Business continuity planning

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Business continuity planning life cycle

Business continuity planning (BCP, also called business continuity and resiliency planning BCRP)

identifies an organization's exposure to internal and external threats and synthesizes hard and soft assets to provide effective prevention and recovery for the organization, while maintaining competitive advantage and value system integrity

—Elliot et al. 1999[1]

A business continuity plan is a plan to continue operations if a place of business (e.g., an office, work site or data center) is affected by adverse physical conditions, such as a storm, fire or crime. Such a plan typically explains how the business would recover its operations or move operations to another location. For example, if a fire destroys an office building or data center, the people and business or data center operations would relocate to a recovery site.

The plan could include recovering from different levels of disaster which can be short term, localized disasters, to days long building wide problems, to a permanent loss of a building.

Examples: Office building disasters - a roof leaks in an office building, then move the people to another floor in the same building; the building loses electrical power or is flooded, then have people work from home during the outage; the building burns and is completely destroyed, then relocate the people to a recovery site until a new building is acquired.

Computer center disasters - a server breaks, then recover to a backup server; the electrical power is out, then start an emergency generator, the datacenter is destroyed by a fire, then recover to a computer disaster recovery datacenter.

In the US, government entities refer to the process as continuity of operations planning (COOP).[2]

Any event that could negatively impact operations is included in the plan, such as supply chain interruption, loss of or damage to critical infrastructure (major machinery or computing /network resource). As such, risk management must be incorporated as part of BCP.[3]

In December 2006, the British Standards Institution (BSI) released an independent standard for BCP — BS 25999-1. Prior to the introduction of BS 25999, BCP professionals relied on information security standard BS 7799, which only peripherally addressed BCP to improve an organization's information security procedures. BS 25999's applicability extends to all organizations. In 2007, the BSI published BS 25999-2 "Specification for Business Continuity Management", which specifies requirements for implementing, operating and improving a documented business continuity management system (BCMS).

Business continuity management is standardised across the UK by British Standards (BS) through BS 25999-2:2007 and BS 25999-1:2006. BS 25999-2:2007 business continuity management is the British Standard for business continuity management across all organizations. This includes industry and its sectors. The standard provides a best practice framework to minimize disruption during unexpected events that could bring business to a standstill. The document gives you a practical plan to deal with most eventualities – from extreme weather conditions to terrorism, IT system failure and staff sickness.[4]

This document was superseded in November 2012 by the British standard BS ISO22301:2012.[5]

In 2004, following crises in the preceding years, the UK government passed the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (The Act). This provides the legislation for civil protection in the UK.

The Act was separated into two distinct parts: Part 1 focuses on local arrangements for civil protection, establishing a statutory framework of roles and responsibilities for local responders. Part 2 focused on emergency powers, establishing a modern framework for the use of special legislative measures that might be necessary to deal with the effects of the most serious emergency.

The Act is telling responders and planners that businesses need to have continuity planning measures in place in order to survive and continue to thrive whilst working towards keeping the incident as minimal as possible.[6]


The analysis phase consists of impact analysis, threat analysis and impact scenarios.

Business impact analysis (BIA)[edit]

A Business impact analysis (BIA) differentiates critical (urgent) and non-critical (non-urgent) organization functions/activities. Critical functions are those whose disruption is regarded as unacceptable. Perceptions of acceptability are affected by the cost of recovery solutions. A function may also be considered critical if dictated by law. For each critical (in scope) function, two values are then assigned:

The recovery point objective must ensure that the maximum tolerable data loss for each activity is not exceeded. The recovery time objective must ensure that the Maximum Tolerable Period of Disruption (MTPoD) for each activity is not exceeded.

Next, the impact analysis results in the recovery requirements for each critical function. Recovery requirements consist of the following information:

Threat and risk analysis (TRA)[edit]

After defining recovery requirements, each potential threat may require unique recovery steps. Common threats include:

The impact of an epidemic can be regarded as purely human, and may be alleviated with technical and business solutions. However, if people behind these plans are affected by the disease, then the process can stumble.

During the 2002–2003 SARS outbreak, some organizations grouped staff into separate teams, and rotated the teams between primary and secondary work sites, with a rotation frequency equal to the incubation period of the disease. The organizations also banned face-to-face intergroup contact during business and non-business hours. The split increased resiliency against the threat of quarantine measures if one person in a team was exposed to the disease.

Impact scenarios[edit]

After defining threats, impact scenarios form the basis of the business recovery plan. In general, planning for the most wide-reaching impact is preferable. A typical impact scenario such as "building loss" encompasses most critical business functions. A BCP may document scenarios for each building. More localized impact scenarios – for example loss of a specific floor in a building – may also be documented.

Recovery requirement[edit]

After the analysis phase, business and technical recovery requirements precede the solutions phase. Asset inventories allow for quick identification of deployable resources. For an office-based, IT-intensive business, the plan requirements may cover desks, human resources, applications, data, manual workarounds, computers and peripherals.

Other business environments, such as production, distribution, warehousing etc. will need to cover these elements, but likely have additional issues.

Solution design[edit]

The solution design phase identifies the most cost-effective disaster recovery solution that meets two main requirements from the impact analysis stage. For IT purposes, this is commonly expressed as the minimum application and data requirements and the time in which the minimum application and application data must be available.

Outside the IT domain, preservation of hard copy information, such as contracts, skilled staff or restoration of embedded technology in a process plant must be considered. This phase overlaps with disaster recovery planning methodology. The solution phase determines:


The implementation phase involves policy changes, material acquisitions, staffing and testing.

Testing and organizational acceptance[edit]

The purpose of testing is to achieve organizational acceptance that the solution satisfies the recovery requirements. Plans may fail to meet expectations due to insufficient or inaccurate recovery requirements, solution design flaws or solution implementation errors. Testing may include:

At minimum, testing is conducted on a biannual schedule.

The 2008 book Exercising for Excellence, published by The British Standards Institution identified three types of exercises that can be employed when testing business continuity plans.

Tabletop exercises[edit]

Tabletop exercises typically involve a small number of people and concentrates on a specific aspect of a BCP. They can easily accommodate complete teams from a specific area of a business.

Another form involves a single representative from each of several teams. Typically, participants work through simple scenario and then discuss specific aspects of the plan. For example, a fire is discovered out of working hours.

The exercise consumes only a few hours and is often split into two or three sessions, each concentrating on a different theme.

Medium exercises[edit]

A medium exercise is conducted within a "Virtual World" and brings together several departments, teams or disciplines. It typically concentrates on multiple BCP aspects, prompting interaction between teams. The scope of a medium exercise can range from a few teams from one organisation co-located in one building to multiple teams operating across dispersed locations. The environment needs to be as realistic as practicable and team sizes should reflect a realistic situation. Realism may extend to simulated news broadcasts and websites.

A medium exercise typically lasts a few hours, though they can extend over several days. They typically involve a "Scenario Cell" that adds pre-scripted "surprises" throughout the exercise.

Complex exercises[edit]

A complex exercise aims to have as few boundaries as possible. It incorporates all the aspects of a medium exercise. The exercise remains within a virtual world, but maximum realism is essential. This might include no-notice activation, actual evacuation and actual invocation of a disaster recovery site.

While start and stop times are pre-agreed, the actual duration might be unknown if events are allowed to run their course.


Biannual or annual maintenance cycle maintenance of a BCP manual is broken down into three periodic activities.

Issues found during the testing phase often must be reintroduced to the analysis phase.


The BCP manual must evolve with the organization. Activating the call tree verifies the notification plan's efficiency as well as contact data accuracy. Types of changes that should be identified and updated in the manual include:


Specialized technical resources must be maintained. Checks include:

Testing and verification of recovery procedures[edit]

As work processes change, previous recovery procedures may no longer be suitable. Checks include:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Elliot, D.; Swartz, E.; Herbane, B. (1999) Just waiting for the next big bang: business continuity planning in the UK finance sector. Journal of Applied Management Studies, Vol. 8, No, pp. 43–60. Here: p. 48.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Intrieri, Charles (10 September 2013). "Business Continuity Planning". Flevy. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  4. ^ British Standards Institution (2006). Business continuity management-Part 1: Code of practice :London
  5. ^ British Standards Institution (2012). Societal security – Business continuity management Systems – Requirements: London
  6. ^ Cabinet Office. (2004). overview of the Act. In: Civil Contingencies Secretariat Civil Contingencies Act 2004: a short. London: Civil Contingencies Secretariat


Further reading[edit]

International Organization for Standardization[edit]

British Standards Institution[edit]


External links[edit]