Free Business Continuity Policy Samples and Template

By Andy Marker | February 11, 2021 (updated August 2, 2021)

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Business continuity planning is essential for organizations preparing for a crisis, using a business continuity policy document as a guide. Find steps on how to write a business continuity policy, a free template, and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll learn what a business continuity policy is and how a business continuity policy applies in a pandemic . Find policy statement samples and a simple downloadable business continuity template .

What Is a Business Continuity Policy?

A business continuity policy provides high-level guidelines a company uses to ensure it can run in a crisis and keep addressing new risks. Each company’s policy is unique. To be successful, a policy needs the support of top leadership. 

Alex Fullick

“The policy sets out that a company knows it cannot just sail through the good times,” explains Alex Fullick, General Manager of business continuity consultancy Stone Road Inc . “It knows it has to be able to respond to the bad times to maintain client satisfaction. A policy outlines that, first of all, a company is dedicated to ensuring employee safety and protecting shareholders, stakeholders, and partners. A policy shows that a company will prepare for, respond to, and recover from any adverse situations that it encounters to ensure public safety and employee safety.”

Top leadership and the business continuity planning committee shape the policy. The policy writers specify the business continuity plan's purpose. They also describe what facilities and processes the business continuity plan will cover. 

The policy specifies key personnel who will administer the plan and outlines the role of staff in the continuity system. A business continuity policy also notes any legal, regulatory, or contractual obligations, as well as exclusions, such as service level agreements, that a company must maintain in all circumstances. Learn more about business continuity management from our article on business continuity planning . 

The document defines how the company communicates to staff that the organization is implementing a business continuity management system and has the endorsement of the C-level. 

Today, in the era of social media, reputation is everything. “If you're not protecting your brand, it's very easy for someone to suddenly start sending off messages in social media saying, no, they're not doing this, they're not doing that. It comes down to the brand. If you do things right, the policy protects the brand,” says Fullick.

The procedures in the business continuity plan puts the policy into action. Together both documents emphasize these elements:

  • Contingency Planning: A company makes a proactive effort to foresee possible events and plan how to deal with them. This planning mostly addresses events that are negative but can also be positive. Contingency planning is different from crisis management , which is how a company reacts to an incident. 
  • Recovery: This step describes the efforts of a company to save and restart critical processes after an incident. A recovery approach also dictates acceptable levels of service after a disruption.
  • Resilience: This concept refers to a company’s ability to provide critical products and services during and after a crisis. Resilience includes protecting staff, other resources, and the brand. 

Large companies usually have a business continuity policy; small companies often don’t. “I've worked for a medium-sized company, and there wasn't a documented policy,” says Fullick. “I worked for a large company that had a documented policy that the president looked at every year. In reality, he probably just signed it and added a new date.” 

A written policy is mandatory for any business pursuing ISO 22301 certification. For Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 compliance, which governs how service providers manage data to ensure privacy, you need documented business continuity and disaster recovery plans. See our article to learn more about ISO 22301 . 

Mike Semel

Policy also does not exist on its own. “I use the image of a three-legged stool,” explains Mike Semel, President and Chief Compliance Officer of Semel Consulting . “A three-legged stool can't stand without all of its legs. Take away a leg, it's going to fall. If you have a policy, then you have to back it up with procedures and back the procedures up with evidence that you're following them. That’s the hardest and most expensive part.” Learn more about writing procedures and work instructions in our article.

Business Continuity Policy in a Pandemic

Simple Business Continuity Policy Template

Business continuity policy templates can save you time when writing a policy. Editing an existing document takes less effort than formatting a new one and serves as a reminder to add key information. 

Use our free downloadable business continuity policy template available in Microsoft Word and Google Docs formats. The document contains all the sections you might need for a policy document, along with a customizable header block and confidentiality label.

Download Simple Business Continuity Policy Template

Microsoft Word | Google Docs | Smartsheet

For other most useful free, downloadable business continuity plan (BCP) templates please read our  "Free Business Continuity Plan Templates"  article.

How to Write a Business Continuity Policy

When drafting a business continuity plan , a company must write a business continuity policy document. The policy document outlines requirements for developing the business continuity plan.

Use concise, simple words when writing a business continuity policy. Write in the third person using “he,” “she,” and “it.” If possible, avoid adding information that may quickly go out of date. Consult good examples of straightforward policies for reference. (We provide examples of policy statements later in this article).

Step by Step: Writing a Business Continuity Policy

Follow this procedure to prepare your business continuity policy:

business continuity policy and plan

  • Write the Policy Statement The statement describes the aim of the policy. Directors or managers often sign the document. “In most cases I’ve been associated with [for any type of policy document], about 80 percent of the statement is written at the beginning,” says Cox. “After there’s been some discussion, often after completing a risk analysis, there are some modifications and expansions on the original statement.” Learn more about business continuity policy statements later in this article.
  • Conduct the Risk Assessment and BIA A business impact analysis (BIA) determines the financial and functional impact of disruption and reveals key processes and information about recovery time objectives. Conduct a risk assessment to determine and rank threats and risks. Read our guide to learn how to write a BIA. A business continuity policy is a tactical tool, but it must be grounded in company strategy, which comes from senior management (senior management could be an executive in a corporation or the owner in a small business). Mike Semel gives the example of an accounting firm with employees who thought their recovery time objective (RTO) was eight business hours. The managing partner said the company couldn’t possibly afford to recover so quickly and determined it was cheaper to pay any fees clients incurred from late filings. Thus, it’s management’s job to determine risk tolerance. Semel explains further that companies often guess at RTO without a full understanding of what the number really means. For example, if power goes out, unless you can fire up a generator, your recovery must wait on power being restored. Thus, an eight-hour RTO clock doesn’t begin until power is restored. “The problem with RTO is that it's usually like a hope or a wish or a guess,” he says. “The biggest flaw when it comes to recovering systems is that nobody tests them adequately. They do the backups. Every day, they get the message that the backup is successful. But they don't test recovering from the backup and trying to operate the business. Then they go to recover in a disaster, and instead of eight hours, let's say it takes 14 hours. If the policy says it should take eight hours, they either have to change the policy to say 14 hours, or they have to change the process to get it down to eight hours.” When describing scope and recovery parameters in a policy, also consider that the timing of a disruption makes a difference. “A disaster the day before payday is completely different from a disaster the day after payday. In accounting firms, a disaster a week before tax day is different from a disaster the week after. Those are the things that people don't always think through,” shares Semel.
  • Determine Your Strategy for Business Continuity A business continuity strategy provides a high-level view of what recovery and continuity mean for a company. Consider the scope, approaches, and recovery timelines.
  • Write the Policy Document the scope, key business areas and functions as determined by the BIA, key roles, and the general approach to continuity. 
  • Secure Stakeholders’ Review for Both the Policy Statement and the Document If you haven’t included them already on your writing team, be sure to get input from the CISO, CTO, and CIO, as well as comments from important third parties.
  • Get Executive Endorsement of the Policy Statement Obtaining senior sponsorship will set your business continuity planning on the path to success. 
  • Promote the Policy Share the policy with employees and interested third parties. Promotion can be as simple as posting the statement on bulletin boards where people gather frequently.

Finally, although every business has unique needs, brevity is indeed the soul of wit for business continuity policies. “If a policy is 20, 30 pages, that means nothing, because that’s too much detail, which means too much fluff,” explains Fullick. “Policies must be short and simple: This is what it is, this is why we're doing it, and this is everyone's part in it.”

Common Structure of a Business Continuity Policy

Knowing the typical format of a policy frees you to focus on the content of the document. Here is an example of a business continuity policy format:

Header Block: Depending on your company’s style, you might need to include a header block on the policy. A header block includes the policy holder, policy signatory, policy date, review cycle, and version control details.

Introduction: Policy documents might or might not include an introduction. The introduction explains why a business continuity policy is important to the organization and the fundamental reasons for the policy.

Policy Statement: The policy statement might be one paragraph or an entire page. The statement describes the purpose and aims of the business continuity policy. The statement might also be called an aim or the purpose. In some organizations, the managing director or another officer signs and dates the statement page.

Definitions: Your industry might use specialized terminology that needs clarification. Definitions can also help explain the business continuity system’s scope. 

Purpose and Scope: The scope section describes the facilities, processes, and activities the policy covers. “The scope tells you what to worry about. For example, ‘We’re only worrying about our main office in Mississauga. That’s the one we have to make sure is always running 24/7,’” Fullick explains.

Policy Personnel: This section lists the individuals or roles who review, approve, and enact the policy. Those responsible for policy administration are also responsible for ensuring compliance.

Compliance: The compliance area describes the requirement for testing to verify that the business continuity plans and activities adhere to the policy. 

Consequences for Non-Compliance: Detail the results of not conforming to the policy. 

Confidentiality Level: The confidentiality level describes who may see the document. This label usually appears in the header or footer of each page of the policy. Outside of government, businesses typically use three confidentiality levels: confidential, wherein only management can read it; restricted, wherein only company employees can read it; and public, when anyone can read it. 

References and Resources: When your business continuity planning is complex, you might have a suite of policies and plans. You might also refer to legal or regulatory documents that affect business continuity policy. 

Appendixes: In some cases, it makes sense to attach documents, charts, or drawings to a policy.

Business Continuity Management Policy Statement Examples

A business continuity policy statement outlines the broad goals of a company’s business continuity management program. The statement sets out the scope of efforts and outlines staff roles and duties for carrying out the continuity plan.

Top leadership should sign and endorse the statement, and you should communicate the policy to all employees. A statement might include the following:

  • Details on the purpose and scope of the policy.
  • A clear explanation of the framework of the organization’s business continuity management program.
  • Details on who within the organization is responsible for implementing the policy.
  • Details on how the organization will monitor its compliance with the policy.

In these examples of real policy statements, note the different formats and locations of the statement within the policy document:

Healthcare Providers

This healthcare business continuity policy example calls the statement an aim , but it serves the same purpose as a policy statement. Here’s an example: 

Greenwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

Commercial Company

Business continuity policy statements for commercial organizations tend to specify an expected time to resume service. Here’s an example: 

Compass Disability Services


These business continuity management policy statements might begin with a purpose, which can help you to understand business continuity systems. Universities might incorporate objectives and scope. See these examples:

  • Monash University
  • Sheffield University

City Government

A statement for a city’s business continuity policy outlines what continuity planning aims to accomplish for the city. Here’s an example:

Leicester, UK City Government

Business Continuity Policy Best Practices

Keep your policy simple and remember to focus on creating attainable continuity goals. Follow these best practices to enhance your business continuity policy preparation experience:

  • Bring in expert help when needed. Creating a policy and business continuity system requires a concerted level of effort.
  • Understand your key assets and processes.
  • Recognize the difference between disaster recovery and business continuity. 
  • Consider third-party risks. Knowledge of third-party risks is especially important for regulated industries because you are liable, even if your data is stored offsite on infrastructure you don’t own.
  • Promote transparency and visibility. “Once you have a policy, make it visible to all staff. Be sure to communicate the policy — a detailed policy with extensive resources is useless if staff don’t know it exists,” advises Alex Fullick.

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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 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 policy and plan

Crisis Communication and Management Kit

Manage, plan for, and communicate during your corporate crises with these crisis management plan templates.

  • Free Crisis Management Plan Template
  • 12 Crisis Communication Templates
  • Post-Crisis Performance Grading Template
  • Additional Crisis Best Management Practices

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

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

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  • Business Continuity Plan Basics
  • Understanding BCPs
  • Benefits of BCPs
  • How to Create a BCP
  • BCP & Impact Analysis
  • BCP vs. Disaster Recovery Plan

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Business Continuity Plan FAQs

The Bottom Line

What is a business continuity plan (bcp), and how does it work.

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Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

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

  • 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 information technology 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 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.

Ready. “ IT Disaster Recovery Plan .”

Federal Emergency Management Agency. " Business Process Analysis and Business Impact Analysis User Guide ." Pages 15-17.

business continuity policy and plan

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Business Continuity Planning

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Organize a business continuity team and compile a  business continuity plan  to manage a business disruption. Learn more about how to put together and test a business continuity plan with the videos below.

Business Continuity Plan Supporting Resources

  • Business Continuity Plan Situation Manual
  • Business Continuity Plan Test Exercise Planner Instructions
  • Business Continuity Plan Test Facilitator and Evaluator Handbook

Business Continuity Training Videos

The Business Continuity Planning Suite is no longer supported or available for download.

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Business Continuity Training Introduction

An overview of the concepts detailed within this training. Also, included is a humorous, short video that introduces viewers to the concept of business continuity planning and highlights the benefits of having a plan. Two men in an elevator experience a spectrum of disasters from a loss of power, to rain, fire, and a human threat. One man is prepared for each disaster and the other is not.

View on YouTube

Business Continuity Training Part 1: What is Business Continuity Planning?

An explanation of what business continuity planning means and what it entails to create a business continuity plan. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company that has successfully implemented a business continuity plan and includes a discussion about what business continuity planning means to them.

Business Continuity Training Part 2: Why is Business Continuity Planning Important?

An examination of the value a business continuity plan can bring to an organization. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company that has successfully implemented a business continuity plan and includes a discussion about how business continuity planning has been valuable to them.

Business Continuity Training Part 3: What's the Business Continuity Planning Process?

An overview of the business continuity planning process. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company about its process of successfully implementing a business continuity plan.

Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 1

The first of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “prepare” to create a business continuity plan.

Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 2

The second of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “define” their business continuity plan objectives.

Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 3

The third of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “identify” and prioritize potential risks and impacts.

Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 4

The fourth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “develop” business continuity strategies.

Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 5

The fifth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should define their “teams” and tasks.

Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 6

The sixth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “test” their business continuity plans. View on YouTube

Last Updated: 12/21/2023

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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 a plan that gives your business the best chance of surviving such an event..

Professional Meeting: Senior Businesswoman and Colleague in Discussion

The tumultuous events of the past several years have impacted practically every business. And with the number of extreme weather events, cyberattacks, and geopolitical conflicts continuing to rise, business leaders are bracing for the possibility of increasingly more frequent impactful incidents their organizations will need to respond to.

According to PwC’s 2023 Global Crisis and Resilience Survey , 96% of 1,812 business leaders said their organizations had experienced disruption in the past two years and 76% said their most serious disruption had a medium to high impact on operations.

It’s little wonder then that 89% of executives list resilience as one of their most important strategic priorities.

Yet at the same time, only 70% of respondents said they were confident in their organization’s ability to respond to disruptions, with PwC noting that its research shows that too many organizations “are lacking the foundational elements of resilience they need to be successful.”

A solid business continuity plan is one of those foundational elements.

“Every business should have the mindset that they will face a disaster, and every business needs a plan to address the different potential scenarios,” says Goh Ser Yoong, head of compliance at Advance.AI and a member of the Emerging Trends Working Group at the professional governance association ISACA.

A business continuity plan gives the organization the best shot at successfully navigating a disaster by providing ready-made directions on who should do what tasks in what order to keep the business viable.

Without such as a plan, the organization will take longer than necessary to recover from an event or incident — or may never recover at all.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a strategic playbook created to help an organization maintain or quickly resume business functions in the face of disruption, whether that disruption is caused by a natural disaster, civic unrest, cyberattack, or any other threat to business operations.

A business continuity plan outlines the procedures and instructions that the organization must follow during such an event to minimize downtime, covering business processes, assets, human resources, business partners, and more.

A business continuity plan is not the same as a disaster recovery plan , which focuses on restoring IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis. Still, a disaster recovery plan is part of the overall strategy to ensure business continuity, and the business continuity plan should inform the action items detailed in an organization’s disaster recovery plan. The two are tightly coupled, which is why they often are considered together and abbreviated as BCDR.

Why business continuity planning matters

Whether you operate a small business or a large corporation, it’s vital to retain and increase your customer base. 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.

Moreover, there are increasing consumer and regulatory expectations for both enterprise security and continuity today. Consequently, organizations must prioritize continuity planning to prevent not only business losses, but financial, legal, reputational, and regulatory consequences.

For example, 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.

Building (and updating) a business continuity plan

Whether building the organization’s first business continuity plan or updating an existing one, the process involves multiple essential steps.

Assess business processes for criticality and vulnerability: Business continuity planning “starts with understanding what’s most important to the business,” says Joe Nocera, principle in the cyber risk and regulatory practice at PwC, a professional services firm.

So the first step in building your business continuity plan is assessing your business processes to determine which are the most critical; which are the most vulnerable and to what type of events; and what are the potential losses if those processes go down for a day, a few days, or a week.

“This step essentially determines what you are trying to protect and what you are trying to keep up for systems,” says Todd Renner, senior managing director in the cybersecurity practice at FTI Consulting.

This assessment is more demanding than ever before because of the complexity of today’s hybrid workplace, the modern IT environment, and the reliance on business partners and third-party providers to perform or support critical processes.

Given that complexity, Goh says a thorough assessment requires an inventory of not only key processes but also the supporting components — including the IT systems, networks, people, and outside vendors — as well as the risks to those components.

This is essentially a business impact analysis.

Determine your organization’s RTO and RPO: The next step in building a business continuity plan is determining the organization’s recovery time objective (RTO), which is the target amount of time between point of failure and the resumption of operations, and the recovery point objective (RPO), which is the maximum amount of data loss an organization can withstand.

Each organization has its own RTO and RPO based on the nature of its business, industry, regulatory requirements, and other operational factors. Moreover, different parts of a business can have different RTOs and RPOs, which executives need to establish, Nocera says.

“When you meet with individual aspects of the business, everyone says everything [they do] is important; no one wants to say their part of the business is less critical, but in reality you have to have those challenging conversations and determinations about what is actually critical to the business and to business continuity,” he adds.

Detail the steps, roles, and responsibilities for continuity: Once that is done, business leaders should use the RTO and the RPO, along with the business impact analysis, to determine the specific tasks that need to happen, by whom, and in what order to ensure business continuity.

“It’s taking the key components of your analysis and designing a plan that outlines roles and responsibilities, about who does what. It gets into the nitty-gritty on how you’re going to keep the company up and running,” Renner explains.

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.

Although the list of possible scenarios that could impact business operations can seem extensive, Goh says business leaders don’t have to compile an exhaustive list of potential incidents. Rather, they should compile a list that includes likely incidents as well as representative ones so that they can create responses that have a higher likelihood of ensuring continuity even when faced with an unimagined disaster.

“So even if it’s an unexpected event, they can pull those building blocks from the plan and apply them to the unique crisis they’re facing,” Nocera says.

The importance of testing the business continuity plan

Devising a business continuity plan is not enough to ensure preparedness; testing and practicing are other critical components.

Renner says testing and practicing offer a few important benefits.

First, they show whether or how well a plan will work.

Testing and practicing help prepare all stakeholders for an actual incident, helping them build the muscle memory needed to respond as quickly and as confidently as possible during a crisis.

They also help identify gaps in the devised plan. As Renner says: “Every tabletop exercise that I’ve ever done has been an eye-opener for everyone involved.”

Additionally, they help identify where there may be misalignment of objectives. For example, executives may have deprioritized the importance of restoring certain IT systems only to realize during a drill that those are essential for supporting critical processes.

Types and timing of tests

Many organizations test a business continuity plan two to four times a year. Experts say the frequency of tests, as well as reviews and updates, depends on the organization itself — its industry, its speed of innovation and transformation, the amount of turnover of key personnel, the number of business processes, and so on.

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.

Some experts also advise a full emergency evacuation drill at least once a year.

Meanwhile, disaster simulation testing — which can be quite involved — should still 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 whether the organization and its staff can carry out critical business functions during an actual 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.

Reviewing and updating the business continuity plan should likewise happen on an ongoing basis.

“It should be a living document. It shouldn’t be shelved. It shouldn’t be just a check-the-box exercise,” Renner says.

Otherwise, plans go stale and are of no use when needed.

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.

Furthermore, a strong business continuity function calls for reviewing the organization’s response in the event of an actual event. This allows executives and their teams to identify what the organization did well and where it needs to improve.

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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Understanding Business Continuity Management Policy

In today's dynamic and unpredictable business environment, disruptions are inevitable. These disruptions can range from natural disasters, cyber-attacks, and pandemics to technological failures. To navigate and survive such disruptions, businesses must have a robust Business Continuity Management (BCM) policy. A well-crafted BCM policy is a critical component of an organization's risk management strategy, ensuring resilience and minimizing the impact of unexpected events on its operations and stakeholders.

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Understanding Business Continuity Management Policy: Ensuring Resilience in Turbulent Times

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To navigate and survive such disruptions, businesses must have a robust Business Continuity Management (BCM) policy.

A well-crafted BCM policy is a critical component of an organization's risk management strategy, ensuring resilience and minimizing the impact of unexpected events on its operations and stakeholders.

Defining Business Continuity Management Policy

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Primary Objectives

The primary objectives of a BCM policy are to:

Safeguard critical business processes

Identify and prioritise critical business functions and processes to ensure continuity during disruptions.

Minimise downtime and losses

Develop strategies and plans to minimize the duration and impact of disruptions, ensuring a timely recovery of operations.

Protect stakeholders and assets

Ensure the safety and well-being of employees, customers, and assets by implementing appropriate response and recovery measures.

Maintain compliance and reputation

Ensure compliance with legal, regulatory, and contractual obligations and uphold the organisation's reputation by effectively managing crises and communicating transparently with stakeholders.

Key Components of a BCM Policy

A comprehensive BCM policy typically comprises several key components, each focusing on different aspects of business continuity:

Policy Statement

The policy begins with a clear and concise statement highlighting the organisation's commitment to business continuity, its objectives, and the importance of implementing BCM.

Policy Objectives

Enumerate the specific objectives the organisation aims to achieve by implementing the BCM policy.

Statement of Commitment

Issue a concise declaration reflecting the organisation's commitment to ensuring business continuity and its significance.

Scope and Applicability

This section defines the policy's scope, outlines which business units, processes, and assets are covered, and clarifies to whom the policy applies within the organization.

Roles and Responsibilities

Identifies the roles and responsibilities of individuals and teams involved in implementing and managing the BCM policy, including crisis management teams, coordinators, and employees.

Risk Assessment and Business Impact Analysis

Details the methods for identifying and assessing risks to critical business processes, analyzing the potential impact of disruptions, and prioritizing recovery efforts based on their importance.

Business Continuity Strategies and Plans

Outlines the strategies and specific plans to be enacted during and after a disruption to ensure the continued operation of critical business functions and processes.

Testing and Training

Establishes protocols for conducting regular testing, training, and drills to evaluate the effectiveness of BCM plans and enhance the organization's preparedness.

Incident Response and Communication

Describes the procedures for responding to incidents, activating the BCM plans, communicating internally and externally, and managing crisis communication effectively.

Continuous Improvement

The importance of monitoring, reviewing, and continually improving the BCM policy is emphasised through lessons learned from exercises, incidents, and organisational structure or process updates.

A well-crafted Business Continuity Management Policy is a cornerstone of organizational resilience.

Step 3 Develop a BCP Framework

Maintaining an adaptable and comprehensive BCM policy remains imperative for sustainable success as the business landscape evolves.

Related Topics

Learn more about bcm-5000 [b-5] and or-5000 [or-3].

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What is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)? Purpose, Template & Examples

  • Marie Laure Troadec Legal Counsel
  • August 29, 2023

Key Takeaways

1.  A business continuity plan is an essential risk management tool that helps organizations proactively prepare for unexpected disruptions and events, ensuring the continuity of critical operations.

2.  By identifying and assessing potential risks and threats to their operations, businesses can develop appropriate response strategies to prevent or minimize disruption during challenging times.

3.  Businesses should avoid certain pitfalls to successfully implement their business continuity plan. These include a lack of employee engagement, an over-reliance on technology, and a failure to test their plans.

4.  By proactively addressing these areas, businesses can increase the chances of successful implementation and execution of their business continuity plans.

Ensuring business continuity is a topic high on the agenda for most businesses and one that has become increasingly paramount in light of recent events: Few things have focused attention on the need to have a contingency plan more than the COVID-19 pandemic. The potential disruption caused by a pandemic, or indeed any other unforeseen event, to a business’s operations can have significant financial, legal, and reputational ramifications that can be mitigated or even prevented if appropriate measures are put in place.

This article delves into the essential elements of a business continuity plan (BCP) and provides valuable guidance on avoiding common pitfalls to help your business implement and execute a robust plan that safeguards your operations.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

A business continuity plan is a risk management strategy that a business implements to protect its operations in the face of an unexpected event or disruption such as a natural disaster, cyberattack, or technological failure. By anticipating and preparing for potential crises or unplanned eventualities, businesses can take preemptive measures to ensure they remain operational and maintain a sense of normalcy despite interruptions.

The business continuity planning process enables businesses to assess potential threats to their operations and identify vulnerabilities that could impact their ability to function effectively. Through the implementation of a business continuity plan, business leaders can swiftly respond to emergencies, minimizing any potential downtime and mitigating the negative effects on their operations. This proactive approach can help businesses navigate challenging situations with relative ease and resilience, ensuring minimal impact on their productivity and profits.

Main Elements of a Business Continuity Plan

A robust and effective business continuity plan will comprise the following key elements that facilitate business resilience and preparedness during uncertain times.

  • Business impact analysis
  • During this phase, a business will identify and assess potential risks and threats to their organization’s operations. A business impact analysis (BIA) assesses the potential consequences of disruptions in critical business functions. This allows businesses to prioritize resources, allocate budgets, and develop strategies to minimize downtime and facilitate recovery.  
  • Recovery strategies
  • This step addresses the risks identified in the BIA by developing appropriate responses to prevent or minimize disruption. Recovery strategies outline the immediate actions required following an incident, those responsible for implementing them and coordinating the allocation of resources.
  • Plan development
  • The plan development phase involves developing the framework of the business continuity plan by establishing the relevant recovery teams, establishing communication channels, creating relocation plans, and gaining management buy-in.
  • Testing and maintenance
  • This phase involves training and testing the relevant teams and systems by conducting exercises to measure the effectiveness of the business continuity plan and identifying areas for improvement. Processes are also established for regularly reviewing and updating the business continuity plan to account for changes in technology, previous incidents, and evolving threats and risks.

Common Business Continuity Plan Pitfalls

To ensure the efficacy of their response during unexpected events or disruptions, organizations should be mindful of common mistakes encountered in the business continuity planning process. 

An awareness of the following issues can help businesses avoid certain pitfalls which could hinder their efforts in this area:

1. Lack of employee engagement

The success of any business continuity plan hinges on an organization’s ability to execute it successfully as even the most comprehensive and detailed plan will fall flat if it is ineffective in real-world situations.

The successful execution of a business continuity plan goes beyond senior management. To ensure business continuity in times of trouble it is essential that those on the ground have also been briefed on contingency measures and are ready to step into action accordingly.  Without adequate employee training and awareness, organizations run the risk of compromising critical business functions leading to further disruptions and losses.

By prioritizing employee engagement and involvement in the business continuity plan, organizations can strengthen and streamline their response efforts ensuring a robust and resilient response to potential disruptions, while fostering a culture of confidence and preparedness within their organization.

2. Overreliance on technology

While technological solutions play a crucial role and should be a feature of any robust business continuity plan, an overreliance on digital services and technical infrastructure can pose potential challenges for organizations. 

Sole or heavy reliance on this area increases the risk of a single point of failure. This is especially pertinent at a time when cyberattacks and data breaches are prevalent creating vulnerabilities in a business’ technological systems, and thereby undermining the effectiveness of its business continuity plan. Unforeseen events such as natural disasters which can lead to infrastructure damage and power outages can also severely compromise an organization’s ability to function effectively during a crisis.

To counter these problems, organizations should incorporate a diverse range of technological and non-technological solutions into their business continuity plan, taking into account manual processes and alternatives that are not solely dependent on digital services. Data backup options should also be put in place to help businesses restore swift operations and minimize extended downtime.

3. Failure to test

Without proper testing, the effectiveness of a business continuity plan remains theoretical rather than proven in practice. Regular testing enables businesses to identify and address any gaps or limitations in their plan, avoiding the risk of critical business functions being left vulnerable in an actual crisis situation.

Through drills, real-life simulations, and tabletop exercises, organizations can learn from real-world incidents, gaining practical insight into the feasibility of their business continuity plans and identifying any areas that require improvement. Regular testing plays a crucial role in helping businesses to optimize their response strategies and ensure resilience and readiness in the face of difficult or unforeseen circumstances.

By proactively addressing and avoiding these common pitfalls, businesses can develop comprehensive business continuity plans that help to bolster their resilience, minimize disruptions, and ensure the continuity of their operations during challenging times.

BCP Template

The precise content of your BCP will depend on the nature of your business. However, below is a useful template for a typical business: 

1. Introduction

  • Purpose: Outline the purpose of the BCP.
  • Scope: Specify which parts of the organization this BCP covers.
  • Assumptions: State any assumptions made during the BCP’s creation.

2. Business Continuity Policy

Outline the company’s policy regarding business continuity. This can include the company’s commitment to employee safety, client service, data protection, etc.

3. Roles and Responsibilities

List the key personnel responsible for executing the BCP:

  • Business Continuity Manager/Coordinator
  • Crisis Communication Team
  • Emergency Response Team
  • IT Recovery Team
  • Employee Assistance Team

4. Risk Assessment

Identify potential risks and threats:

  • Natural disasters
  • Technological failures
  • Security breaches

5. Business Impact Analysis (BIA)

Identify the potential impacts of each threat:

  • Financial impacts
  • Reputational impacts
  • Operational impacts
  • Legal/Regulatory impacts

6. Business Continuity Strategies

Outline strategies for:

  • Data backup and recovery
  • Alternate work locations
  • Communication protocols
  • Supply chain management

7. Incident Response Plan

Details the immediate actions to be taken following an incident:

  • Alert and notification procedures
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Safety checks

8. Recovery Plans

For each critical department/function, provide a detailed plan on how to resume operations:

  • IT systems recovery
  • Resumption of critical business functions
  • Communication with stakeholders

9. Training and Testing

Outline how the plan will be tested and how often, as well as any training programs for employees:

  • Tabletop exercises
  • Full-scale drills
  • Employee training sessions

10. Maintenance and Review

Describe how the plan will be kept current:

  • Regularly scheduled reviews
  • Updates following any changes in the business environment or operations
  • Feedback loop from testing

11. Communication Protocols

Specify how communication will be maintained:

  • Emergency contact lists
  • Communication methods (phone, email, etc.)
  • External communication (with media, stakeholders, etc.)

12. Appendices

  • Resource lists
  • Vendor contacts
  • Floor plans
  • Backup data locations

Business Continuity Plan Examples

If you are looking for some other examples of well-designed BCPs and BCP templates, check out the following: 

  • Durham County Council’s BCP
  • Chisholm & Winch (UK Construction Company)
  • Ready (US Government Disaster Response Resource).

Developing and implementing business continuity plans

Expertise in critical business functions such as compliance, HR management, and global payroll solutions ensures your business can confidently navigate through unexpected challenges or crises. 

Contact us today to learn how we can support your business continuity efforts and provide the stability and peace of mind you need in an ever-changing world. 

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How to craft an effective business continuity plan

business continuity policy and plan

Let me take you back in time to the United Kingdom in the 1970s. Punk music was gaining popularity, and the Sex Pistols entered the punk rock scene with the force of a shooting star, capturing fans’ attention.

How To Craft An Effective Business Continuity Plan

But as quickly as they arrived, they quickly left the scene. When they broke up in 1978 after a period of internal conflicts, legal troubles, and their frontman’s imprisonment, fans were left both shocked and surprised.

Just like the Sex Pistols, plenty of companies experience rapid growth and success, only to face unexpected challenges and internal conflicts that result in their downfall.

In this article, we’ll draw inspiration from the Sex Pistols’ turbulent journey to explore the concept of business continuity planning (BCP). We’ll look at what a BCP is, why you need one and delve into the strategies and contingency measures that can help you maintain your rhythm and continuity, even when faced with the inevitable storms that can disrupt your operations.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan describes how you’ll continue your business when disaster hits. It is a structured strategy outlining how your organization will maintain essential functions when disaster strikes, to ensure minimal downtime and guarantee that operations continue.

Why do you need a BCP in place?

The BCP is crucial and revolves around ensuring your resilience and ability to continue operating in the face of unexpected disruptions, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, or other emergencies.

Let’s look at it a bit closer, and understand some of the key reasons to have a BCP better:

Minimize downtime

Protect revenue and reputation, compliance and legal requirements, resource allocation, maintain customer service, employee safety.

A BCP helps you minimize downtime. It does this by providing a structured approach to quickly recover and resume your critical business functions.

Example: You’re a retail company with an extensive online presence. If your website experiences a cyberattack that takes it offline, a well-prepared BCP outlines the steps to take to mitigate the attack, get your website back up in no time, and allow you to continue serving your customers.

No one likes disruptions as they result in revenue loss and can damage your reputation. A BCP helps you protect against financial losses and keep customer trust.

Example: You’re the owner of a restaurant chain with multiple locations and one of your branches has a food safety crisis. A BCP can guide you in managing the crisis, ensuring food safety compliance, and communicating effectively with customers to maintain trust in the brand and other locations.

Some industries, like the financial, and pharma industries, have regulatory requirements that mandate businesses to have BCPs in place. Failure to do so has legal and financial consequences.

Example: You’re the owner of a FinTech company. You are required by regulators to have robust BCPs to ensure customer data security and financial system stability.

When a crisis hits you need the right resources to get you back up and running. A BCP helps allocate resources effectively during a crisis, ensuring that personnel, equipment, and materials are used efficiently to address the most critical needs.

business continuity policy and plan

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business continuity policy and plan

Example: You’re a manufacturing company hit by a sudden supply chain disruption because the Suez Canal is blocked again. You use your BCP to allocate available resources to meet customer demands and minimize production delays.

When all hell breaks loose you want to make sure customer experience takes a minimum blow. A BCP outlines measures to maintain customer service and communication, so customers receive timely updates and support.

Example: You run an airline and there is a labor strike. Your BCP tells you how to manage customer inquiries, rebook affected passengers, and maintain a level of service.

Let’s not forget about the well-being of your employees. During a crisis, this is a top priority. A BCP includes procedures for evacuations, remote work arrangements, and employee support.

Example: There is a fire at your workplace. The BCP outlines evacuation routes, assembly points, and contact information for employees to report their safety status.

Business continuity planning: Steps for success

That’s a lot of reasons, right? Now that we addressed the necessity and urgency of having BCP, let’s look at 5 steps to creating a successful one:

  • Analyze your company
  • Assess the risk
  • Create the procedures
  • Get the word out
  • Iterate and improve

1. Analyze your company

In this phase you conduct an analysis to identify critical activities, determine which activities must continue, which can be temporarily paused, and which can operate at a reduced capacity.

You then assess the financial impact of disruptions. This involves asking yourself the question, “How long can I operate without generating revenue and incurring recovery costs?”

As this step covers your whole company, it’s important to get key stakeholders involved from the beginning.

2. Assess the risk

Now you have a good overview of your critical processes and the impact of disruption. At this point, pivot your attention to the risks they face, how well you can handle when things don’t work as usual, and how long you can manage if things go wrong.

The goal here is to understand what could go wrong and find ways to avoid, reduce, or transfer them. This assessment will help you strengthen your preparedness and resilience.

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Think about risks specific to your industry and location

It’s important to consider both internal (e.g. an IT system failure or employee shortage) and external threats (e.g. a natural disaster or supply chain disruption) to your critical business activities.

3. Create the procedures

Once you analyze and assess, you need to create procedures.

Develop detailed, step-by-step procedures to minimize risks to your organization’s people, operations, and assets. This can include changes to your operating model, such as using alternative suppliers or implementing remote work options.

4. Get the word out

A plan is just a plan and no one will know how to act if you don’t communicate.

This step is all about communication. Integrate the BCP into your operations, policies, and company culture, and train, test, and communicate with your employees.

And don’t forget that communication is not limited to your company only. Communicate with external stakeholders, customers, suppliers, and so forth.

5. Iterate and improve

Before implementing your BCP ensure its effectiveness.

Don’t worry there are plenty more options to test your BCP. Consider involving external stakeholders or vendors as it makes exercises more realistic. Frequently train those who are accountable for executing the BCP.

After experiencing a real incident or conducting a training exercise, update your plan to improve its ability to protect your business. Keep in mind that both your organization’s development and the circumstances you operate in change, so a regular review isn’t a luxury but a necessity.

How to structure your continuity plan

Now you have a high-level understanding, let’s look at how to structure your business continuity plan.

You can find a copy of the template I use here .

Make sure to include the following sections in your BCP:

Version history

Executive summary, functions and process prioritization, plan activation, governance and responsibilities, recovery plans, crisis communication plan, emergency location and contents, review and testing.

This section shows the revision history. It includes the version numbers of the changes made, by whom, when, and who approved the changes. The revision history allows anyone reading the BCP to understand how it has evolved over time.

The executive summary provides a brief summary of the key objectives, goals, scope, and applicability of the BCP.

This chapter outlines the critical functions and processes in scope of continuation in case of a disastrous event.

This section refers to the risk and business impact assessment outcome. Its aim is to set out what triggers the activation of the plan.

Governance and responsibilities talks about who has to act when the BCP is activated. It includes the members, a description of their responsibilities, contact details of the BCP team, and the chain of command during a crisis.

This section builds upon the business continuity strategies, specifically the one chosen when a disaster occurs. It describes the detailed recovery plans for each critical function, the procedures for restarting operations, resource allocation, and recovery time objectives (RTOs).

Here you cover the internal and external communication strategies. You also address employee awareness and training activities.

Now there is a good chance the disaster will require your crucial activities to temporarily continue at a different location. This section covers all details about the location and what needs to be available at the location.

The BCP is to be tested to reduce the risk of missing things or even worse failing. Here jot down the testing procedures and document results and lessons learned.

This section includes all appendices. Think about the following

  • Supporting documents, such as contact lists, maps, and technical specifications
  • References to external standards, guidelines, or regulations
  • Training programs for BCP team members
  • Review of insurance policies
  • Financial reserves and funding for recovery efforts
  • Procedures for keeping the BCP documentation up to date

Business continuity plan example

Earlier this year, the Koninklijke Nederlands Voetbal Bond (KNVB), which is the Royal Dutch Football Association, was hit by ransomware. The cyberattackers threatened to share personally identifiable information captured and the KNVB paid over one million euros to avoid this from happening.

What could have been done to mitigate the ransomware attack risk?

The Risk of the attack to succeed could have been mitigated with:

  • Regular data backups
  • Segmentation of networks
  • Intrusion detection systems

How to ensure business continuity in case of ransomware?

In response to the ransomware incident, and to allow for continued business as usual as soon as possible, steps could include:

  • Isolating affected systems
  • Activating backups
  • Notifying law enforcement
  • Engaging with a cybersecurity incident response team

Key takeaways

A business continuity plan (BCP) is like a safety net for your business when things go haywire. It helps you keep going, avoiding downtime, revenue loss, and reputation hits. On top of that, it’s a legal must in certain industries.

To make a solid BCP, just follow five steps: figure out what’s crucial for your business, spot the risks, plan how to bounce back, make sure everyone knows the plan, and keep fine-tuning it.

Structurally, your BCP should have sections like history, a quick guide, what’s most important, when to activate it, who’s in charge, the nitty-gritty recovery plans, how communication is done, where to go in a crisis, how to test the BCP works, and some extra info.

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Business continuity plan: How to structure it according to ISO 22301

Advisera Dejan Kosutic

In my experience, companies usually find two things in their business continuity or information security management to be the most difficult: risk assessment, and business continuity planning. Here I’ll give you some tips on business continuity plans (BCP).

ISO 22301 business continuity plan should include Purpose, scope and users, Reference documents, Assumptions, Roles and responsibilities, Key contacts, Plan activation and deactivation, Communication, Incident response, Physical sites and transportation, Order of recovery for activities, Recovery plans for activities, Disaster recovery plan, Required resources, and Restoring and resuming activities from temporary measures.

What is a business continuity plan?

According to ISO 22301 , business continuity plan is defined as “documented procedures that guide organizations to respond, recover, resume, and restore to a pre-defined level of operation following disruption.” (clause 3.5)

This basically means that BCP focuses on developing plans/procedures, but it doesn’t include the analysis that forms the basis of such planning, nor the means of maintaining such plans – all these are required elements of business continuity management that are necessary for enabling successful contingency planning.

To read more about analysis, see Five Tips for Successful Business Impact Analysis , and to find out how to interpret the analysis, read Can business continuity strategy save your money? .

Business continuity plan example

Here’s what I found to be the optimal structure for the business continuity plan for smaller and midsize companies, and what each section should include:

Purpose, scope and users – why this plan is developed, its objectives, which parts of the organization it covers, and who should read it.

Reference documents – to which documents does this plan relate? Normally, these are Business Continuity Policy, Business Impact Analysis, Business Continuity Strategy, etc.

Assumptions – the prerequisites that need to exist in order for this plan to be effective.

Roles and responsibilities – who will be responsible for managing the disruptive incident, and who is authorized to perform certain activities in case of a disruptive incident – e.g. activation of the plans, urgent purchases, communication with media, etc.

Key contacts – contact details for persons who will participate in the execution of the business continuity plan – this is usually one of the annexes of the plan.

Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Structure According to ISO 22301

Plan activation and deactivation – in which cases can the plan be activated, and the method of activation; which conditions need to exist to deactivate the plan. Communication – which communication means will be used between different teams and with other interested parties during the disruptive incident. Who is in charge of communicating with each interested party, and the special rules of communication with media and government agencies.

Incident response – how to react initially to an incident in order to reduce the damage – this is very often an annex to the main plan.

Physical sites and transportation – which are the primary and alternative sites, where the assembly points are, and how to get from primary to alternative sites.

Order of recovery for activities – list of all the activities, with precise Recovery Time Objective (RTO) for each.

Recovery plans for activities – description of step-by-step actions and responsibilities for recovering manpower, facilities, infrastructure, software, information, and processes, including interdependencies and interactions with other activities and external interested parties – these are very often annexes to the main plan. To read more about them, see How to write business continuity plans?

Disaster recovery plan – this is normally a type of recovery plan that focuses on recovering the information and communication technology infrastructure. To read more about the relationship between disaster recovery and business continuity, see Disaster recovery vs business continuity .

Required resources – a list of all the employees, third-party services, facilities, infrastructure, information, equipment, etc. that are necessary to perform the recovery, and who is responsible to provide each of them.

Restoring and resuming activities from temporary measures – how to restore business activities back to business-as-usual once the disruptive incident has been resolved.

What I like about ISO 22301 is that it requires all the elements that are necessary for this plan to be useful in case of a disaster (or any other disruption in a company’s activities). However, no standard can help you unless you understand this task seriously – a properly written and comprehensive plan can save your company in tough times, while a superficially written plan will only make things worse.

Click here to see a sample  Business Continuity Plan .

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Blog Business 7 Business Continuity Plan Examples

7 Business Continuity Plan Examples

Written by: Danesh Ramuthi Nov 28, 2023

Business Continuity Plan Examples

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a strategic framework that prepares businesses to maintain or swiftly resume their critical functions in the face of disruptions, whether they stem from natural disasters, technological failures, human error, or other unforeseen events.

In today’s fast-paced world, businesses face an array of potential disruptions ranging from cyberattacks and ransomware to severe weather events and global pandemics. By having a well-crafted BCP, businesses can mitigate these risks, ensuring the safety and continuity of their critical services and operations. To further safeguard their operations, integrating measures to protect against ransomware into their BCP is a natural and essential step.

Responsibility for business continuity planning typically lies with top management and dedicated planning teams within an organization. It is a cross-functional effort that involves input and coordination across various departments, ensuring that all aspects of the business are considered.

For businesses looking to develop or refine their business continuity strategies, there are numerous resources available. Tools like Venngage’s business plan maker and their business continuity plan templates offer practical assistance, streamlining the process of creating a robust and effective BCP. 

Click to jump ahead: 

7 business continuity plan examples

Business continuity types, how to write a business continuity plan, how often should a business continuity plan be reviewed, business continuity plan vs. disaster recovery plan, final thoughts.

In business, unpredictability is the only certainty. This is where business continuity plans (BCPs) come into play. These plans are not just documents; they are a testament to a company’s preparedness and commitment to sustained operations under adverse conditions. To illustrate the practicality and necessity of these plans, let’s delve into some compelling examples.

Business continuity plan example for small business

Imagine a small business specializing in digital marketing services, with a significant portion of its operations reliant on continuous internet connectivity and digital communication tools. This business, although small, caters to a global clientele, making its online presence and prompt service delivery crucial.

Business Consultant Continuity Plan Template

Scope and objective:

This Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is designed to ensure the continuity of digital marketing services and client communications in the event of an unforeseen and prolonged internet outage. Such an outage could be caused by a variety of factors, including cyberattacks, technical failures or service provider issues. The plan aims to minimize disruption to these critical services, ensuring that client projects are delivered on time and communication lines remain open and effective.

Operations at risk:

Operation: Digital Marketing Services Operation Description: A team dedicated to creating and managing digital marketing campaigns for clients across various time zones. Business Impact: High Impact Description: The team manages all client communications, campaign designs, and real-time online marketing strategies. An internet outage would halt all ongoing campaigns and client communications, leading to potential loss of business and client trust.

Recovery strategy:

The BCP should include immediate measures like switching to a backup internet service provider or using mobile data as a temporary solution. The IT team should be prepared to deploy these alternatives swiftly.

Immediate measures within the BCP should encompass alternatives like switching to a backup internet service provider or utilizing mobile data, supplemented by tools such as backup and recovery systems, cloud-based disaster recovery solutions, and residential proxies , while the IT team should be prepared to deploy these swiftly. 

Additionally, the company should have a protocol for informing clients about the situation via alternative communication channels like mobile phones.

Roles and responsibilities:

Representative: Alex Martinez Role: IT Manager Description of Responsibilities:

  • Oversee the implementation of the backup internet connectivity plan.
  • Coordinate with the digital marketing team to ensure minimal disruption in campaign management.
  • Communicate with the service provider for updates and resolution timelines.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan Template

Business continuity plan example for software company

In the landscape of software development, a well-structured Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is vital. This example illustrates a BCP for a software company, focusing on a different kind of disruption: a critical data breach.

Business Continuity Plan Template

Scope and objectives:

This BCP is designed to ensure the continuity of software development and client data security in the event of a significant data breach. Such a breach could be due to cyberattacks, internal security lapses, or third-party service vulnerabilities. The plan prioritizes the rapid response to secure data, assess the impact on software development projects and maintain client trust and communication.

Operation: Software Development and Data Security Operation Description: The software development team is responsible for creating and maintaining software products, which involves handling sensitive client data. In the realm of software development, where the creation and maintenance of products involve handling sensitive client data, prioritizing security is crucial. Strengthen your software development team’s capabilities by incorporating the best antivirus with VPN features, offering a robust defense to protect client information and maintain a secure operational environment. The integrity and security of this data are paramount.

Business Impact: Critical Impact Description: A data breach could compromise client data, leading to loss of trust, legal consequences and potential financial penalties. It could also disrupt ongoing development projects and delay product releases.

The IT security team should immediately isolate the breached systems to prevent further data loss. They should then work on identifying the breach’s source and extent. Simultaneously, the client relations team should inform affected clients about the breach and the steps being taken. The company should also engage a third-party cybersecurity or pentest firm for an independent investigation and recovery assistance.

Representative: Sarah Lopez Role: Head of IT Security Contact Details: [email protected] Description of Responsibilities:

  • Lead the initial response to the data breach, including system isolation and assessment.
  • Coordinate with external cybersecurity experts for breach analysis and mitigation.
  • Work with the legal team to understand and comply with data breach notification laws.
  • Communicate with the software development team leaders about the impact on ongoing projects.

Business Continuity Plan Templates

Related: 7 Best Business Plan Software for 2023

Business continuity plan example for manufacturing

In the manufacturing sector, disruptions can significantly impact production lines, supply chains, and customer commitments. This example of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for a manufacturing company addresses a specific scenario: a major supply chain disruption.

Business Continuity Plan Template

This BCP is formulated to ensure the continuity of manufacturing operations in the event of a significant supply chain disruption. Such disruptions could be caused by geopolitical events, natural disasters affecting key suppliers or transportation network failures. The plan focuses on maintaining production capabilities and fulfilling customer orders by managing and mitigating supply chain risks.

Operation: Production Line Operation Description: The production line is dependent on a steady supply of raw materials and components from various suppliers to manufacture products. Business Impact: High Impact Description: A disruption in the supply chain can lead to a halt in production, resulting in delayed order fulfillment, loss of revenue and potential damage to customer relationships.

The company should establish relationships with alternative suppliers to ensure a diversified supply chain. In the event of a disruption, the procurement team should be able to quickly switch to these alternative sources. Additionally, maintaining a strategic reserve of critical materials can buffer short-term disruptions. The logistics team should also develop flexible transportation plans to adapt to changing scenarios.

Representative: Michael Johnson Role: Head of Supply Chain Management Contact Details: [email protected] Description of Responsibilities:

  • Monitor global supply chain trends and identify potential risks.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with alternative suppliers.
  • Coordinate with logistics to ensure flexible transportation solutions.
  • Communicate with production managers about supply chain status and potential impacts on production schedules.

Related: 15+ Business Plan Templates for Strategic Planning

BCPs are essential for ensuring that a business can continue operating during crises. Here’s a summary of the different types of business continuity plans that are common:

  • Operational : Involves ensuring that critical systems and processes continue functioning without disruption. It’s vital to have a plan to minimize revenue loss in case of disruptions.
  • Technological : For businesses heavily reliant on technology, this type of continuity plan focuses on maintaining and securing internal systems, like having offline storage for important documents.
  • Economic continuity : This type ensures that the business remains profitable during disruptions. It involves future-proofing the organization against scenarios that could negatively impact the bottom line.
  • Workforce continuity : Focuses on maintaining adequate and appropriate staffing levels, especially during crises, ensuring that the workforce is capable of handling incoming work.
  • Safety : Beyond staffing, safety continuity involves creating a comfortable and secure work environment where employees feel supported, especially during crises.
  • Environmental : It addresses the ability of the team to operate effectively and safely in their physical work environment, considering threats to physical office spaces and planning accordingly.
  • Security : Means prioritizing the safety and security of employees and business assets, planning for potential security breaches and safeguarding important business information.
  • Reputation : Focuses on maintaining customer satisfaction and a good reputation, monitoring conversations about the brand and having action plans for reputation management.

Business Continuity Planning Templates

As I have explained so far, a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is invaluable. Writing an effective BCP involves a series of strategic steps, each crucial to ensuring that your business can withstand and recover from unexpected events. Here’s a guide on how to craft a robust business continuity plan:

Business Continuity And Disaster Recovery Plan Template

1. Choose your business continuity team

Assemble a dedicated team responsible for the development and implementation of the BCP. The team should include members from various departments with a deep understanding of the business operations.

2. Outline your plan objectives

Clearly articulate what the plan aims to achieve. Objectives may include minimizing financial loss, ensuring the safety of employees, maintaining critical business operations, and protecting the company’s reputation.

3. Meet with key players in your departments

Engage with department heads and key personnel to gain insights into the specific needs and processes of each department. This helps in identifying critical functions and resources.

4. Identify critical functions and types of threats

Determine which functions are vital to the business’s survival and identify potential threats that could impact these areas. 

5. Carry on risk assessments across different areas

Evaluate the likelihood and impact of identified threats on each critical function. This assessment helps in prioritizing the risks and planning accordingly.

6. Conduct a business impact analysis (BIA)

Perform a BIA to understand the potential consequences of disruption to critical business functions. It has to be done in determining the maximum acceptable downtime and the resources needed for business continuity.

7. Start drafting the plan

Compile the information gathered into a structured document. The plan should include emergency contact information, recovery strategies and detailed action steps for different scenarios.

8. Test the plan for any gaps

Conduct simulations or tabletop exercises to test the plan’s effectiveness. This testing can reveal unforeseen gaps or weaknesses in the plan.

9. Review & revise your plan

Use the insights gained from testing to refine and update the plan. Continual revision ensures the plan remains relevant and effective in the face of changing business conditions and emerging threats.

Read Also: How to Write a Business Plan Outline [Examples + Templates]

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) should ideally be reviewed and updated at least annually. 

The annual review ensures that the plan remains relevant and effective in the face of new challenges and changes within the business, such as shifts in business strategy, introduction of new technology or changes in operational processes. 

Additionally, it’s crucial to reassess the BCP following any significant business changes, such as mergers, acquisitions or entry into new markets, as well as after the occurrence of any major incident that tested the plan’s effectiveness. 

However, in rapidly changing industries or in businesses that face a high degree of uncertainty or frequent changes, more frequent reviews – such as bi-annually or quarterly – may be necessary. 

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) are two crucial components of organizational preparedness, yet they serve different functions. The BCP is aimed at preventing interruptions to business operations and maintaining regular activities. 

It focuses on aspects such as the location of operations during a crisis (like a temporary office or remote work), how staff will communicate and which functions are prioritized. In essence, a BCP details how a business can continue operating during and after a disruption​​​​.

On the other hand, a DRP is more specific to restoring data access and IT infrastructure after a disaster. It describes the steps that employees must follow during and after a disaster to ensure minimal function necessary for the organization to continue. 

Essentially, while a BCP is about maintaining operations, a DRP is about restoring critical functions, particularly IT-related, after a disruption has occurred​

It’s clear that having a robust and adaptable business continuity plan (BCP) is not just a strategic advantage but a fundamental necessity for businesses of all sizes and sectors. 

From small businesses to large corporations, the principles of effective business continuity planning remain consistent: identify potential threats, assess the impact on critical functions, and develop a comprehensive strategy to maintain operations during and after a disruption.

The process of writing a BCP, as detailed in this article, underscores the importance of a thorough and thoughtful approach. It’s about more than just drafting a document; it’s about creating a living framework that evolves with your business and the changing landscape of risks.

To assist in this crucial task, you can use Venngage’s business plan maker & their business continuity plan templates . These tools streamline the process of creating a BCP, ensuring that it is not only comprehensive but also clear, accessible and easy to implement. 

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Business Continuity Management Policy

  • Issued On 11/16/2022
  • Download PDF

Resiliency and effective response to events that may impact the University’s ability to achieve our business objectives is critical to the organization. These objectives include safeguarding human and capital assets, cash flow, brand reputation, and the best interests of the community and our stakeholders.  The preparedness for, response to, and recovery from such events significantly influences the confidence and trust of board members, patients, students, and the community.

The objective of a business continuity management program is to develop and implement plans that ensure expeditious response, continuity, and recovery of critical business functions or services during and after an incident. An incident is defined as an occurrence or event, natural or human-caused that requires the activation of business continuity plans to protect life or property, continue critical services, or resume normal activities.

Business continuity is a critical component of the University’s risk management portfolio. It includes four disciplines.  Each has a specific area of focus, but many times overlap and have interrelated activities and dependencies.

  • Emergency preparedness planning: the planning for, and response to localized emergencies.
  • Crisis management: the coordination of resources to mitigate the impact of significant emergencies or crises.
  • IT disaster recovery: the recovery of electronic systems or data.
  • Business resumption: the processes implemented to maintain or restore the organization to its pre-incident state.

Business continuity plans shall be developed and documented for the critical business functions identified in the business impact analysis conducted throughout the University.

Table of Contents

Business Continuity Requirements

  • The Business Continuity Management Program (BCMP) is responsible for the systematic and consistent assessment of the state of business resiliency planning across the University, and for regularly reporting the status of same to senior management.
  • Departments will identify and analyze the risks to their critical processes and locations. Documented response and recovery plans are required for all critical functions, IT systems, and locations delivering processes where an interruption to the normal delivery would have a significant impact on the university.
  • Departments are responsible for developing, testing, and approving their continuity plans.
  • Emergency preparedness plans must provide for timely and coordinated management of an incident to expedite resumption of normal services and minimize impact.
  • Business resumption plans must have content explaining how to deliver critical processes or outputs in the event of significant interruptions including staff absences, IT System interruptions, inability to access normal facilities or an interruption to services and resources provided by internal and external suppliers and/or partners. These plans must be actionable, should be tested annually, and must be approved by appropriate management. Plans must be updated to comprehend organizational and process changes as they occur.
  • Disaster recovery plans must provide for information technology resources to be available within the defined timeframes determined by the business.
  • Division functional groups (Environmental, Health, and Safety; Human Resources; Information Technology; Facilities, etc.) will be engaged by the business units to effect appropriate coordination related to emergency preparedness planning, crisis management, IT disaster recovery, and business resumption plans.

Business Continuity Responsibilities

Business continuity program.

  • Maintain business resumption planning tools, reporting systems, and processes necessary to comply with the Business Continuity Management policy.
  • Engage and train business continuity focal points in the disciplines of business continuity.
  • Assist with post Incident assessments, when necessary, in conjunction with the business units and information security management.
  • Promote the integration of business continuity efforts across the University.
  • Facilitate communication among members of the business continuity community through the governance and steering committees.
  • Reporting on the overall status of business resumption planning to senior management as required.

Governance Committee

  • Facilitate identification of department’s critical processes and/or locations.
  • Support and/or participate in management reviews to communicate business continuity status and action plans.
  • Serve as a liaison between the BCMP and departments.
  • Assist BCMP with ensuring response/recovery/resumption plans are developed.
  • Provide advice regarding significant changes to policies and disseminate those changes.

Department Management

  • Assign business continuity planning responsibilities to employee(s) within their departments who will be identified as the business continuity management liaisons.
  • Champion the identification of critical business processes and locations within their departments.
  • Accountable for the department’s compliance with this policy.

Business Continuity Management Liaisons

  • Life safety/patient health
  • Financial (loss of revenue)
  • Brand/organizational reputation
  • Compliance/regulatory
  • Loss of productivity
  • Employee morale and retention
  • Document and update departmental continuity plans.
  • Address the risks and potential impacts of a disruption.
  • Include response and/or recovery strategies.
  • Define roles and responsibilities of key personnel that need to be involved in the response to a disruption.
  • Include strategies to effectively communicate steps to notify, respond, and recover.
  • Provide that they are to be tested on an annual basis with realistic scenarios to test the plan and team’s response to identify gaps and take corrective actions to improve the plan.
  • Manage all business continuity plans in the approved content management system.
  • Follow directives provided in applicable continuity plans. This may include responsibilities such as keeping their contact information up-to-date with department supervisors and, if provided in the departmental plan, taking home a University-assigned laptop at the end of each working day to enable remote work in the event the employee’s University office becomes inaccessible due to an emergency.

Appendix 1: Definitions

Business Continuity: An ongoing process to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to identify the impact of potential losses and maintain viable recovery strategies, recovery plans, and continuity of services.

Business Continuity Planning: Processes and procedures that enable the University to respond to an event so that critical business functions continue with acceptable levels of performance.

Business Continuity Management Program (BCMP) : A program that manages the Business Continuity governance process by providing a policy, consultation, training, tools, and status reporting to the BCM governance committee.

Business Impact Analysis: Process that identifies, quantifies, and qualifies the impacts resulting from interruptions or disruptions of an entity’s resources.

Emergency Preparedness Planning (EPP): The discipline that ensures the University’s readiness to respond to an unexpected or unwanted event of a safety, health, or environmental nature that calls for immediate action at a specific location. These plans also include the coordination of resources to mitigate the impact of significant emergencies or crises. Each location is required to have access to the Emergency Preparedness Plan.

Business Resumption Plan (BRP): Documented processes and procedures, and recovery strategies developed to protect and restore critical business operations in the event of an interruption. The primary objective is to minimize the negative effects of a disruption, and restore the business processes and related sub-processes to normal operations.

IT Disaster Recovery (DR):   The activities and plans are designed to both restore the University’s information and communication systems to an acceptable condition; and, to minimize loss of data in the event of a major interruption in services.

Appendix 2: Contact Information

Please address any questions or concerns with any policies set forth within this document to the University of Rochester Business Continuity Program Office ( [email protected] )

Appendix 3: Revision History

About this policy, related policies.

  • Business Continuity Management Governance Policy

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Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)

Business continuity planning.

Business continuity planning enables you to create an easy-to-use, actionable business continuity planning solution to prepare for the impact of a broad range of threats including natural disasters, disease outbreaks, accidents and terrorism. In addition business continuity planning can help when you face technology-related hazards like the failure of systems, equipment or software. MEP Centers can assist you in developing a plan unique to your needs.

If your company needs to create or tweak a business continuity plan, I highly suggest reaching out to Purdue MEP!

—Doug Ellington, Director of Finance, Estes Design and Manufacturing Read the Success Story

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For more information or assistance with business continuity planning, please contact your local MEP Center .

If you would like someone to contact you about business continuity planning , please complete the form below.

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7 Real-Life Business Continuity Plan Examples You’ll Want to Read

Picture of Tracy Rock

  • March 14, 2022


It’s no secret that we believe in the importance of disaster preparedness and business continuity  at every organization. But what does that planning actually look like when it’s put to the test in a real-world scenario?

Today, we look at 7 business continuity examples to show how organizations have worked to minimize downtime (or not) after critical events.

Business Continuity Examples: the best in class and the failures of BCP

1) ransomware disrupts ireland’s healthcare system  .

For years, healthcare organizations have been a top target for ransomware attacks. The critical nature of their operations, combined with notoriously lax IT security throughout the industry, are a magnet for ransomware groups looking for big payouts.

But despite the warnings, healthcare orgs still remain vulnerable. A prime example was the 2021 ransomware attack on Ireland’s healthcare system (HSE) – the fallout from which was still being understood nearly a year later.

According to reports, the attack had a widespread impact on operations:

  • Dozens of outpatient services were shut down
  • IT outages affected at least 5 hospitals, including Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Crumlin Hospital
  • Employee payment systems were knocked offline, delaying pay for 146,000 staff
  • Covid-19 test results were delayed and a Covid-19 vaccine portal went offline
  • Appointments were canceled across numerous facilities and medical departments
  • Near-full recovery and restoration of all servers and applications took more than 3 months

All told, the attack was projected to cost more than $100 million in recovery efforts alone. That figure does not include the projected costs to implement a wide range of new security protocols that were recommended in the wake of the attack.

Like several of the business continuity examples highlighted below, the Ireland attack did have some good disaster recovery methods in place. Despite the impact of the event, there were several mitigating factors that prevented the attack from being even worse, such as:

  • Once the attack was known, cybersecurity teams shut down more than 85,000 computers to stop the spread.
  • Disaster recovery teams inspected more than 2,000 IT systems, one by one, to contain the damage and ensure they were clean.
  • Cloud-based systems were not exposed to the ransomware.

However, there was some luck involved.

As HSE raced to contain the damage from the attack and secured a High Court Injunction to restrain the sharing of its hacked data, the attackers suddenly released the decryption key online. Without that decryption, HSE would not have had adequate data backup systems to recover from the attack. As the group concluded in its post-incident review :

“It is unclear how much data would have been unrecoverable if a decryption key had not become available as the HSE’s backup infrastructure was only periodically backed up to offline tape. Therefore it is highly likely that segments of data for backup would have remained encrypted, resulting in significant data loss. It is also likely to have taken considerably longer to recover systems without the decryption key.”

2) The city of Atlanta is hobbled by ransomware

There has been no shortage of other headline-making ransomware attacks over the last few years. But one that stands out (and whose impact reverberated for at least a year after the incident) was the March 2018 SamSam  ransomware attack on the City of Atlanta .

The attack devastated the city government’s computer systems:

  • Numerous city services were disrupted, including police records, courts, utilities, parking services and other programs.
  • Computer systems were shut down for 5 days, forcing many departments to complete essential paperwork by hand.
  • Even as services were slowly brought back online over the following weeks, the full recovery took months.

Attackers demanded a $52,000 ransom payment. But when all was said and done, the full impact of the attack was projected to cost more than $17 million. Nearly $3 million alone was spent on contracts for emergency IT consultants and crisis management firms.

In many ways, the Atlanta ransomware attack is a lesson in inadequate business continuity planning. The event revealed that the city’s IT was woefully unprepared for the attack. Just two months prior, an audit found 1,500 to 2,000 vulnerabilities in the city’s IT systems, which were compounded by “obsolete software and an IT culture driven by ‘ad hoc or undocumented’ processes,” according to  StateScoop .

Which vulnerabilities allowed the attack to happen? Weak passwords, most likely. That is a common entry point for SamSam attackers, who use brute-force software to guess thousands of password combinations in a matter of seconds. Frankly, it’s an unsophisticated method that could have been prevented with stronger password management protocols.

Despite the business continuity missteps, credit should still be given to the many IT professionals (internal and external) who worked to restore critical city services as quickly as possible. What’s clear is that the city did have some disaster recovery procedures in place that allowed it to restore critical services. If it hadn’t, the event likely would have been much worse.

3) Fire torches office of managed services provider (MSP)

Here’s an example of business continuity done right:

In 2013, lightning struck an office building in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, causing a fire to break out. The offices were home to Cantey Technology, an IT company that hosts servers for more than 200 clients.

The fire torched Cantey’s network infrastructure, melting cables and burning its computer hardware. The equipment was destroyed beyond repair and the office was unusable. For a company whose core service is hosting servers for other companies, the situation looked bleak. Cantey’s entire infrastructure was destroyed.

But ultimately, Cantey’s clients never knew the difference:

  • As part of its business continuity plan, Cantey had already moved its client servers to a remote data center, where continual backups were stored.
  • Even though Cantey’s staff were forced to move to a temporary office, its clients never experienced any interruption in service.

It was an outcome that could have turned out very differently. Only five years prior, the company had kept all of its client servers on site. But founder Willis Cantey made the right determination that this setup created too many risks. All it would take is one major on-site disruption to wipe out his entire business, as well as his clients’ businesses, potentially leaving him exposed to legal liabilities as well.

Cantey thus implemented a more comprehensive business continuity plan and moved his clients’ servers off-site. And in doing so, he averted disaster.

4) Computer virus infects UK hospital network

In another post , we highlighted one of the worst business continuity examples we saw in 2016 – before ransomware had become a well-known threat in the business community.

On October 30, 2016, a nasty “computer virus” infected a network of hospitals in the UK, known as the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust. At the time, little was known about the virus, but its impact on operations was devastating:

  • The virus crippled its systems and halted operations at three separate hospitals for five days.
  • Patients were literally turned away at the door and sent to other hospitals, even in cases of “major trauma” or childbirth.
  • In total, more than 2,800 patient procedures and appointments were canceled because of the attack. Only critical emergency patients, such as those suffering from severe accidents, were admitted.

Remarkably, a report in speculated that there had been no business continuity plan document in place. Even if there had been, clearly there were failings. Disaster scenarios can be truly life-or-death at healthcare facilities. Every healthcare organization must have a clear business continuity plan outlined with comprehensive measures for responding to a critical IT systems failure. If there had been in this case, the hospitals likely could have remained open with little to no disruption.

The hospital system was initially tight-lipped about the attack. But in the year following the incident, it became clear that ransomware was to blame – specifically, the Globe2 variant.

Interestingly, however, hospital officials did not say the ransomware infection was due to an infected email being opened (which is what allows most infections to occur). Instead, they said a misconfigured firewall was to blame. (It’s unclear then exactly how the ransomware passed through the firewall—it may have come through inboxes after all.) Unfortunately, officials knew about the firewall misconfiguration before the attack occurred, which is what makes this incident a prime example of a business continuity failure. The organization had plans to fix the problem, but they were too late. The attack occurred “before the necessary work on weakest parts of the system had been completed.”

5) Electric company responds to unstable WAN connection

Here is another example of well-executed business continuity.

After a major electric company in Georgia  experienced failure  with one of its data lines, it took several proactive steps to ensuring its critical systems would not experience interruption in the future. The company implemented a FatPipe WARP at its main site, bonding two connections to achieve redundancy, and it also readied plans for a third data line. Additionally, the company replicated its mission-critical servers off-site, incorporating its own site-failover WARP.

According to

“Each office has a WARP, which bonds lines from separate ISPs connected by a fiber loop. They effectively established data-line failover at both offices by setting up a single WARP at each location. They also accomplished a total site failover solution by implementing the site failover between the disaster recovery and main office locations.”

While the initial WAN problem was minimal, this is a good example of a company that is planning ahead to prevent a worst-case scenario. Given the critical nature of the utility company’s services (which deliver energy to 170,000 homes across five counties surrounding Atlanta), it’s imperative that there are numerous failsafes in place.

6) German telecom giant rapidly restores service after fire

Among the better business continuity examples we’ve seen, incident management solutions are increasingly playing an important role.

Take the case of a German telecom company that discovered a dangerous fire was encroaching on one of its crucial facilities. The building was a central switching center, which housed important telecom wiring and equipment that were vital to providing service to millions of customers.

The company uses an incident management system from Simba, which alerted staff to the fire, evaluated the impact of the incident, automatically activated incident management response teams and sent emergency alerts to Simba’s 1,600 Germany-based employees. The fire did indeed reach the building, ultimately knocking out the entire switching center. But with an effective incident management system in place, combined with a redundant network design, the company was able to fully restore service within six hours.

7) Internet marketing firm goes mobile in face of Hurricane Harvey

Research shows that 40-60% of small businesses never reopen their doors after a major disaster. Here’s an example of one small firm that didn’t want to become another statistic.

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey slammed into Southeast Texas, ravaging homes and businesses across the region. Over 4 days, some areas received more than 40 inches of rain. And by the time the storm cleared, it had caused more than $125 billion in damage.

Countless small businesses were devastated by the hurricane. Gaille Media, a small Internet marketing agency, was  almost  one of them. Despite being located on the second floor of an office building, Gaille’s offices were flooded when Lake Houston overflowed. The flooding was so severe, nobody could enter the building for three months. And when Gaille’s staff were finally able to enter the space after water levels receded, any hopes for recovering the space were quickly crushed. The office was destroyed, and mold was rampant.

The company never returned to the building. However, its operations were hardly affected.

That’s because Gaille kept most of its data stored in the cloud, allowing staff to work remotely through the storm and after. Even with the office shuttered, they never lost access to their critical documents and records. In fact, when it came time to decide where to relocate, the owner ultimately decided to keep the company decentralized, allowing workers to continue working remotely (and providing a glimpse of how other businesses around the world would similarly adapt to disaster during the Covid-19 pandemic three years later).

Had the company kept all its data stored at the office, the business may never have recovered.

Examples of poor business continuity planning

Some of the real-life business continuity examples above paint a picture of what can go wrong when there are lapses in continuity planning. But what exactly do those lapses look like? What are the specific failures that can increase a company’s risk of disaster?

Here are the big ones:

  • No business continuity plan: Every business needs a BCP that outlines its unique threats, along with protocols for prevention and recovery.
  • No risk assessment: A major component of your BCP is a risk assessment that should define how your business is at risk of various disaster scenarios. We list several examples of these risks below.
  • No business impact analysis: The risk assessment is useless without an analysis of how those threats actually affect the business. Organizations must conduct an impact analysis to understand how various events will disrupt operations and at what cost.
  • No prevention: Business continuity isn’t just about keeping the business running in a disaster. It’s about risk mitigation as well. Companies must be proactive about implementing technologies and protocols that will  prevent  disruptive events from occurring in the first place.
  • No recovery plan:  Every disaster scenario needs a clear path to recovery. Without such protocols and systems, recovery will take far longer, if it happens at all.

Examples of threats to your business continuity

It’s important to remember that business-threatening disasters can take many forms. It’s not always a destructive natural disaster. In fact, it’s far more common to experience disaster from “the inside” – events that hurt your productivity or affect your IT infrastructure and are just as disruptive to your operations.

Example threats include:

  • Cyberattacks
  • Malware and viruses
  • Network & internet disruptions
  • Hardware/software failure
  • Natural disasters
  • Severe weather
  • Flooding (including pipe bursts)
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Office vandalism/destruction
  • Workforce stoppages (transportation blockages, strikes, etc.)

The list goes on and on. Any single one of these threats can disrupt your business, which is why it’s so important to take continuity planning seriously.

Business continuity technology

Within IT, data loss is often the primary focus of business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR). And for good reason …

Data is the lifeblood of most business operations today, encompassing all the emails, files, software and operating systems that companies depend on every day. A major loss of data, whether caused by ransomware, human error or some other event, can be disastrous for businesses of any size.

Backing up that data is thus a vital component of business continuity planning.

Today’s  best data backup systems  are smarter and more resilient than they were even just a decade ago. Solutions from Datto, for example, are built with numerous features to ensure continuity, including hybrid cloud technology (backups stored both on-site and in the cloud), instant virtualization, ransomware detection and automatic backup verification, just to name a few.

Like other BC initiatives, a data backup solution itself won’t prevent data-loss events from occurring. But it does ensure that businesses can rapidly recover data if/when disaster strikes, so that operations are minimally impacted – and that’s the whole point of business continuity.

Learn more: request a free demo

For more information on data backup solutions from Datto,  request a free demo  – or contact our business continuity experts at Invenio IT by calling (646) 395-1170 or by emailing  [email protected] .

Get The Ultimate Business Continuity Resource for IT Leaders

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Business Continuity Plan

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  24. Business Continuity Plan Presentation

    Free Google Slides theme and PowerPoint template. Download the Business Continuity Plan presentation for PowerPoint or Google Slides. Conveying your business plan accurately and effectively is the cornerstone of any successful venture. This template allows you to pinpoint essential elements of your operation while your audience will appreciate ...