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Business Continuity Planning

Definition: Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is the process through which an organisation ensures the continuation of critical functions during and after a disaster. BCP aims to provide a roadmap for business recovery by identifying potential threats to operations and establishing strategies for mitigating and managing these risks.

The planning process involves conducting a business impact analysis (BIA), identifying essential business functions, determining acceptable downtime for each critical process, and formulating recovery strategies. In terms of cyber security, comprehensive Business Continuity Planning includes data backup, system redundancy, and disaster recovery measures to manage IT disruptions from cyber threats.

Business Continuity Planning is a proactive approach that forms part of a more comprehensive Business Continuity Management (BCM) system. It ensures resilience and the ability to adapt to internal and external threats quickly. It is crucial for maintaining business operations and protecting the brand and shareholder value.

What are the 5 components of a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan has five components: risk and impact analysis, recovery strategies, team assignments, communication guidelines, and regular testing and training.

Risk and impact analysis involves identifying circumstances that might disrupt your business, checking to see if there’s a high chance they will become an issue, and examining what different consequences might result from them. By understanding the quantity and severity of these potential threats, you can set a reliable recovery timeline and identify the areas you need to prioritise first. 

The recovery strategies section is about drafting strategies for recovering after a problem. Recovery strategies should include steps to bring your systems back online, recover any lost data, resume production and any other activity to get your business operating normally again. This section should also state the timeframe and resources needed for recovery. Having backup systems and manual workarounds should also be detailed in case the main strategies don’t work. 

An important part of a business continuity plan is team assignments. You should form a team to take charge in the event of a problem and inform this group of their tasks, decision-making authority, and communication channels. This team must include incident coordinators, communication liaisons, and recovery team leaders.  

Communication guidelines are important to a business continuity plan, as you must ensure that every employee knows what to do in the event of an emergency. These guidelines must specify who is in charge of updates, which channels you should use, and how often you will communicate using these channels. You should also include how communication will be handled with the media and authorities. 

Your business continuity plan must stay up to date, as more challenges will appear as the business landscape changes. By testing your plan, you can identify areas for improvement. Training your team for disruptions is also equally important to ensure all employees can execute the business continuity plan without fail.

How does disaster recovery planning differ from business continuity planning?

Business continuity planning may also be confused with disaster recovery planning due to their similarities. However, there are some distinct differences between them that can help set them apart. 

For example, business continuity planning has a far different focus from disaster recovery planning. Disaster continuity revolves around keeping your business operational in the event of a disaster, whilst disaster recovery, although similar, focuses on restoring data and IT infrastructure after the disaster is over. So, while they work closely together to protect your operations, the two plans differ in purpose. They also differ in terms of when they are used as a business continuity plan, utilised during the disaster, but a disaster recovery plan is put in place once the disaster has passed. 

Not only are the focuses different, but the goals are, too. Business continuity plans aim to limit operational downtime, ensuring that the business is still able to run in some capacity. On the other hand, disaster recovery plans aim to limit abnormal or inefficient system functions, leading to operations returning to normal sooner rather than later. 

How do you test a business continuity plan?

When testing a business continuity plan, you have a range of options.

The most simple method is a walkthrough exercise or a checklist. This method requires you to have your senior managers check to see if the plan is still applicable and practical. They do this by reviewing each step and checking if it still works. Typically, your managers will prioritise looking at any weak points as they need to make sure that in the case of a disaster, the plan will not fall through and prove to be flawed.   

The next method is a desktop scenario, which is more specific than the checklist. The desktop scenario revolves around simulating a specific disaster (e.g., data loss) to check the entire business continuity plan process to see if it can work successfully.

The final method fully re-enacts business continuity procedures and can affect most of your workforce. In this test, each employee taking part must demonstrate the steps set out in the business continuity plan. This method may be the most time-consuming due to how in-depth it is. Still, it does have a vast number of benefits such as improving asset management, leadership response, and establishing better staff safety.

How often should a business continuity plan be reviewed?

It is recommended that you complete an in-depth test of your business continuity plan every year. However, if your company has made significant changes to processes, systems, or plan details or has areas that may be more at risk than others, it is advised to test more frequently to increase the effectiveness of your business continuity plan.

Key Characteristics:

  • Resilience: BCP is designed to ensure the business can withstand disruptive events.
  • Preparedness: Involves identifying and preparing for potential threats to maintain business functionality.
  • Minimising Downtime: Seeks to reduce the duration and impact of interruptions to business operations.
  • Recovery Objectives: Defines Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) for essential processes and systems.


  • Real-World Example: A company utilises a BCP to quickly resume operations following a significant data breach by switching to a secure backup database.
  • Hypothetical Scenario: A retail business experiences an e-commerce platform outage due to a DDoS attack. It activates its BCP to re-route customer transactions to a secondary platform, thereby continuing sales operations.

Related Terms:

  • Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP): A subset of BCP focused on restoring IT and technological operations after a disaster.
  • Business Impact Analysis (BIA): A critical component of BCP that assesses the effects of interruptions to business processes.
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO): The maximum tolerable period in which data might be lost from an IT service due to a major incident.
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO): The targeted duration of time a business process must be restored after a disaster to avoid unacceptable consequences.

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