What is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?

Business continuity planning (BCP) involves the process of building a set of systems that prevent and recover your business operating procedures from potential threats. This comprehensive plan works to ensure all personnel and assets have a set of procedures to follow to quickly get your business operational in the wake of a disaster.

 

Business continuity plans are created before an incident takes place and involves key stakeholder’s input. BCP plans attempt to define all risks that can impact a business’ ability to operate, and it lists specific responses for each event. This makes a business continuity plan essential to your organizations risk management strategy. You cannot plan when a disaster will occur, but smart organizations can plan how they will respond. Planning could be the difference between irreparable damage due to costly downtime and returning to full operations within that same day.

What are some potential risks that should be accounted for?

    • Fire
    • Flood
    • Ice Storm
    • Cyber Attacks
    • Mechanical/Electronic Failure
    • Power Outages
    • Hurricane
    • Earthquake
    • Ransomware

 

After your organization has identified potential risks, they must include the following information in their BCP:

    • Detail how the risk will impact each departments ability to operate
    • Identify specific safeguards your company can implement to mitigate the risk prior to the event
    • Proactively test the procedures you implement to ensure they work properly
    • Schedule annual reviews of your business continuity plan to ensure it is up-to-date and effective

 

Having a detailed business continuity plan that is actively reviewed and updated is critical to a business’ ability to remain profitable. Active threats and disruptions can lead to costly downtime, and insurance alone may not cover the total cost needed to recover your operations.

 

Business Continuity Plan Checklist

    • Meet as a team
    • Build your plan
    • Perform a business impact analysis
    • Educate your team
    • Identify and silo sensitive information
    • Backup and disaster recovery plan in place
    • Safeguard hard copy data
    • Set up standardized communication
    • Test, evaluate and update your plan

 

business continuity plan

Meet as a team

When you are working to build your business continuity plan, recruit a team of individuals that operate within different departments of your organization. It is critical to gain support from department heads and management leaders to build a plan that appropriately prioritizes key processes that must be protected for the organization to continue operations profitably.

 

The team should meet annually to review and update their plan to ensure processes are up to date and that any new business developments are considered and accounted for.

 

Build your plan

After the team is built, team members must identify key processes that ensure your business is operating smoothly. Key processes may include financial and billing software, hard copies of receipts and client information or hourly backups kept offsite. These processes are what keep your business humming along and must be accounted for in the event of a threat. The quicker you can restore their functionality the better your business will be in the wake of the disaster.

 

As you begin to assess what risks your organization could face, you should highlight a hierarchy of tasks each team member must accomplish at different stages to ensure all your bases are covered and key processes are properly restored. Having this documentation shared with staff and reiterated often will prove to be the most beneficial for your organization.

 

business impact analysis

Perform a business impact analysis

Once you have finalized your list of threats, begin to piece together your comprehensive business impact analysis report.

    • Process identification and output analysis
    • Identify departments responsible for process performance
    • Build maximum allowable time of disruption for each process before it is business critical
    • Detail financial detriment of process downtime
    • List out any regulatory, legal or compliance impacts

 

Educate your team

Your IT team works hard to ensure your network and environment is secure and operating efficiently, but your staff may not be up to date on their role in the company business continuity plan.

 

Taking the time to educate your team on each component of the business continuity plan will help ensure everyone is able to identify the main objectives, requirements and key essentials that must be protected in order to maintain operations. Consistent education can help your organization save from potentially devastating downtime.

 

Identify and silo sensitive information

It is important to identify information that is business critical to your operations. Whether that be financial records, login information or physical data collections, your organization must note a place to keep this data that allows quick and easy access during a threat.

 

Backup and disaster recovery plan in place

It is crucial your organization has a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place. Having a backup of document files, customer profiles, employee records, financial receipts and tax documents can be business critical. Ensuring you have hourly backups kept on-site, as well as nightly backups to a secure data center will help your operations run smoothly should an incident occur.

 

Read our Article: File-level vs. Image-level Backups – What is the Difference?

 

Set up standardized communication

Communication is key during the event of a threat. Having designated messages ready to send ahead of the incident will help expedite communication with your customers, suppliers and immediate stakeholders. Your business continuity plan should detail what to say and who to say it to, so there is no room for questions when an incident is unfolding.

 

Test, evaluate and update your plan

The purpose of testing your business continuity plan is to ensure the processes you have set in place are effective and efficient. After each test, department heads must assess the results and tweak the plan to better support ongoing operations.

 

how to test your business continuity plan

How to Test Your Business Continuity Plan

There are several different types of BCP drills your company can implement to test your business continuity plan. Drills can be difficult to perform due to the large amount of support and management required, but the information you gather from tests can be invaluable to your organization.

 

Different Types of BCP Drills

    • Scheduled
    • Surprise
    • Plan Review
    • Tabletop
    • Modular/Component
    • Functional/Line of Business
    • Simulation/Mock
    • Comprehensive/Full-Scale

Read our Article “Different Business Continuity Plan Drills” 

 

Business Continuity Plan Conclusion

Organizations that do not develop an in-depth business continuity plan run the risk of costly down times that leave a lasting impact on organizations. Business continuity plans that are built from the top down with full support from all departments benefit from a plan that establishes a clear hierarchy of priorities and establishes roles for each department to fill in the face of an emergency.

 

All plans must be consistently assessed and managed to ensure all processes are current and effective. You never know when disaster might strike, but your business can prepare for it.

 

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