Today’s companies must be prepared for unforeseen impacts on their work. A Business Continuity Plan is a great way to do this; consolidates everything you need to do when an external event disrupts your business. But of course any Business Continuity Plan also needs periodic testing to ensure it is fit for purpose.
We will see an explanation of what a Business Continuity Plan is, what the tests look like and how often you should test them.
What is a business continuity plan?
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A business continuity plan explores how a business operates after a disastrous event. Provides procedures for fires, natural disasters, massive disease outbreaks, or data breaches.
A key concern of current plans is data backups. Since many industries (such as content marketing for saas) require extensive planning, we need to know our protected data. Other critical components of the plan include full contact details for staff and short- or long-term productivity maintenance.
If you use a manual QA checker, you can understand that a business continuity plan is not static. They require periodic testing to make sure they do what they are supposed to do. The tests also help detect blind spots or areas for improvement.
Do I need a business continuity plan?
If recent years have proven anything, it is that no one can really predict the future. As a result, unexpected events can completely change our daily lives and companies can be seriously compromised or go bankrupt.
Invenio IT reported that in 2020, 51% of companies around the world did not have a business continuity plan. Given how drastically the world of work has changed, that’s an oversight that we literally cannot afford to make. As a result, 90% of businesses fail within a year if they cannot quickly recover from a disastrous event.
The inability of a company to continue working in the face of adversity is a threat to customer acquisition. Even if you have a detailed customer onboarding template, customers are likely to reject you if your business is not trustworthy.
Business continuity plans require significant investments of both time and resources. But they can make the difference between a company’s survival and its collapse.
How do I test my plan?
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Today’s companies can approach business continuity plan testing in a number of different ways. It’s important to understand that different types of tests share the same fundamental tasks: understanding your plan, putting it into action, and identifying potential improvements. The difference lies in how closely you look at your plan and the resources you can commit.
You may want to be inspired by the quality assurance process software testing. First, have a clear idea of what you want to see or improve. Then involve everyone who needs to participate and have a dedicated team of people assigned to the task.
Review of the business continuity plan
A business continuity plan review is the simplest approach to planning tests. It acts as a basic audit of your plan with key personnel: the main team of the BCP (Business Continuity Plan), the heads of department and part of the administrative staff. During the review, participants simply read the plan and see if there are any obvious flaws.
the rise of cloud services means that it is relatively easy to preserve current business data. For example, if we are calculating BUCKLE, we could use a cloud-based chart to track our progress. Although, don’t treat them as a silver bullet; back up and keep track of the cloud services you use.
This type of test is easy to organize and helps introduce your plan to new members of the BCP team. However, this test is also very light. As a result, it lacks an in-depth evaluation of a plan’s effectiveness and does not communicate procedures (or benefits) to the general workforce.
Also known as a structured walkthrough, the table trials are a simple role-play scenario. The key stakeholders of a company come together to simulate a risk to the company and see if they understand how to respond. A continuity plan needs human eyes; the more practical it can be, the better.
Benchtop tests typically consider a few different scenarios; Participants review response procedures, describe responsibilities more clearly, and see if they can improve the overall plan. If you’re just getting started, start with something relatively simple like hacker attacks; these are common places and relatively easy to thwart.
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This type of test is a great way to update employees on what is required of them. An in-depth approach to the plan is needed and typically brings together multiple departments. This makes understanding and modifying the project much easier.
At the same time, benchtop tests have important requirements. It takes a long time to get it right and you need complete documentation to be of any use. It is also not as practical as other types of tests; in many cases, there is more talk of the plan than of putting it into practice.
This is the most ambitious form of testing the continuity plan. Participants in a tutorial carry out recovery actions (such as restoring backups and testing redundant systems) and whatever else a company deems relevant. This involves critical plan personnel and relevant employees.
It may also require travel outside of the office (for example, external data storage locations). Just as localization tests examine an app or website in different places, a walkthrough ensures that all components of your plan work wherever they are located.
This hands-on approach to testing gives you the most accurate idea of how effective your recovery plan is. That said, it is also the one that consumes the most resources. For example, taking a tour requires a large investment on the part of a company. It can also be quite difficult to organize if you need several different colleagues to participate.
How often should I test my plan?
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The frequency of testing depends on the needs of your company and the resources you have to work with. As you can see, detailed testing of the plan is not something you can do every day. Even at a basic level, it takes multiple people from various departments to be truly effective.
You should also consider what you are testing for. Today’s businesses face multiple threats, but some are more likely than others. For example, if you work in a flood-prone area, you may want to focus on your company’s flood response. With that said, remember to consider common threats, such as data breaches, that a Security assessment is a good answer.
At a minimum, it is best to run one bench test per year for each key area of interest. This includes disaster recovery, business continuity, incident response, to name just a few key areas of potential turmoil. You should also try to take an in-depth tour every two years. Time-consuming tests, such as bench tests, may be required on the weekends to ensure you don’t compromise your work schedule.
What else should I consider?
The essential part of any test is documentation. Record your evidence, with an emphasis on anything actionable. You should also keep track of these actions to make testing worthwhile.
If you have made significant changes to your business (such as moving facilities or resizing your workforce), be sure to increase the frequency of your tests, at least in the short term. These major changes can have a dramatic impact on the look of your continuity plan.
Be sure to inform your overall workforce of your plan and encourage people to participate when necessary. This could shed light on valuable new ideas, such as deleting confidential files from your hard drives.
By treating your Business Continuity Plan as an organic item (such as one that is open to review and evolution), you will do an excellent job of keeping your business safe in the future.
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