6 Testing Scenarios for Business Continuity Plans

Mar 15, 2024
Creating a business continuity plan (BCP) is just the first step; a robust BCP requires more than just theoretical planning.

To achieve optimal results, it's essential to complement your well-thought-out strategy with thorough business continuity plan testing.

Can your backup systems withstand a cyberattack? How quickly can your organization recover data (RTO)? Are your employees familiar with emergency procedures? Do you have a communication strategy in place to promptly inform everyone about an incident? Conducting business continuity plan testing is the most reliable way to answer these questions and is a crucial aspect of continuity planning. Neglecting regular testing means you won't discover whether your organization is truly prepared for a disaster until it's too late.

In this article, we'll explore six BCP testing scenarios designed to prepare your teams and technologies for unforeseen events.

Why Should You Test?

Strategic tests and these business continuity plan scenarios will help you to:

  • Identify gaps or weaknesses in your BC plan
  • Confirm that your continuity objectives are met
  • Evaluate the company’s response to various kinds of disruptive events
  • Improve systems and processes based on test findings
  • Update your BCP accordingly

Without testing your plan, you’re putting both the business and its people at risk.

In fact, over the past few years, 35% of small businesses have lost as much as $500K due to downtime. Having an inadequate plan is just as risky as having no plan at all.

In one of our customer webinars "Making the Case for Testing," we've explored the different ways of getting value from testing by gaining management support, getting IT on board, and building on the BC/DR plan after the exercise.

Finding the Balance: BCP Testing Frequency

Determining what to test and how frequently to conduct tests is crucial for an effective business continuity plan (BCP). If you already have a BCP in place, it likely contains numerous procedures for various events. However, testing everything may not be necessary, and the frequency of tests depends on your organization's unique risks, which should be identified in a prior business impact analysis.

For example:

Companies with higher stakes in terms of potential disruption, such as revenue loss, operational downtime, or damage to reputation, will typically require more BCP scenarios and more frequent testing. Each organization is unique, and its BCP will vary in scope and priority.

Below, we present business continuity tests recommended by our experts for most organizations concerned about both basic and advanced BC needs. It's essential to customize these suggestions to align with your specific business requirements.

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Business Continuity Plan Testing Scenarios

As your team is prepping for those tests, you need to agree on how realistic and detailed you want a test to be.

Testing can present challenges for companies: it requires investing time and resources. With that in mind, it may make more sense to conduct a tabletop test in a conference room rather than involving the entire organization in a full-blown drill. There are several types of tests, such as a plan review, a tabletop test, or a simulation test, which we explained in detail in our previous post.

1. Data Loss/Breach

One of the most common workplace disasters today. The cause of data loss or breach could vary:

Data holds immense importance for any company, and its loss can lead to severe consequences, impacting sales and logistics applications significantly.

The objective is swift data recovery, achievable through the restoration of a backup. Yet, questions arise: Who bears the responsibility for this task? What communication plan is in place? What priorities govern the process? Who requires immediate contact? Are external vendors part of the equation?

These inquiries, along with others, will be resolved through comprehensive testing.

2. Data Recovery

In this scenario, you must ensure your BC disaster recovery systems work like clockwork. To do that, run a test that involves losing a bulk of data, and then try to recover it.

During this evaluation, key elements to assess include your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and the successful achievement of your team's objectives. Additionally, scrutinize whether any file damage occurred during the recovery process. Identify and address any issues you encounter if your backup is stored in the cloud. Incorporate all essential activities associated with a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) scenario.

3. Power Outage

Consider a scenario where a recent storm causes a prolonged power outage, and the utility company projects several days for restoration. Faced with this situation, decisive actions are crucial.

First, the incident response team must collaborate internally and communicate effectively across the organization.

Key considerations include:

  • How will you disseminate information about the incident to your workforce?
  • Define who is required to be physically present in the office and identify those who can work remotely.
  • Identify departments, such as accounting and logistics, that are most impacted and require immediate relief.
  • Assess the availability and usability of backup power generators, ensuring that team members are familiar with their operation.
  • Confirm the existence and readiness of arranged office or mobile recovery locations.

These critical questions should be addressed in your Business Continuity Plan (BCP), and conducting a test will validate the alignment of everyone involved.

4. Network Outage

A power outage commonly results in a network outage, but it's crucial to note that network disruptions can occur independently of electricity availability and may extend indefinitely. In such situations, businesses often resort to a work-from-home strategy, which may prove unreliable over an extended period due to various distractions affecting employee productivity.

In the course of your test, ensure clarification on the following aspects:

  • Confirm accessibility of work systems for all team members.
  • Verify awareness among employees regarding security measures while working remotely (such as VPN usage, ensuring a secure network connection, etc.).
  • Establish a plan for network restoration.

It is imperative to document the answers to these questions in your business continuity plan to ensure comprehensive preparedness.

5. Physical Disruption

Fire drills are among the most critical company-wide drills that must be completed annually. Your area may already have local fire code compliance, but if not, it’s vital to conduct a fire drill regardless.

Like a fire drill, you can test disaster recovery response to other situations, like natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, tornadoes, storms) or other critical situations (active shooter, bomb threat, etc.). These exercises will help familiarize everyone with emergency procedures and safety steps to take.

6. Emergency Communication

Maintaining effective communication during a disaster or emergency is essential and can serve as a lifeline. However, the most disruptive events, such as hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes, often render traditional communication methods ineffective.

To address these scenarios, your plan should clearly define the necessary actions. Implementing emergency notification software emerges as the most reliable, efficient, and effective means of immediate communication, irrespective of your company's size. It is crucial to consistently update the contact information for everyone in your database to ensure timely notifications for all employees. Additionally, streamline the process by creating templates for each disaster scenario.


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