransomware attacks, which encrypt organisations’ files and demand payment for their release.
Preventing ransomware attacks is almost impossible. Many intrusions begin with phishing emails – a threat that can be mitigated but never eradicated – while others are the result of weaknesses in third-party software.
Organisations best defence therefore is effective business continuity planning. It gives employees guidelines on what to do if their normal working processes are affected, providing a comprehensive approach to organisational resilience.
Effective business continuity management enables organisations to update, control and deploy effective plans, accounting for organisational contingencies and capabilities, as well as business needs.
Business continuity can be tailored to help organisations prepare for any number of disruptions, including:
- Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes;
- Man-made disasters, such as road and rail disruptions;
- Technological failures, such as corrupted files;
- Human error, such as data exposure or a lost USB;
- Infrastructural damage, such as a burst pipe or an electrical fire;
- Sabotage, such as stolen files or damaged equipment; and
- Cyber attacks, such as ransomware.
The benefits of business continuity management
The main reason to implement a BCMS is to ensure that your business processes remain operational in the event of a disruption. However, there are plenty of other reasons to adopt the system. For example, it will:
1) Protect your organisation’s reputation
The public will be impressed if you can respond quickly and efficiently following a disruptive incident. This will mitigate any negative sentiments that will accompany the loss of productivity.
2) Boost employees’ morale
If the system is well managed, everyone in the organisation will be accounted for, proving to employees that management has considered their needs.
3) Build your relationship with third parties and subsidiaries
An effective BCMS demonstrates that the organisation is being run well from top to bottom, which will encourage anyone that you work with.
It shows that you are a reliable partner that has taken into account its responsibilities to customers, employees and partners.
4) Help you meet regulatory requirements
A growing body of legislation requires businesses in essential areas to implement effective business continuity arrangements.
Globally, corporate governance regulations require directors to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence to mitigate risks facing the organisation.
The current cyber threat landscape has made business leaders more aware of the risks of cyber attacks, and the importance of being able to respond to and recover from such attacks.
Find out more about business continuity
You can learn more about this topic by downloading our free green paper: Business Continuity and ISO 22301 – An introduction .
It explains in more detail:
- The benefits of implementing business continuity;
- How business continuity differs from disaster recovery;
- How a BCMS works; and
- How the international standard for business continuity management, ISO 22301, can support your implementation project.
A version of this blog was originally published on 15 April 2020.
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About the author.
Luke Irwin is a writer for IT Governance. He has a master’s degree in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies, specialising in aesthetics and technology.
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Introduction to Business Continuity
Start here if you're new to business continuity.
What is Business Continuity?
Flood. Cyber attack. Supply chain failure or losing a key employee. Disruptions to your business can happen at any moment.
Business continuity is about having a plan to deal with difficult situations, so your organization can continue to function with as little disruption as possible.
Whether it’s a business, public sector organization, or charity, you need to know how you can keep going under any circumstances.
Potential incidents to consider
- Supply chain failure - You don't have access to materials, goods or services
- Utilities outage - You don't have access to electricity, water or internet
- Cyber incident - You have suffered a cyber attack and your website is down
These are just some of the many incidents an organziation needs to consider and plan for.
Make a plan
A good BC plan recognises potential threats to an organization and analyses what impact they may have on day-to-day operations.
It also provides a way to mitigate these threats, putting in place a framework which allows key functions of the business to continue even if the worst happens.
Example: Do not rely on one supplier of raw materials, what if that supplier goes out of business? If you purchase raw materials from two suppliers then you are potentially halving your risk.
The BCI has designed a short, self-paced eLearning course that will help you understand the importance of business continuity and get you starting to think about the incidents that might impact your own organization and what you can do to mitigate them. This short course takes up to 30 minutes to complete.
Business Continuity Basics course
The BCI has many other free resources available to enhance your understanding of business continuity, see a few below to start ...
View free webinar to understand the basics of business continuity.
This webinar takes you through the basic business continuity concepts and quick wins on where to start (aimed at SMEs)
What threats do organizations face?
The BCI Horizon Scan report identifies threats organziations should be aware of. Free to download.
Download the BCI Good Practice Guidelines Lite
The BCI Good Practice Guidelines (GPG) Lite gives your a brief introduction to the Business Continuity Management Lifecycle and the stages included. It will help you put a plan together and give you insight to what is included in the full edition of the GPG and the content of the CBCI Certification course
Download GPG Lite
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Why Is Business Continuity Important?
Companies today face an unprecedented number of exposures. The frequency and severity of weather-related events seem to be increasing and reliance on a complex network of technology and supply chains is expanding. Both trends leave businesses susceptible to a variety of existing and emerging risks. Managing these risks by developing a business continuity strategy is key to the survival of any organization.
Why Business Continuity?
Business continuity planning is one of the most critical components of any recovery strategy. Unfortunately, not every company develops a continuity plan. Here are a few misconceptions and realities about business continuity planning.
Misconception #1: "Our people will know what to do in an emergency."
Even the best employees cannot be expected to know what to do when disaster strikes. Leaving each to respond in his or her own way only adds to the confusion of an event. Having a well-documented business continuity plan in advance, and training your employees to follow it, gets everyone on the same page — helping to ensure an organized, safe and timely recovery.
Misconception #2: "We have insurance to cover our losses."
Insurance alone is NOT a business continuity strategy. Proper coverage is a significant and important part of the plan. But it may not fully cover some of the peripheral damages from an event, like loss of customers, loss of market share, or setbacks in development or release of a new product. Consult with your insurance agent to understand what is and is not covered under your policy.
Misconception #3: "We do not have the time to develop a business continuity plan."
Time spent developing and maintaining a business continuity plan is an investment in your company. Your fixed costs will continue after an event, whether or not you are open for business. The faster you can return your operations to normal, the more likely you will recover from the event successfully. With so much at stake, your company cannot afford to NOT have a plan.
Misconception #4: "Business continuity and disaster recovery planning are the same."
Business continuity is a proactive plan to avoid and mitigate risks associated with a disruption of operations. It details steps to be taken before, during and after an event to maintain the financial viability of an organization.
Disaster recovery is a reactive plan for responding after an event. It deals with the safety and restoration of critical personnel, locations, and operational procedures after a disaster, and is a part of business continuity planning.
A Good Investment
From Hurricane Sandy and 9/11 to the tornadoes in Oklahoma, companies that proactively consider how to respond to events are the first to get back to business, often at the expense of competitors. A predefined business continuity plan combined with the proper insurance coverage, maximizes the chance of a successful recovery by eliminating hasty decision-making under stressful conditions. It details how to get businesses back on track after a disruption – in the most thoughtful way possible.
Think Your Business Can Withstand a Disaster? Think Again
Twenty-five percent of businesses do not reopen following a major event.¹ It does not take a major catastrophe to shut down a business. In fact, seemingly minor disruptions compared to widespread natural disasters can often cause significant damage — power failures, broken water pipes, or loss of computer data.
A Travelers study found that 48% of small businesses are operating without any type of business continuity plan, yet 95 percent indicated they felt they were prepared.
- Is your business continuity plan predominately an insurance policy?
- Is it predominately an emergency response or evacuation plan?
- Is it predominately an IT or data recovery plan?
- Is it something you developed that sits in a binder on a shelf?
If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, then your business continuity plan may be giving you a false sense of security.
Natural Disasters Becoming More Common — and Costly
In 2012, nine of the top 10 most expensive world-wide natural disasters happened in the United States. With $77 billion in insured losses worldwide, 2012 was the third costliest year on record. The first was 2011, when $126 billion in insured losses were reported.²
Business Continuity Planning for a Competitive Advantage
An alarming 48% of business owners surveyed by Travelers in 2012 said they have no plan in place. That means business continuity planning is more than smart business — it helps your company remain better positioned to recover from the business interruption, property damage, financial impact, and loss of life that a natural disaster or man-made event may cause.
Start Your Business Continuity Planning
Planning for a disruption or catastrophic event should happen when business is going well, not when disaster strikes. Having a pre-defined, well-documented business continuity plan that clearly communicates how your business will respond during an event can help mitigate risk — and is one of the best investments your company can make.
1 Source: Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety; http://www.disastersafety.org/ 2 Source: Insurance Journal; http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2013/03/27/286235.htm
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What Is A Business Continuity Plan? [+ Template & Examples]
Published: December 30, 2022
When a business crisis occurs, the last thing you want to do is panic.
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.
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 Types
- Business Continuity vs Disaster Recovery
Business Continuity Plan Template
How to write a business continuity plan.
- Business Continuity Examples
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.
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Business continuity is an organization's ability to maintain essential functions during and after a disaster has occurred. Business continuity planning
A business continuity plan (BCP) is key to keeping an organization operating during an emergency. Find out why a BCP is important and the steps involved.
What is business continuity planning? ... A business continuity plan gives an organization the ability to maintain essential processes before, during, and after a
Business continuity planning - where a plan is developed that, when implemented, will help to prevent operational interruptions, crises and disasters
Anatomy of a business continuity plan · Identify the scope of the plan. · Identify key business areas. · Identify critical functions. · Identify dependencies
Business continuity plans (BCPs) are prevention and recovery systems for potential threats, such as natural disasters or cyber-attacks. · BCP is designed to
Effective business continuity management enables organisations to update, control and deploy effective plans, accounting for organisational
Business continuity is having a plan to deal with major disruption, like cyber attacks, floods, and supply chain failures. Whether it's a business
Business continuity is a proactive plan to avoid and mitigate risks associated with a disruption of operations. It details steps to be taken before, during and
Business continuity planning is the process of creating a plan to address a crisis. When writing out a business continuity plan, it's important